Listening intently: The UBP’s Michael Dunkley at today’s Throne Speech. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Listening intently: The UBP’s Michael Dunkley at today’s Throne Speech. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
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FRIDAY, NOV. 5: Sexual orientation could be added to the Human Rights Act by Paula Cox’s government.

Minister of Youth Affairs and Families Glenn Blakeney today said the Ministry of Youth, Families, Sports and Community Development would work with community stakeholders with a view to tabling a legislative amendment to the 1981 Human Rights Act.

It currently omits sexual orientation, denying protection from discrimination for homosexuals, lesbians and those of transgender.

Mr. Blakeney told a Cabinet press conference this afternoon: “We feel we’re going to be prepared to address that issue.

“We’re hoping it will be brought forward before the end of the (legislative) session.”

Legislation to bring women’s pay in line with that of their male colleagues is also expected.

Kim Wilson, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said an Equal Pay Act would focus on gender.

“When you have a disparity in the salaries for the exercise of the same skills between men and women, that is not only unfair, it’s confusing as well as inequality,” Mrs. Wilson said.

Mrs. Wilson also commented on the expansion of Economic Empowerment Zones to include St. George’s and Somerset.

“We will further our economy by further encouraging entrepreneurs and start-up businesses,” she said.

In Education, Minister Dame Jennifer Smith admitted the continuing reform of public schools would be challenging.

“We have our work cut out for us,” she said.

A joint initiative with the Ministry of Health will encourage school leavers to enter healthcare careers.

Dame Jennifer said there was a shortage of nursing staff and senior care nurses.

The new Health Module in senior schools will encourage direct training, while Government is also ready with financial help.

“Once they get involved there is also financial assistance and further training,” Dame Jennifer said.

“We hope that (healthcare) will provide another avenue for our young people to excel in.”

Mr. Blakeney also set out the vision for his ministry, which he described as “the social conscience of Bermuda”.

Speaking on the issue of gang violence, he said: “We have the energy, commitment and passion in our ministry to move the country forward in facing these daunting challenges.”

Mr. Blakeney said Government would encourage more recreational facilities on the island through Public Private Partnerships.

This will include a boxing facility, which he believes will bring young people on the verge of anti-social behaviour “back to the fold… I’m hoping to introduce a boxing centre. I’m working to encourage corporate citizens to assist, as that is going to achieve some budget,” he said.

“To change behaviour first and foremost we have to change attitude, and to change attitude, you have to resonate in hearts and minds.”

Bermudians can also expect to see an overhaul of the Building Code in the coming year, to mandate renewable energy in new construction.

Environment Minister Walter Roban said: “More than ever, Bermuda requires a strategy of forward planning.

“Bermuda must sustain its development in a world of rapid technological change and extensive mobility of people and economic resources, but we must do so being very mindful of the impact of today’s changes on the Bermuda of tomorrow.”

Government is to launch an energy conservation campaign and will further encourage adoption of renewable energy technology in homes and commerce.

The new Building Code could stipulate new buildings must incorporate green technology.

Through cost incentives, homeowners will also be encouraged to fit micro renewables such as mini wind turbines, thermal solar panels and Photovoltaic (PV) panels.

“We want to make it easier for people to focus on these renewable technologies,” Mr. Roban said.

The Minister said he also wanted to nurture a  “green economy… We want to promote business and this is certainly an area where we can grow some opportunities for people to get involved in renewable energy,” he said.

Premier Paula Cox today praised her new ministers for taking on their new roles.

She said the appointment of Dame Jennifer as Education Minister would “restore confidence” among the public.

Ms Cox said she meant no disrespect to any previous minister, but that, “sometimes you have to pull out your even bigger guns”.

Commenting on the new Cabinet, Ms Cox said: “They have been eager to get the work done and have been eager to get their feet stuck in and to hit the ground running.

“They do realize they have to perform, and are keen to deliver.”

She added: “I feel we have a team going forward to work for the betterment of the people of Bermuda.”