By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE Office of the Attorney General has filed a notice of appeal against Justice Ian Winder’s groundbreaking ruling on citizenship.
Justice Winder ruled last month 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, which is the common interpretation of the Constitution. If the ruling stands, it could affect the status of many people in the country.
Justice Winder’s ruling focused 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.”
The judge concluded that that if drafters of the Constitution wanted Article 14 (1) to apply to Article 6, they would have used the words “either father or mother”, not “parents” in Article 6.
In an application filed on June 10, government lawyers have asked for his judgment to be set aside.
Their grounds of appeal include: “That the learned judge erred and misdirected himself in law holding at paragraph 34 (of his ruling) that the only interpretation, having regard to the language used and giving effect to the provisions of the Bahamian Constitution dealing with the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, is to preclude any reference to Article 14 (1) by indirect reference to Article 6.
“That the learned judge erred and misdirected himself in law in holding at paragraph 34 that the interpretation of parents in Article 6 is the only interpretation suitable to the character and spirit of the Constitution.
“That the learned judge erred and misdirected himself in law when he concluded at paragraph 35 that the legal position must be that every person born in The Bahamas after the 9th of 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, irrespective of the marital status of the parents at the time of birth.”
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 four raised in the constitutional referendum in 2016. All four of those questions were rejected by Bahamians.
Justice Winder’s ruling sprung from an ongoing case brought by attorney Wayne Munroe, QC. The applicants in that case include children said to be 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.