Canada and International Partners support successful UWI Symposium on Caribbean Court of Justice

Experts discuss the experience of other Commonwealth countries in replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom with their own final appellate courts and the judgments and role of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

News | 26 January 2015
PORT OF SPAIN (ILO News) - A Symposium on the promotion of regionalism and indigenous jurisprudence was held on January 21 2015, at the Noor Hassanali Auditorium, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies at St. Augustine. The event was organized by the High Commission of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago and the Faculty of Law – UWI St. Augustine, with the support of the ILO, OAS, Commonwealth Secretariat and the UNDP.

L to R: Richard Blewitt – Resident Representative, UNDP; Hon Justice Denys Barrow SC (Belize), Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean, Faculty of Law, UWI St. Augustine; Alicia Elias-Roberts, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Law, UWI St. Augustine; Reginald Armour SC, Law Association of T&T; Hon. Justice John Logan (Australia); Dante Negro (OAS); Prof. Benoit Pelletier (Canada); Mr. Mark Guthrie, Commonwealth Secretariat; Riyad Insanally, Country Representative in Trinidad and Tobago, OAS; Giovanni Di Cola, Representative, ILO; and His Excellency Gerard Latulippe, High Commissioner for Canada to T&T.

Six prominent constitutional and legal experts on two panels discussed the experience of other Commonwealth countries in replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom with their own final appellate courts and the judgments and role of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, in the context of evolving regional and international jurisprudence.

The Symposium was attended by more than 100 participants, drawn from the judiciary, the Bar, academia, the private sector and civil society, and also included, notably, the Acting President of Trinidad and Tobago, The Honourable Timothy Hamel-Smith, The Honourable Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Justice, Senator the Honourable Emmanuel George, and CCJ President, The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron.

One of the pivotal moments at the symposium came when Mr. Reginald Armour S.C., the panellist representing the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago, for the first time confirmed publicly his organization’s support for the accession to the CCJ by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Professor Benoît Pelletier, a constitutional expert from Canada, spoke on the evolution of the role of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), and explained how the SCC’s establishment had signalled the end of what he referred to as “judicial colonialism” and the development of judicial independence.

In the audience from left to right: Panelist Dante Negro from the OAS, Hon Justice Denys Barrow SC from Belize and Sir Dennis Byron, President of the CCJ 
ustice Denys Barrow CBE, SC spoke on the developments in the CCJ, in the application of international law to domestic law cases. He highlighted that the CCJ was fully in step with developments in the wider world, as it not only draws from international jurisprudence, but also contributes to it. He declared that CCJ has demonstrated the use of ILO conventions - including unratified conventions - as undeclared and unrecognized rights, and cited the use of the International Labour Organization Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries of 1989 (No. 169) with respect to the Maya Land Rights in Southern Belize in 2007. He concluded by saying this judgement was an excellent example of using judicial activism, to flesh out broad principles of constitutional provisions, and using international law to inform and expand domestic law schedules.

In her presentation, Dean of the Faculty of Law at UWI, St. Augustine, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, assessed the CCJ’s first 10 years. She quoted Dr. Kenny Anthony, the Lead Prime Minister for the Establishment of the CCJ who said that the establishment of the CCJ was not a leap into the dark but a leap into enlightenment and concluded that the CCJ has had a fine tradition of sound judicial reasoning.

All the presenters were of the view that the strengthening of the CCJ would advance the rule of law in the Caribbean and redound to the benefit of the regional integration process.

Since 2005, only Barbados, Belize and Guyana have acceded to the CCJ as their final appellate court, but there are encouraging signs from other CARICOM members: Dominica is poised to adopt the CCJ as its final court of appeal; Grenada is to have a referendum soon; St. Lucia’s latest throne speech refers to accession as one of its goals; and Jamaica’s government has just announced that Parliament will vote on the matter on April 28.

The UWI Law Faculty has plans to compile the presentations as a resource document for stakeholders and for researchers on the subject.

Expert panelists were: Professor Benoît Pelletier, Canada; Hon. Justice John Alexander Logan RFD, Federal Court of Australia; Reginald Amour S.C., representing the Law Association of T&T; Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean, Faculty of Law – UWI St. Augustine, Hon. Justice Denys Barrow CBE, SC, Belize and Dante Negro, OAS – Washington DC