By RON FANFAIR
Grenadians in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were recently presented with an opportunity to express their thoughts and make suggestions on the working draft of a new constitution.
Constitutional expert and University of the West Indies Law professor Dr. Simeon McIntosh and Robert Branch, a senior legal counsel in the Attorney General’s Ministry, were in Toronto last month to consult with nationals. The consultative process began last January.
McIntosh said the consultation provides Grenadians with an opportunity to have input into the content of their fundamental law. This is the first time Grenada’s constitutional reform consultative process has been taken to the Diaspora. The process continues the work done by Constitution Review Commissions in 1985 and 2006.
“This constitution concerns all of our citizens, regardless of where they might be,” said McIntosh who graduated from York University in 1971 with an English Literature degree. “It’s a national and communal conversation that we are having.
“The feedback so far has been excellent. Obviously, many Grenadians have read the document and they have raised lots of questions. It has been very encouraging so far.”
The team has also visited Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Montreal, New York and Washington.
McIntosh, who graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 1975 and has written several books, articles and scholarly papers, expects the consultative process to wrap up by year-end.
“This is a working draft constitution which will be refined as we go along,” he said. “At the end of the process, there should be essentially another draft that will emerge. The question is whether the parliament will be satisfied with that document to take it to the people for a referendum for ratification.”
Branch also made it clear that the reform affects all Grenadians, including those in the Diaspora.
“The Diaspora contributes to Grenada economically and it also influences the process back home,” he said.
Grenadians who have sworn allegiance to another country cannot run for public office in the country of their birth under the current constitution. Under the draft constitution, they could do so once they satisfy the residency requirements of at least up to five years and their adopted country is a constitutional democracy with which Grenada shares diplomatic relations and a commitment to the protection of basic human rights.
Severing constitutional ties to Britain and forming a parliamentary republican state are key recommendations in the draft constitution.
Grenada achieved independence on February 7, 1974.
“This means that the originating consciousness behind the making of our fundamental law was not our own,” said McIntosh. “This law will therefore bear the taint of political illegitimacy no matter how much we venerate it or how enthusiastically we embrace it. And this has been compounded by the fact that we have retained the British monarch as our head of state and its judicial committee as our final appellate tribunal.”
Grenada is committed to the Caribbean Court of Justice established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.
“The Privy Council is a British institution and not ours,” McIntosh has repeatedly said. “It has merely agreed to do us a favour in serving as our final appellate court. Therefore, the British Parliament in a one-sentence piece of legislation can take that institution from us following an overwhelming vote by the electorate on a public referendum in favour of keeping the Privy Council as our final court of appeal. Incidentally, in the very same sentence, the British Parliament may also put an end to our silly pretences of claims to the crown.”