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Dad’S Bahamian? Then You Are Too – Supreme Court Sets New Provision For Citizenship If Born Outside Marriage

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

A SUPREME Court judge has ruled that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men and foreign women are citizens at birth and do not have to wait until 18 to apply for citizenship.

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Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC.

Wayne Munroe, QC, said Justice Ian Winder’s ruling, which was released yesterday, is a game-changer that can affect the status of tens of thousands of people in the country.

He said that if the ruling stands, it would put an end to the bizarre practice of some Bahamian men choosing to adopt their own children to pass on their citizenship.

“The judge has ruled as a matter of law that if your father is Bahamian you are Bahamian by birth,” said Mr Munroe, who argued the case. “A lot of children who were born to Bahamian fathers have been turned around in school and after they turn 18 are told they will now be able to claim their citizenship as soon as they can prove their father is Bahamian. This foolishness in the past about a man having to adopt his own children to get citizenship, all that can now end. Bearing in mind that illegitimacy is high (in the Bahamas), this likely affects tens of thousands of people. There are many we wouldn’t even have given citizenship to after they applied for it at 18.”

Justice Winder’s ruling focuses on whether a reference to “father” in Article 14 (1) of the Constitution is applicable when interpreting Article 6 of the document.

Article 6 says: “Every person born in the Bahamas after 9th July 1973 shall become a citizen of the Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date either of his parents is a citizen of the Bahamas.”

Article 14 (1) says: “Any reference in this chapter to the father of a person shall, in relation to any person born out of wedlock other than a person legitimated before 10th July 1973, be construed as a reference to the mother of that person.”

Mr Munroe, according to Justice Winder’s ruling, sought a declaration saying that the true construction of Article 6 is that any person born to either Bahamian parent after July 9, 1973 is a citizen at birth. He further sought a declaration that his clients “are born to a Bahamian father and entitled to citizenship pursuant to Article 6 of the constitution” and that “the wording of Article 14 does not affect the rights given under Article 6 in that Article 14 only applies where the word ‘father’ is mentioned in the relevant chapter and does not affect the wording of either parent as set out in Article 6.”

Government lawyers argued that “the clear interpretation of Article 14(1) of the Constitution is that it applies to any provision which is capable of including the father,” Justice Winder noted. They relied on a ruling by former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall in a case that was previously brought by Mr Munroe.

Justice Winder, ultimately, has departed from the former chief justice’s ruling. In essence, he argues that if drafters of the Constitution wanted Article 14 (1) to apply to Article 6, they would have used the words “father or mother,” not “parents.”

“In my view,” he writes, “it is simply just wrong to seek to apply Article 14(1) to Article 6 as the words father or mother do not appear in it. It seems that in every place where it is intended by Parliament to refer to father and mother in their legal sense, it did so. Father is used in the Constitution in its common law meaning of a legal (and not putative) father, and this must explain why it was not possible for the drafters of the Constitution to use father and mother in Article 6 in place of parents. Parliament must have intended ‘parents’ in Article 6 to have the ordinary grammatical meaning of biological parents.”

The question of whether Bahamian fathers of children born out of wedlock to non-Bahamian mothers could automatically pass citizenship on to their children was one of several raised in the constitutional referendum in 2016 but was rejected by Bahamians.

Mr Munroe said pursuing a ruling like Justice Winder’s has been his mission for about 15 years.

“When Hall ruled against me, it was a child of a Bahamian policeman who couldn’t get citizenship,” he said. “Before we got to appeal, the child got status and the father wasn’t interested in appealing any more. For me it was just a matter of getting another matter in which the same issue could be canvassed.

The applicants in the current case include children said to have been fathered by Bahamian men out of wedlock to Jamaican and Haitian women. The case has been adjourned to July to consider proof that the fathers of the children are indeed Bahamian men.

Comments

joeblow 1 month, 1 week ago

So do people just get to make that claim or will paternity testing be mandatory? After all, biological fathers cannot be proven by just saying so!

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stillwaters 1 month, 1 week ago

This is only fair, since any single Bahamian woman can have children for non-nationals( mostly Jamaican and Haitian) and their children are automatically Bahamian. Can't be done without DNA testing though.

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Economist 1 month, 1 week ago

Finally. The injustice has been going on for too long.

Good job Mr. Munroe in arguing the case. Thank you Justice Winder for a correct interpretation of the law.

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thephoenix562 1 month, 1 week ago

This would be great except i dont believe it will hold up on appeal.We will see.

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lucaya 1 month, 1 week ago

If you understand it without the long readings here and all that Law stuff, and when you on the street understand it all like this! (Bahamian slang)

1.If ya Pa and Ma is a real Bahamian and you da child born AFTER 10th of July 1973,BUT ya daddy and mummy ain't marry to each other, you is still a Bahamian, no need for all that drama.

  1. If ya Ma is a real Bahamian and ya Pa a foreigner and ya mummy marry to ya Daddy, still you can enjoy being and living erryting Bahamian, but you MUST by age of 18 teen get straight with da Government(registration,passport wat eva) so you can fully be Bahamian, remember nah if Daddy is from foreign than means u is mostly where he from,even doh ya Ma is Bahamian.

  2. If ya Pa is a real Bahamian and he get marry to ya Ma who is a FOREIGNER from any country,ans u is born after 10th a July,1973, you is Bahamian, all ya daddy should do is go (since he married to ya mummy) he and ya mummy go down to registrar office and sign ya birth certificate,remember only ya daddy can sign dat document,you is Bahamian.

  3. If ya Pa is a real born Bahamian, but ya mummy is a foreigner from ANY Country, but ya daddy an ya mummy AIN'T marry to each other,listen where eva ya Mummy from(Country) that's wat u are until you reach 18 teen, but make sure try apply for your citizenship before ya 19 teen, cause even doh you living,schooling erryting like da rest a we, listen u ARE NOT a Real Bahamian cause u feel ya daddy is, da constitution of Da Bahamas, say you is wat ya foreigner mummy is!

Please correct me if I'zz wrong coz dis wat we suppose gon to da polls an voted for!

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geostorm 1 month, 1 week ago

Thanks for breaking it down @lucaya. I love it. This is exactly the way I understand it.

Now all we need to do is work on children born outside the country to Bahamian women and a foreign man.They too deserve to have Bahamian citizenship.😉

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