Swearing to be entirely honest in a legal proceeding is something that needs to be taken very seriously. While the options of swearing on a religious text or making a non-religious affirmation have been the standard choices, four Canadian provinces are now offering the option to use an eagle feather for oath swearing.
Alberta is the latest province to allow people to swear legal oaths on eagle feathers. These beaded feathers, which are blessed by the people who bead them or in special ceremonies, hold great significance among First Nations people, particularly as a form of conscience binding.
“It’s a very serious individual undertaking of honesty, which I think benefits the courts, of course, when we follow those traditional laws,” Wilton Littlechild told the Globe and Mail. Littlechild was the first member of a Treaty First Nation to receive a law degree from the University of Alberta.
When Littlechild graduated, he was given permission to swear his legal oath on an eagle feather.
Commenting on the inclusion of eagle feathers in Alberta courts, Littlechild told the Globe and Mail, “I felt very emotional because I saw an acceptance of our spiritual and cultural beliefs in a judicial proceeding in the Canadian justice system.”
As of Friday, Indigenous witnesses can swear their oath on an eagle feather in Alberta courts. This morning, a witness in a trial I’m observing was sworn in this way for the first time. https://t.co/QNJSQUykEl
— Jana G. Pruden (@jana_pruden) November 12, 2019
The Manitoba court system accepted 40 blessed feathers in September, allowing people to swear affidavits on them or hold one while giving testimony in court.
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Indigenous people involved in court matters in Nova Scotia will now have access to eagle feathers for swearing their oaths. • "It's a full circle moment for me," said Charlotte Poulette, who is Mi'kmaw of We'koqm'aq First Nation in Cape Breton. • In 2016, Poulette was asked to provide a witness statement in a legal matter. RCMP officers involved in the investigation asked her to swear an oath on the Bible, and Poulette refused. • "I got really upset with them because I wanted the eagle feather," she said. • "I am not swearing on a Bible." • Thirty-three feathers, harvested by the Mi'kmaq in their ancestral territory of Mi'kma'ki, were blessed and presented to the Nova Scotia judiciary for use in the province's main courthouses. • • • (Photo: Brett Ruskin) @cbcns #firstnations #indigenous #eaglefeather #novascotia #mikmaw #wekoqmaq
“The presence of the eagle feather in the courtroom, and at the court counter, will provide Indigenous and Aboriginal Manitobans with confidence that they will be heard and that they deserve to have their culture and beliefs recognized, respected and accepted with renewal,” Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal said, according to CBC News.
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