The Humane Experience

A healing conversation about kindness and cruelty


Kenneth Hemmerick is the author of The Humane Experience. He was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1954. The son of Harlem Globetrotter great Ermer Robinson and Alfreda Hemmerick, he was given up at birth, and placed in an orphanage and later foster homes until he, as a ward of the state, was finally placed under the guardianship of Daisy Peterson Sweeney (sister of the world-renowned jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson), and James Robert Sweeney.

Kenneth first became interested in the concepts of humaneness, kindness, and cruelty when he worked for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA); between the years 1979 and 1992; first as an administrative assistant and then as Director of Education and Community Affairs for the Vancouver Regional Branch of the BCSPCA. In this latter position, he initiated and spearheaded the introduction of a successful pet therapy program into Vancouver’s long-term care facilities and hospitals with the creation of the BC Pets and Friends Society. In 1987, he was presented with the Society’s Lifetime Membership Award.

He later became the Executive Director of the British Columbia Humane Education Society (1987-1992), a BCSPCA sister society, where he was responsible for introducing humane education into British Columbia’s elementary school system, with the acclaimed 350-page, curriculum-integrated, Anthology of Humane Education Materials, which Included the Humane Education Through the Study of Pets; produced in collaboration with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). These materials were provided to all elementary schools in the province at no cost to the individual schools. Funding for this project was raised from the Government of British Columbia and foundations such as the Vancouver Foundation and private, and corporate donors.

During this time, Kenneth gave workshops throughout the province of BC, including Vancouver and the surrounding municipalities; and from Prince George to Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Kitimat in the province’s northern region, to Vancouver Island to the west (Victoria, Duncan, and Comox Valley); and into BC’s interior cities such as Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops; and also, into cities (towns) in the easternmost part of the province such as Trail, Castlegar, and Nelson.

Meeting with parents, school and elected and other municipal officials, teachers, BCSPCA executives, employees, and volunteers, he discussed the importance of teaching humane concepts to young people; and their application in daily life and he gave humane awareness workshops to help deliverers of humane education programs in schools and the community a deeper understanding of kindness, cruelty, and humaneness. Much of this training now falls under the rubric of environmental/ecological and sometimes moral education.

At the age of 30, his ten-year marriage ended, and his wife left Vancouver to relocate to Montreal with his two sons and pets. He was distraught with grief and loneliness. His whole world had collapsed. At the same time, he was becoming frightfully aware of his homosexual orientation, which, even thirty years ago, was a crime in many jurisdictions. He felt like a failure whom nobody wanted; he decided to take his own life, by overdosing on the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication he had been prescribed. Fortunately, he was found unconscious, by a friend, two and a half days after his suicide attempt, nearly dead.

He would later decide to change his life. He applied to, and was accepted in, Concordia University’s Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Studies program.

Kenneth is a talented musician, composer and artist. He studied viola with Otto Joachim at le Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec, and piano with his foster mother, Daisy Sweeney and with Karl Steiner of McGill University. He studied music composition with Wolfgang Bottenberg. He earned a BFA with Distinction in Interdisciplinary Studies at Montreal’s Concordia University, where he won the Mark Doughty Scholarship Award and was the recipient of the Concordia University Fine Arts Development Award.

To date, he has had 27 solo, juried and group art shows in Canada, the USA, Argentina and South Korea. He has written music for award-winning films in addition to his video productions. His music has been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Internet music outlets such as Broadjam and IUMA. He has had exhibitions of his videos in Montreal, Hull, Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico the USA and Cuba. His works are owned by collectors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and the UK.

While completing his fine arts degree, Kenneth discovered there were websites encouraging people to take their own lives. Suicide Prevention Help was created, in 1998, in response to this sad fact. See published in the Guardian, Using the web to turn lives around, and published in the Montreal Gazette, Moving Beyond Suicide. Over the years he has answered letters from multiple hundreds of people, from all over the world, telling him their stories. He would offer a few kind words and life-affirming resources found on the Web. (Read samples of visitor comments.)

From 2008 – 2020, he was honored to be a consultant and webmaster for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). In 2015, he was awarded the Association’s Certificate of Appreciation for his “tireless work in the development of World Suicide Prevention Day.” He is a current member of the IASP.

kenneth Hemmerick Suicide Prevention Help

Over the last 39 years or so, he has come to understand suicidal thoughts and feelings within the context of kindness and cruelty towards another and oneself. To this end, he has created The Humane Experience, a virtual or in-person directed, gentle conversation about how kindness and cruelty impact one’s life. He says, “taking the time to learn about and reflect upon humane concepts and experiences is important no matter what circumstance one finds oneself in. From personal experience, I have found this learning and reflection heals the soul.

Including the Humaneness Spectrum Survey, as a part of this conversation about cruelty and kindness, can help us understand further the benefits and potential in having these discussions from an academic data-based perspective.

At a personal level, The Humane Experience conversation offers an opportunity for us to take a little time to reflect upon our humane relationship with others and ourselves. In these days of political polarization and extremism, people are looking for ways to help ‘turn down the temperature’ and to have a bit more of the gentleness and goodness that can come with being human. Perhaps simply sharing our kind and cruel experiences will help humanity in this regard. I am 69 years of age and have been told that I should be enjoying retirement, but I sense/feel/know this humane experience/conversation, and essential training are of utmost importance.”

Kenneth is the 31-year life-companion of his dear friend and life partner, Harry Turnbull.