Robert Stephen Higgins was born into a coal-mining family in Nova Scotia but grew up mostly in Southern Ontario. In 1964 he graduated from the University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering and began his engineering career in the aero engine and aircraft fields. This included a period at the Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle as a material stress analyst on the 747 jetliner project. Worried that aircraft design projects were too discontinuous for raising a family he moved to the power industry. Through the 1970’s he was a design and project mechanical engineer on new oil and coal-fired power stations in Canada and the USA. Much higher pay and adventure called to him in taking a project engineering position for the construction of a nuclear power station in Argentina. He remained in the Canadian nuclear power industry as a design engineer until taking early retirement in 1999. Afterwards, he completed two consultant contracts in the nuclear field, the latter taking him to South Africa to manage a mechanical engineering department on a project to design and build a demonstration pebble-bed modular reactor (nuclear) which, unfortunately, was cancelled in 2008.
Robert was not just an engineer, however, but an interested student of the whole human story. History and archaeology were fascinating subjects, but closer to home the direction in which politicians, judges, and others in positions of power were taking society was of more serious concern. A public confrontation with the president of the large company (23,000 employees) for which he worked was a tipping point. Robert suggested that the employment equity program which the president was promoting would discriminate against white males. The president replied that he did not care if it did, he was going to implement it anyway. Reflecting on this interchange afterwards, Robert concluded that employment equity programs were more about designing society than about individual rights.
After retirement, he applied his long experience with objective analysis to discover what human rights really were. His book Human Rights, What Are They Really? was published in late 2008. More writing is ahead amid efforts to advance his own technical projects.
In April, 2014, Robert became a member of the board of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa.
Filed under: | November 19th, 2012