#Grand Turk, January 29, 2019 – Turks and Caicos –
Good morning Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Status of Children Bill 2018 is among one of several outstanding Family Law Bills that had required further stakeholders consultation.
Over the last several months the Ministry of Home Affairs, along with the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Social Development Department and other stakeholders including the judiciary conducted meetings to review this Bill.
We are here today to present the final product of their hard work, with respect to this particular bill, and Mr. Speaker I want to pause to thank them for their efforts on the collection of family law bills on a whole.
In a nutshell Mr. Speaker we are introducing this bill because it is important for the Turks and Caicos Islands to ensure that all laws relating to children is up-to date and meets the standard of international best practices and conventions.
In addition to this Mr. Speaker, My Government is a Government that is working to protect all of the rights of all of our children.
Hence, the purpose of this bill Mr. Speaker, is to provide equal status to all of children in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
When we use the word status here Mr. Speaker, we are not speaking about immigration status of children. We are talking about how they are treated under the law regardless of whether they are born inside a marriage, or, whether they were born to two un-married parents.
As such, Mr. Speaker, the Bill proposes to repeal the `Legitimation Ordinance and the Illegitimacy Ordinance which overlap with what this bill is trying to achieve. It will also save certain sections as well as modify some parts of the provisions that are saved, to ensure that they match with the policy positions taken by our Government.
Mr. Speaker, I will highlight the issues this bill seeks to address, in five parts in accordance with the five parts of this bill.
PART 1 – Preliminary
Mr. Speaker, Part 1 of the bill simply
- Sets out the meaning or definition of key terms
- states who this bill applies to, and
- protects any related right a child would have had before this bill.
PART 2 – Status of Children
Mr. Speaker, part 2 is seeking to do several things.
- It is seeking to remove labels such as il-legitimate, legitimate, lawful or unlawful that have been pegged on to some children in our society for many generations. Our policy is that there will not be any distinction between children based on the marital status of their parent. Many children have been treated unkindly because of this, and Mr. Speaker I am happy that this caring Government is taking this important step to put the law on their side.
- Another thing that this part provides for, Mr. Speaker, is a list of several types of relationships, which shall be used in law, to determine the natural father of a child unless there is some other proof to confirm that he is not a child’s father. I will not go through the full list now, Mr. Speaker, but I do look forward to the contributions from Members of this Honorable House during the debate, and more importantly, during the Committee of the Whole.
Before I move on to the next part Mr. Speaker, it is important to highlight that this section also propose that we have provisions in our laws, for the very first time, presumptions of parentage based on artificial conception procedure.
Finally, it provides for certain conditions under which the Registrar shall file an instrument in the Registry of Births, when a father acknowledges paternity.
PART 3 – PARENTAGE
This part 3 Mr. Speaker, is making provisions for instances when a person can apply to the court to declare parentage.
It further provides for the court to require a parent test procedure it outlines matters that should be taken into account before a court order is made, and it lists the information that the results from the testing procedure should contain.
Last but not least, Mr. Speaker, it requires the Minister to approve a laboratory for carrying out parent testing procedure and enable the Minister to nominate a reporter for the approved laboratory or lab. This is important Mr. Speaker to ensure that standards are upheld and that personal information is kept strictly confidential.
PART 4 – DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY
Mr. Speaker, if there is one only area that cause strife within a family, is the manner in which property is given to other family members either through gifts or inheritance.
Clause 16 to 19 of this Part 4, Mr. Speaker, totally abolishes the distinction between children born within a marriage and outside a marriage and places them on equal footing for inheriting property, when a parent dies without a will.
We also know that there are cases where parents sometimes make paternity claim after the passing a presumed father. This bill now enables the administrator of a will to make reasonable inquiries regarding the existence of any other person who could claim an interest in the estate of the decease.
It also relieves the administrator of the responsibility to seek more information that he honestly and reasonably thinks is necessary and protects him from action being taken against him if had no knowledge or notice of a potential relationship between a person and the deceased.
It should be noted that Part 4 of this bill Mr. Speaker starts off by ensuring that the earlier provisions regarding wills and gifts that were completed or became effective before this bill, shall continue to be as is, and will not be affected by this bill.
PART 5 – MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS
Part 5 is the final part of this bill, Mr. Speaker, and it contains provisions relating to hearings, penalties for failure to adhere to parentage testing or seeking to tamper with tests, existing rights, regulations and repeal.
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the rights of the child, this Government, my Government, is committed to protecting the rights of every child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment and maltreatment or exploitation.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the support of all members of this Honorable House on the Status of Children Bill that is being proposed here today and I now invite them, through you Mr. Speaker, to make their contributions to this very important pieces of legislation
Thank you Mr. Speaker