She was loved by many:
They lined the streets in their thousands; men, women, children - people of all ages - all came to pay their last respects to a woman whose fight for equal rights made Bermuda into the country it is today. The send-off for Dame Lois Browne-Evans was always going to be huge, but even those in their eighties were in awe at the sheer number of people who'd used the public holiday for what it was intended for - to say 'thank you' and 'goodbye'.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life before. Never," said 87-year-old Grace Cross. "It shows the life she led. She has done her duty. Very good."
She was respected by all:
Nearly 40 politicians on both sides of the House took turns to praise Dame Lois' trailblazing achievements, share anecdotes shedding light on her unique character and pass condolences to her mourning family.
She was a true pioneer:
A true pioneer, she has a long list of “firsts” under her belt: she forged the way ahead for many politicians and women when she became the first female Opposition Leader in the Commonwealth; first black female lawyer in Bermuda; longest-standing Member of Parliament and first female Attorney General of Bermuda.
She was a champion for justice:
"She was a sister of the struggle and at times the struggle was violent. But like Martin Luther King, Dame Lois did not wage the struggle with her fists, she did it with words.
"She always honoured democracy and she always bowed to the law — even when Lady Justice seemed to betray her."
He added: "She was a champion for justice - not just for blacks, but for all people."
The husband of Dame Lois Browne-Evans has described his late wife as a "good person" who "always had the country at heart..."
Mr. Evans said of his wife of 49 years: "She was very sincere in doing for her country. She was a good person. She had the country at heart."
She was a legend like none other:
Flanked by members of his Cabinet, Dr. Brown said: "We mourn because we know in this one sudden event, we have lost so much. Dame Lois was our country's first female barrister, our country's first female Attorney General, and the first female Opposition Leader in the British Commonwealth."
He also spoke of how she shattered glass ceilings, battled racism, and empowered women and uplifted black men. He added: "In the meantime we must say farewell to a legend like none other."
And, she leaves us with hope for the future.
A white dove was released into the blue skies over her final resting place as the nation reflected on the spirit of Dame Lois Browne Evans.As her fellow countrymen mourned, the dove's flight to the sounds of The Last Post carried the message of hope.
Bishop Vernon Lambe had told the hundreds gathered at the cemetery of St John The Evangelist in Pembroke: "We will stand by this grave not hopeless but hopeful."
And as the dove took flight, people reflected.
Dame Lois Browne-Evans. 1927-2007.
That's right. Dr. Brown and the PLP now have a presence on the popular social networking website, Facebook.com. Aimed primarily at young people, there are over 2,700 members of Facebook's Bermuda network. As noted in this morning's Royal Gazette, Dr. Brown joined the network earlier this week because "it is a great way to stay in touch with young people, answer their questions and provide them with information." You are encouraged to add Dr. Brown as your friend!
The PLP government is building an economy that works for all Bermudians. Our economy is growing and we're making sure that all Bermudians are benefiting from that growth.
Earlier this week, encouraging tourism statistics were released. May hotel occupancy is up 4.7 percent over last year, June bookings show occupancy at 90% and July bookings are already up 6% from last year. In 2006, total visitors to the island were up 22.9% from 2005. To quote Dr. Brown, "Air arrivals are up, airfares are down. Our cruise terminals are full in the east end, the west end, and here in Hamilton... Clearly the state of our tourism product is robust."
The PLP government is making sure that all citizens benefit from Bermuda's robust economy. Earlier this week, the government announced construction of another 54 units of affordable housing. As our Minister of Works and Engineering, Dennis Lister, noted, this is part of the PLP's continued commitment to providing Bermudians with affordable housing.
It's not just affordable housing, the government is also working with private organisations to build a healthier Bermuda. To that end, a new rehab centre is opening in July that will be able to help dozens of Bermudians who suffer from drug and alcohol addition. The centre is is funded by donors from Caron, a not-for-profit organisation that will provide full-service rehabilitation here in Bermuda and at additional facilities in the United States.
Today, Bermudians across the island and around the world pause to honour a great woman, Dame Lois Browne-Evans. Her funeral will take place at 1 pm at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. Flags will be set at half mast across the country. And, tomorrow, a parliamentary session will be held at the House of Assembly at 10 am to honour Dame Browne-Evans.
Politician, jurist, teacher, mother, grandmother - the lady was all these things and more. As she is referred to in Randy William's book, "Lois - The Grand Dame of Politics," she was a leader/matriarch of a family, of a political party and of a people; the people of Bermuda.
A pillar of Bermudian politics for 4 decades, there is no other figure of the 20th century who can be credited with having the impact she had on the political landscape. Her entrance into the political scene in 1963 finally broke the mold of what had been formerly an exclusive, oligarchial, male, chauvinistic club forever, becoming the first black woman Member of the Colonial Parliament.
Dame Lois' life was marked with 'firsts,' both politically and professionally. This began with her return to Bermuda, becoming the islands first female barrister in 1953. Dame Lois typically crashed down doors so that others could follow. Dame Lois' rise to Party Leader in 1968 exalted her to being the first female political leader in Bermuda and the first female Opposition Leader in the British Commonwealth. Dame Lois was the first leader to bring the Party to the point of credibly challenging the UBP position of governance in the general election of 1980.
Although never reaching the position of Leader of the government, Dame Lois was a leader of the people. Even after she resigned as Party Leader in 1985, her continued role and influence in the party was crucial part in shaping the Party's vision and commitment to being a voice and proponent for the rights of all Bermudians. The dream of victory came in 1998 and Dame Lois would share this achievement with her colleagues as a member of the first Cabinet and first political Attorney General until her retirement in 2003. Dame Lois was an unwavering champion for democracy and social justice. She is remembered for her humour, charismatic style, passionate eloquence, conviction and forceful personality. These qualities won her friends and respect throughout the political divide in Bermuda. Dame Lois had a big heart, which she gave to her constituents, as well as the clients who stuck with her faithfully through her many years of practicing law and politics.
The Progressive Labour Party family is saddened by her passing but we are proud of her contributions and celebrate her life, her sacrifice for us and the people of Bermuda.
It is with profound regret and deep sadness that we mourn the passing of our esteemed former leader, Dame Lois Browne-Evans. She was Bermuda's first female attorney general and represented the PLP for 40 yrs. Her astuteness, quick wit and oratorical skills propelled her to the forefront of local politics, and her passing leaves a painful void.
The Party Leader, Chairman, Executive and general membership of the Party extend heartfelt condolences to her family and friends at this time of bereavement.
Share your thoughts on the late Dame Lois Browne-Evans in the comments.
Premier Ewart Brown and the PLP are looking out for Bermuda's seniors. After a lifetime of hard work, our seniors deserve security and respect. That's why Premier Brown is easing the financial burden on our seniors. The Premier already decided to waive driver's license renewal fees for all persons over 65. And, at yesterday's annual Premier's Seniors' Tea at the Botantical Gardens, the Premier also decided to eliminate vehicle registration fees for our seniors. As the Premier said yesterday, these are just two measures the PLP government is taking to ensure a comfortable retirement for Bermuda's seniors. He said:
As your Premier, I am constantly looking for ways to improve your quality of life as you celebrate your golden years. This is the reason seniors do not pay when they take public transportation, this is the reason seniors will be relieved from the burden of paying for driver's license renewals and vehicle registrations, and this is the reason we are looking for ways to improve your healthcare coverage without increasing your costs. Individually the savings you get from these policies can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. And I believe you are deserving of every single dollar, every single cost-saving measure the Government can afford. But more importantly, I hope you know that these policies are not the beginning and they are not the end of the work we are doing for seniors. I am constantly challenging the men and women of the civil service to find ways to relieve our seniors of financial burden while keeping the country's finances in the black. I am well aware that one policy will not have a significant impact on your life, but a collection of policies working together, will undoubtedly enhance your retirement years. And that is this Government's promise to you - a more comfortable life in retirement, because you have earned that privilege.
These measures add to the long list of measures that the PLP Government has taken to make life for our seniors better.
The CedarBridge Academy experience has been a traumatic one for Bermuda. What was a negative experience has in the end been a positive learning experience for all concerned. Last Friday, Education Minister K.H. Randolph Horton unveiled a series of recommendations to ensure that CedarBridge is a healthy and safe place of learning. The Royal Gazette writes:
- A comprehensive, scientific study of the health of all those at CedarBridge should be conducted to determine whether mould or poor indoor air quality is to blame for "the many cases of illness." Data collection and analysis for health-based absences for teachers and students should be improved.
- If evidence is found linking the illnesses to the workplace then "the relevant agencies must be ready to respond humanely and according to existing legal protections for citizens exposed to similar work-related injuries."
- The Ministry of Education should provide full disclosure of information on potential risks to health and life from exposure to workplace mould and poor air quality - as promised last November. A report by the Pan American Health Organisation on the school environment should also be provided to teachers.
- CedarBridge's roof, walls, windows and air-conditioning should be repaired/rehabilitated and then thorough mould and indoor air quality "remediation" carried out. An environmental assessor separate to whoever conducts the remediation work should be brought in to lead the project.
- Government should include a new line item in its annual budget for capital maintenance at CedarBridge, allocating at least $2.5 million a year.
- A properly qualified school facilities manager should be employed, made directly answerable to the principle and tasked with developing a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan. The post will be advertised this week, according to the chairman of the school's board of governors George Scott.
- The roles and responsibilities of the Ministry of Education, board of governors and senior school management in relation to CedarBridge should be clarified. The Ministry should initiate a "well-facilitated consensus building process" between itself, governors and senior management.
- The principal and three deputy principals need to work on rebuilding the trust of all teachers and develop a simple and quick way for sharing information with staff.
As Minister Horton noted, "Lessons have been learned on both a Ministry and school level, as well as on a national level. We have learned as a Ministry to pay closer attention to communication and proper resource levels. We have learned as a nation the importance of establishing and adhering to regularized standards for indoor air quality. Those are not all the lessons learned, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to sharing more insights with you and to engaging in constructive discussion with the Members of this Honourable House when this report is discussed in detail."
Last week, the Bermuda Sun reported on the 96 new housing units being constructed on the site of the old Loughlands Hotel in Paget. As Housing Ministor David Burch noted in the article, this development is "literally concrete evidence of the Government's commitment to housing." As the Sun reported, the site was originally zoned for tourism but was reassigned for housing.
In addition to encouraging housing construction, the PLP is also taking concrete steps to improve education in Bermuda.
Last week, the Premier and Education Minister K.H. Randolph Horton began to implement the reforms presented by the recently completed Education Review. The first step is to bring together an Interim Executive Board to oversee the implementation of the Education Review's recommendations. Board Chairman Phil Butterfield has been appointed Chairman of the Interim Board and he is working with government to put together a stellar team. The new Board will work with government to make much needed reforms to Bermuda's public education system to ensure that every child has an opportunity to a first class education.
Here they go again. The PLP's opponents are once again on the attack. This time, they're falsely accusing the government of waste. But, let's look at the facts.
1) It's been reported that the government spent $19,087 on "gifts" for college students at two American universities. This is ridiculous. The truth is, no one received any gifts in conjunction with the college tour events.
2) The Premier did host several events at American universities this spring to engage in a dialogue with Bermudian students studying abroad. There was a raffle at these events to thank students for their attendance. The cost of raffle prizes for the entire North American tour of four college cities was $5,431.
3) The Government incurred banquet expenses in order to host the students in each of the American cities. The banquet services costs were: Washington, DC - $9,704 (for 75 people), Atlanta - $9,510 (for 100 people), Huntsville - $18,913 (for 200 people), Halifax $6,673 CND (for 100 people). Given the number of students that attended these events, it's clear that the cost was not excessive.
These events gave the Premier an opportunity to engage and form relationships with Bermuda's future leaders - people who he hopes will return to Bermuda and invest in our continued economic and social well being. The PLP believes it's important to engage with the next generation and to make government accessible to young people. This effort shows the PLP's commitment to Bermuda's future and open, accessible government.