On International Human Rights Day celebrated at the UN and around the world on December 10, Canada organized a full day of activities to honour the memory and legacy of John Peters Humphrey, the drafter of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The day started with a lunch event that featured the Canadian author Anne Huestis Scott for the international launch of her book entitled The Boy Who Was Bullied which relates the story of John Peters Humphrey, a New Brunswick native. Mr. Humphrey lost his left arm in a fire accident at the age of 6 and tragically lost his parents before he reached 11. He suffered from very aggressive bullying throughout his childhood. But the last thing Mr. Humphrey permitted to happen was to become a victim.
Indeed, these very difficult circumstances forged his character, determination and resilience and helped shape the man he became, a brilliant lawyer and tireless human rights advocate and fearless activist who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10 1948. Mr Humphrey was the first Director of the United Nations Human Rights Division in 1946 and retired from the United Nations after 20 years of service in 1966.
Later that day, Canada hosted a formal Reception at the United Nations Headquarters building in New York to showcase Ms. Scott’s book to a larger audience. Ms. Scott delivered an eloquent speech declaring, "it was very fitting that the book which immortalizes John Humphrey’s early life, as well as some of his work and accomplishments as an adult, be celebrated here at the very spot where John worked for 20 years as the first Human Rights Director and warmly referred to as, “Mr. Human Rights”."
His Excellency Senator Roméo Dallaire who came from Canada for the event, also delivered an intervention, noting the key role Mr. Humphrey played in developing the international human rights system. Finally, Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Head of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, closed the formal portion of the event by highlighting Canada's role as a leader on human rights issues and delivering a message on behalf of the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, noting, "this book was a celebration of the power of the spirit to triumph over adversity and a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting children from bullying and cyberbullying".
The day-long event was organized in collaboration with his Excellency Senator Joseph Day and the New Brunswick-based The Hampton John Peters Humphrey Foundation, whose mission is to preserve the memory and legacy of Mr. Humphrey’s remarkable work, and to educate people of all ages about human rights.