Human Rights

Human Rights

You may have heard or read about last week’s story regarding the proposed removal of three oak trees at a local elementary school in Vaughan.

Donna Giustizia, the mother of one of the students who has now withdrawn her request, was pushing for an accommodation to keep the school nut-free by removing oak trees by a nearby school because they are dropping acorns on to school property.

It sparked an international controversy with many layers to consider and even more opinions, some quite polarized.

Ms Giustizia says “this story is about the school grounds and an existing accommodation. It’s about human rights”.

The potential problem I see with arguing human rights is that ultimately one human gets to be right and another is wrong. This doesn’t really solve the problem, it actually perpetuates it.

For me, this issue is more about what Ms Giustizia later describes as “the anxiety felt by younger children who have been told that they can’t be around nuts at all”.

From where does the anxiety that these children feel truly originate and does simply removing the external source of that anxiety take care of the problem?

From a long-term perspective, I would suggest the answer is no. It doesn’t really eliminate the anxiety, it merely suppresses it or puts that anxiety on hold.

A more important question for me is what is the unconscious message that a child might learn with this proposed solution?

Let’s flash-forward a few years, and that child is now grown up and is feeling anxiety from a co-worker or neighbour perhaps. What is their solution to this dilemma, based on their experience while growing up?

Simply remove the problem.

Haven’t many of our greatest wars been based on similar ideas?

I would prefer to see a world where we focus more on human growth rather than human rights.

As Ms Giustizia says, “Society can only evolve when it protects its weakest people”.

I agree that protecting them is important, but I will also suggest that society will truly evolve when we strengthen our weakest people through education and understanding, by assisting them through their fears, not around them.

Ms Giustizia says she regrets that the story has become about her yet also says that “it doesn’t matter what public opinion says, it’s all personal stuff”.

Is this story about the health and welfare of children with nut allergies, a human rights issue or as some suggest, the selfish agenda of a concerned mother?

It is not for me or anyone else, really, to judge Ms Giustizia’s true intentions or conclude whether or not she is right or wrong in her desire to protect her child. Only she knows the truth.

However, I will suggest that the anxiety felt by these children is sometimes the direct result of the anxiety felt by their parents. They are understandably fearful of their child’s welfare, but also of their own, as no parent would want to endure the pain of losing their child.

Yes, it is important to see how these choices impact our children. But if human rights are really the issue, don’t we also have to look at how our choices impact others as well?

If we truly want our loved ones to live a life with less anxiety, our best approach is to show them how, by illuminating and healing our own individual fears.

Human rights can indeed help to unite us as a society, but they also carry the potential to divide us and create smoke screens for what is really going on inside.

Understanding and compassion is what will help us create a less fearful world. This story carries with it the potential for each of us to discover the unconscious fears that are preventing us from collectively creating that reality.

What are your thoughts? (comments below)


Sign up to receive your copy every 2nd Thursday


  1. Branka says

    I find it interesting that Ms. Giustizia stated that she withdrew her case because of the “Cyber bullying” she experienced when she brought her cause to the media.

    In my experience, bullying takes many forms. While Ms. Guistizia perceives that she’s been bullied by the general public for her demand that they remove the tree, she doesn’t see her demand as a bullying tactic to make sure that she got what she wanted for her family. To expect the tree to be removed for her child (and maybe one or two other children in the school) is a very selfish endeavour.
    She would be better served to teach her child to protect him/herself rather than expect society to do it for him/her.
    External changes mean nothing if her child doesn’t participate in his/her own protection.


  2. Patricia Lyle Barlow says

    EXCELLENT column! Very “professional” tone. We cannot put people in bubbles – they must be given the skills to deal with the world, including allergies and their fears. All parents must come to grips that sheltering will never be forever; at some point life happens.


What do you think