N.S. courts introduce eagle feathers for some witness oaths
Witnesses about to give testimony in Nova Scotia courts will now be able to take their legal oath on an eagle feather.
The feathers were presented to the province's judges today, a step that is important for First Nations communities.
Thursday, chiefs and elders from First nations across Nova Scotia marched to the beat of a drum as they prepared to present the feathers to the province’s judges.
“I think it represents a milestone in the history of the criminal justice system within this province,” said Chief Paul Prosper, justice lead for the assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq chiefs.
The eagle feathers will be sent to courthouses across the province and provide another option for those who need to swear an oath, which Chief Prosper says is a comfort for First Nations witnesses.
“There are certain mechanisms and processes within that system to allow them to feel that their culture, that their history, that their belief systems are taken into account,” Prosper said.
Michael MacDonald is the chief justice of Nova Scotia.
“What we do day in, day out, is to search for the truth,” he said. “This is an important way to attain the truth, for the comfort of our witnesses if nothing else.”
Provincial judges learned about the importance of eagle feathers in Indigenous ceremony.
“I would have at least the same comfort as any other symbols that we use in the courtroom,” MacDonald said.
For chiefs and elders, the feathers are a turning point - a chance to see their culture represented in the province's high court.
“This is a first for us,” said Deborah Robinson of Acadia First Nation.“To come here and experience something like this, and I think it's a very proud day.”
Nova Scotia now joins a list of other jurisdictions across the country allowing eagle feathers in courtrooms.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.