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Upholding one set of rules for everyone

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Statement by Acting Minister for Home Affairs the Hon. Cole Simons, January 4, 2017

Yesterday, St. Paul’s AME Church issued a lengthy statement on the work permit application for Rev. Nicholas Genevieve-Tweed that, whether intended or not, clouded the facts of the case.

Although the employer of record for Rev. Genevieve-Tweed is the Presiding Elder of the Bermuda Conference of the AME Church, the statement by St. Paul’s AME Church warrants a response.

In considering this matter, it is important to keep in mind two incontrovertible, overriding facts behind the Minister’s decision to uphold the denial of the work permit application. They are:

  • The failure of the employer to advertise the position as required for every work permit application, and
  • The failure to provide accurate and complete information as required of every applicant.

These facts provide the context for this statement.

Advertising protects Bermudians

The Church said there was “no mechanism within the AME Church to advertise pastorates.”

That may be, and we recognize that many organizations, religious or otherwise, have worldwide recruitment policies. But the fact is that when it comes to Bermuda all are subject to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act.

All other churches and faith groups in Bermuda have accepted by this policy, which is designed to make sure everyone is treated equally. We cannot have one rule for all churches and one rule for Rev. Genevieve-Tweed.

External recruitment policies of private entities cannot dictate Bermuda’s Immigration policy, which exists to protect Bermudian opportunities in the workplace. Otherwise, there is no point to having a work permit policy.

There are no grounds for a waiver

The Church requested a waiver on advertising after the Immigration Board instructed them to advertise the position. The request was denied because the applicant did not meet Work Permit Policy criteria, which state that a waiver of advertising may be appropriate where:

  • The person is uniquely qualified for the position, or
  • The position would not exist in Bermuda if it were not for the applicant filling the job; or
  • The success of the business would be detrimentally affected if the persons were to leave the business (detrimentally affected means that jobs of Bermudians, Spouses of Bermudians or PRC holders would be put at risk); or
  • The employee is integral and key to income generation for the business by brokering deals or attracting/retaining clients or funds.

Time and opportunity were given to get it right

Given the sensitive nature of this matter, the Minister allowed the applicant time to make his case. From the moment the applicant filed late for work permit renewal in July 2016, the Minister gave Rev. Genevieve-Tweed special authorization to continue working while the application was reviewed. She did so again in October while his appeal was being considered.

Accurate, complete information was not provided

The Church said the Minister’s reference to the Reverend’s incomplete 2013 application was “irrelevant”.  But its relevance lies in its relationship to the 2016 application and other documents that, taken together, revealed inconsistent, inaccurate information about the Reverend’s marital status and name.

The work permit system, which exists to protect Bermudian employment opportunities, cannot work if people applying to work here do not provide complete and accurate information.

This could have been a standard renewal

The Church complained that Rev. Genevieve-Tweed’s application “should have been handled” as a standard renewal. That might have been the case if the application had been accurate and complete, submitted on time, with questions answered and fees paid and with the position advertised as required. When the rules put in place for everyone are not followed, then applications become anything but standard.

On that point, I refer to Article 23 of the AME Church’s Articles of Faith which describe the Church is an international Christian body with constituents around the world and “presumes the duty, loyalty and patriotism of our constituents, as citizens of sovereign nations, to obey just laws, to recognize and respect the organizational structure, and to uphold the Constitution of the country or nation-state in which our members hold the rights and privileges of citizenship…”

On a final note, we will be happy to work with the Presiding Elder of the Bermuda Conference of the AME Church if she has any issues that need further clarification.

All points mentioned in yesterday’s statement by the St. Paul’s AME Church will be addressed in detail as soon as Immigration Department technical officers have completed their review of the statement.

Thank you.