Monday, June 22, 2009

My Synopsis of Human Rights in Recent History - Part 2

Part 2 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights – December 10, 1948

In Part 2 of my review of the sort of history of Human Rights, I look at the bigger stage, before returning to our Home and Native Land.

During the Second World War the Allies had adopted the 4 Freedoms as their war aims, and after seeing the atrocities of the Axis during the war, and having created the United Nations, a move was afoot to create what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There were a number of prominent participants in this endeavour. There was Eleanor Roosevelt, of course, and there was a Canadian, who worked tirelessly on this particularly for several years, a professor of law from McGill University in Montreal. He was the first Director of the Human Rights Division in the United Nations Secretariat and remained with the United Nations for about 20 years. His name, John Peters Humphries.

The resulting document took some haggling to accomplish, as could be expected, but to the credit of the United Nations it was done. It is currently translated into 360 languages and dialects. Pope John Paul II said of this document that it:”remains one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time.”

The full text in English is here. All other 360 translations are available near here as well.

But key rights for us as Canadians since we are signers of this Declaration and it forms the basis for our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms are as follows:

Article 1 – All human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 2 – All people are entitled to rights without distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, property, birth or residency.

Article 3 – Right to life, liberty and security of person

Article 6 – Right to be treated equally by the law

Article 7 – Right to equal protection by the law

Article 8 – Right to effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law

Article 10 – Right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him

Article 18 – Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 19 – Right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 29 – Part 2 - In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Article 30 – Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Pope John Paul II also had this to say in his message in 1999 for the World Day of Peace, about the UDHR: “The Universal Declaration is clear: it acknowledges the rights which it proclaims but does not confer them, since they are inherent in the human person and in human dignity. Consequently, no one can legitimately deprive another person, whoever they may be, of these rights, since this would do violence to their nature. All human beings, without exception, are equal in dignity.”

Current Pope Benedict XVI had this to say in his address to the United Nations on April 18, 2008: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ... was the outcome of a convergence of different religions and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws, and the workings of society.”

Pope John Paul II described the growing understanding of human rights, when he addressed the United Nations in 1979, as a “universal moral law written on the human heart”. He saw the growing international movement to recognise and protect human rights, as represented by the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as “a true milestone on the path of humanity’s moral progress.”

On one other thing are both John Paul and Benedict clear and that is that Human Rights are both universal and indivisible. In other words, they cannot be applied to some people in some situations and not to others. They are to be defended and protected in their entirety and at all times. Contrast this with the hierarchical way that they are being applied in Canada by our HRCs, where Christians are at the bottom of the pole.

I confess to being a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, I tend to have access to what the Pope has to say about things, and tend to lean towards what he says more readily than many of you might choose to. However, it has been my view that the Pope is more catholic than Catholic, attempting to speak to univeral good. For the Pope to believe in the dignity of all human beings, love for one another, yet to teach against sinful practices as viewed by Christianity is totally consistent.

As we move forward to Canada and the Rights Codes and Legislation both Federally and Provincially, and the administration of such, I will be remembering one quote excerpt above from Pope John Paul II: "The Universal Declaration is clear: it acknowledges the rights which it proclaims but does not confer them, since they are inherent in the human person and in human dignity."

It seems to me that the major difficulties with Human Rights that we are having going forward is threefold:

1) Rights are being reinvented and re-prioritized on the fly, though there appears to be a preponderance of leaning away from rights for Christians.

2) The reinvented and re-prioritized rights are being conferred down peoples throats, rather than acknowledged and proclaimed as John Paul wrote about the UDHR.

3) Once reinvented, these pseudo rights are being indoctrinated into the populace without input from the people, where they are becoming fact not the fiction they deserve to have remained.

The result is becoming that the Spirit of the UDHR is being lost here in Canada, but that is topic for later posts.

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