January 2019 Church & State - January 2019

Canada Allows Swearing On Eagle Feathers In Court

  Rob Boston

Canadian provinces are increasingly allowing indigenous people to swear courtroom oaths on eagle feathers as opposed to religious texts.

In November, a court in Lethbridge in the province of Alberta became the latest one to allow the practice. Courts in Ottawa and Nova Scotia had previously approved the use of feathers.

People testifying in Canadian courts are often asked to swear on a religious book to ensure their veracity, a practice that is also common in the United States. The addition of the eagle feather, an important symbolic item to many Native people in Canada, provides a needed accommodation, supporters said.

“No one should be able to look at our traditional ways as less than their beliefs, because the way that we did it is the way that we’ve been doing our ceremonies for thousands of years,” Tony Delaney, who assists indigenous people who are interacting with the legal system, told the Calgary Eyeopener. “I know from my relationship … to my higher power that this is not just an eagle feather, that it was blessed and that I’m going to have to tell the truth and be honest.”

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that other courts in Alberta are likely to adopt the practice as well.


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