Making discrimination illegal was ‘the right thing to do’

‘CHANGE is coming’ is the strong message emanating out of the Guernsey Disability Alliance as it attempts to build on its campaigning successes of last year to create a kinder and fairer island.

As Employment & Social Security president in the last States, Michelle Le Clerc, who did not stand in the general election, guided the anti-discrimination policy through the States. She is seen arriving for the meeting at which the Guernsey Disability Alliance celebrated the success of its campaign. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29088536)
As Employment & Social Security president in the last States, Michelle Le Clerc, who did not stand in the general election, guided the anti-discrimination policy through the States. She is seen arriving for the meeting at which the Guernsey Disability Alliance celebrated the success of its campaign. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29088536)

The charity achieved a breakthrough in 2020 when anti-discrimination proposals were approved unanimously by the States and it is keen that the progressive momentum continues.

Within the next few months the legislation to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief will return to the States for final approval.

Carol Le Page, social policy director for the GDA, said it would be a key moment.

‘We’ll be sat in the States looking at the members to see which way they’re going to be voting on those because that’s probably going to be the first indication of how the House feels about social policy.

‘It was a unanimous decision of the old States and a lot of the old States members are still there, but their attitudes may have changed, obviously finances are a concern, but at the end of the day it’s the right thing to do.

‘Change is coming, it’s not there yet so we do still need to make sure the pressure is on so that the priorities of legislative drafting don’t slip. We’re realistic in that obviously Covid drafting legislation needs to take precedence along with Brexit.’

The longer-term goal of the GDA is that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be extended to cover Guernsey.

This would guarantee people with disabilities freedom from exploitation and abuse.

However, there are various parts of the jigsaw that need to come together first, including the anti-discrimination legislation, special needs education and capacity legislation.

Mrs Le Page said the convention would boost the island’s reputation as a mature jurisdiction on the global stage.

‘It’s not a gold-plated massive thing that nobody can sign up to, to a certain extent it’s the minimum level.

‘For instance, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Nigeria – all these countries have signed up to this convention, so it has to work in all of those countries.

‘It covers everything from the right to life, to education, the right to a family, it’s the minimum that we should aspire to achieve as soon as possible.

‘And also we’ve got an ageing population so it’s really important that we design laws and facilities, whether that’s a bank or whether that’s a leisure centre or a school, which are for our future population, and with age unfortunately sometimes comes impairment.

‘Disability is the barriers that are put in place so we want to make sure that attitudes are welcoming and that people feel that they can go out and do stuff into their older age and they are able to access those goods, services and education.’

This year Employment & Social Security will run an ‘attitudes survey’ which should highlight the lived experiences of people with disabilities.

The results will then be used by the GDA to target its efforts towards allowing people with disabilities to live the life they want.

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