Collectively giving thanks

Leslie Fredrick Hix, 1890-1975, lived a long life filled with blessings but certainly not one that was without hardship or struggle.

Leslie Fredrick Hix, 1890-1975, lived a long life filled with blessings but certainly not one that was without hardship or struggle.

Born into German Lutheran family in rural northern Illinois, tragedy struck early.

His mother died in childbirth when he was only five. His father’s remarriage to a strict Catholic woman lead to a change of religion but not of economic prospects.

Young people then as now often had to leave home in search of economic opportunity.

His sister and her new husband were the first to leave seeking land to farm in far off Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, in 1905. Les and his new wife Catherine Corrigan left home several years later to find work. Employment with an agricultural implement firm in Kansas City got him started in business.

With barely an elementary school education he provided for a growing family through depression and wartime years.

His hard work yielded steady advancement. By the time he was 50 he had become the president of a regional plumbing supply business that prior to rural electrification claimed to be the world’s largest distributor of windmills.

As a child I remember him and my grandmother gathering our expanding clan at a local restaurant for Thanksgiving meals.

With the local 15 grandchildren on their best behaviour the extended family truly celebrated our blessings on that day.

A basic fabric of commonly accepted and expanding human rights that enveloped the family made this possible.

Over the last 200 years we have seen a veritable human rights revolution. The days of rights being arrogated only to the powerful or those that assumed some divine right to rule others gave way to a general acceptance of basic human rights. Our culture heavily influenced by Greek and Roman political thought focused on individual rights such as the freedom of speech and thought or to property.

Our Yukon traditional societies and non-European peoples put much more emphasis on collectively held rights.

Those rights enshrined in Article 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights are fundamental.

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Individual and collective human rights are complementary even though our system has emphasized individual rights. Logically in order to guarantee that all citizens have the ability to fully participate in our society and enjoy the benefit of individual rights, Yukoners like people everywhere, must be assured that the basic needs addressed by collective rights are satisfied.

There are 850 million undernourished people on our planet today according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations They, together with a further 600 million plus people, live on less that $1.25 a day. Clearly basic human rights are being denied to a significant portion of the world’s population. The struggle against poverty must be seen as central to ensuring basic human rights both here in the Yukon as well as globally.

The Yukon Human Rights Commission has put forth some 20 plus recommendations (http://www.yhrc.yk.ca/pdfs/LawReformOct12008.pdf) to the Select Committee on Human Rights of the Yukon Legislative Assembly currently asking Yukoners for their ideas for amendments to our Human Rights Act. Among them is one that reads “Everyone is entitled to adequate and affordable housing and to protection from eviction without cause, particularly in cases where it will result in homelessness.”

Do other collective rights need to be protected here such as the right to food?

The Select Committee is accepting written recommendations until October 17th. For more information visit their web link at www.legassembly.go.yk.ca .

This Thanksgiving while recognizing that we are still a long way away from an international order that ensures that the rights and freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are fully realized, we can collectively give thanks for how far we have come. We can also pray for the resolve to struggling towards their full realization.

The upcoming Poverty and Homelessness Awareness Week offer us the opportunity to explore ideas of how we as Yukoners can move forward.

Namaste Notes

Sunday, October 12 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew 22: 1-14.

Tuesday, October 14 – Sukkot or the Feast of Booths is a seven-day celebration commemorating the protection provided to the Jewish people as they wandered in the Sinai wilderness.

Thursday, October 16 – World Food Day marks the day that Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations was founded in Quebec City in 1945. This year’s theme is the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.

Friday, October 17 – The World Day for the Eradication of Poverty’s theme this year is “Human Rights and Dignity of People Living in Poverty” reminding us that the struggle against poverty a central challenge for ensuring global recognition of human rights.

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