New Brunswick

N.B. sculpture honours author of human rights declaration

A sculpture commemorating the New Brunswick man who drafted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was unveiled Sunday in Hampton. N.B.

A sculpture commemorating the New Brunswick man who drafted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was unveiled Sunday in Hampton. N.B.

John Peters Humphrey was born in the small southern New Brunswick community in 1905.

Appointed the United Nations' first director of the human rights division in 1946, he helped prepare the draft copy of the Declaration of Human Rights, which was passed by the UN in 1948.

The sculpture, called Credo, was designed by Hooper Studios and is on the lawn of the Kings County courthouse, about 100 metres away from Humphrey's childhood home.

Two sandstone columns form the sculpture, one with a trickling water fountain and the other featuring four statements from Humphrey's draft declaration.

On bench surrounding the columns, sits a sculpture of Humphrey as an adult and as a boy. The two figures are joined together at the arm. Humphrey, who was an orphan, lost his arm as a child after an accident while playing with fire.

The $284,000 project is the culmination of more than nine years of work.

Humphrey died in 1995 at the age of 90. He is buried in Hampton.

More than 300 people attended the unveiling ceremony, which included a song performed by the high school choir, aboriginal drumming, a sweetgrass ceremony and a rap by local students.

'It's been incredible'

"With the drumming and the sweetgrass and the kids singing, it's been incredible — just amazing," said Darren Byers, one of the sculptors responsible for the statue, having created the figures of Humphrey as a man and as a boy.

The John Peters Humphrey Foundation plans to add walkways, lighting and signs that lead people to Humphrey's former home and his gravesite.

Marion Keuchmeister, Humphrey's stepdaughter, traveled from Oakville, Ont., to attend the ceremony.

Humphrey would have been surprised that so many people came out and that he was honoured in this way, Keuchmeister said.

"He probably would've blushed red if he had been alive and been here," Keuchmeister said. "He would have been very happy inside, but he would have been speechless."

Rene Cassin, of France, had originally been recognized as the writer of the declaration. He worked with the draft written by Humphrey to create 44 articles, which were eventually adopted as 30 human rights articles by the United Nations. Cassin received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 for his work.

It wasn't until researchers found Humphrey's handwritten original draft at McGill University in 1988 that he was recognized for his role.

Humphrey worked with the United Nations for 20 years and helped implement more than 60 international conventions before retiring in 1966. He also helped launched Amnesty International Canada.

Corrections

  • Darren Byers is one of the sculptors who helped create the statue, which was commissioned to Hooper Studios. The story originally reported that Byers organized the unveiling ceremony.
    Jun 17, 2008 8:43 AM AT

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