By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government intends to appeal a Supreme Court judge’s ruling that called for its disclosure of all relevant documents relating to its immigration policy introduced a year ago.
A statement was issued by the Ministry of Immigration and Foreign Affairs, noting Minister Fred Mitchell’s legal right to have the Court of Appeal examine the decision of Justice Rhonda Bain.
Justice Bain is presiding over an ongoing judicial review action brought by an alleged victim of the government’s immigration reform policy that was implemented November 1, 2014.
“The decision in the matter is being appealed by the minister,” the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“This is not a decision on the substantive matters raised in the application of the applicant. It relates only to an order to reveal the internal and confidential papers of the file relating to the policy,” the statement added.
The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) yesterday challenged the government on whether it had anything to hide from the public on the issue.
“At a time when violent crime is out of control and the court system is overwhelmed with serious matters, the government must explain why it would seek to waste judicial resources, the valuable time of the Attorney General’s Office and public funds in an attempt to keep this information secret,” the group said.
“Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell has repeatedly defended the new policy as both legal and necessary. Needless to say, we disagree with him on both counts. The court has essentially asked him to back up his claims with the facts. What could it be that Mitchell and his senior staff have to hide?”
Kayla Green-Smith and Melissa Wright, Crown attorneys for the respondents in the case, had objected to 21-year-old Widlyne Melidor’s judicial review request for discovery on the basis that her circumstances did not fall in the category of “exceptional.”
Last Wednesday, however, Justice Bain ruled that discovery was necessary.
“After considering the facts of the case at hand, the court holds that discovery is necessary to enable the court to resolve the matter justly and fairly,” Justice Bain said on Wednesday. “The respondents have an obligation to make frank disclosure to the court of the decision making process.”
She ordered the government to produce in 21 days all relevant documents, including, but not limited to letters, policy papers, internal memoranda, minutes, reports, directives in relation to “the initiatives (that) were implemented on November 1, 2014”.
The respondents in this legal action – Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell, Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald, the Columbus Primary School Board, Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez and the administrator of the Fleming Street Community Clinic – were given until December 2 to comply with the court’s order for disclosure of the documents.
Melidor has alleged that she was repeatedly denied access to a local clinic and that her son was not allowed to attend school in the Bahamas due to the new immigration policy.
Fred Smith, QC, Dawson Malone and Martin Lundy II represent Melidor and her son in the judicial review.
Melidor seeks judicial review of the Immigration Department’s policy requirement for persons born in the Bahamas to carry identity papers proving their right to reside in the country; and the decision to refuse consideration of her citizenship application until she is able to produce a Haitian passport, special residency or Belonger’s permit.
Melidor is seeking relief in the form of a declaration that the decisions were ultra vires, or without legal authority; a declaration that the minister of immigration is in breach of his duty to determine her citizenship in a timely manner; and orders of certiorari to quash each of the decisions.
She has also requested orders of mandamus: to require the minister of immigration to consider her citizenship application according to law and within a reasonable time; to require the minister of education and the Columbus Primary School Board to register her son, Petroun; and to require the minister of health and the administrator of the Fleming Street Community Clinic to provide access to medical care for herself and her dependents.
At the time of the application, Melidor was 39 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. She has since given birth.