October 30, 2017 3:50 pm
Updated: October 30, 2017 4:00 pm

‘A historic occasion’: N.S. RCMP, provincial courts to allow people to swear oaths with eagle feathers

WATCH: Citizens will soon be able to use eagle feathers when taking a legal oath to tell the truth at RCMP detachments in Nova Scotia as well as provincial courts. Natasha Pace reports.

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The RCMP took a significant step forward Monday, distributing eagle feathers to 13 detachments that police Indigenous communities.

The feather will be used the same way as a Bible or an affirmation is when swearing a legal oath.

“It speaks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. It also speaks to the Marshall Inquiry report and it’s our contribution to our communities around sensitivity and cultural awareness,” said Brian Brennan, Commanding Officer of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

“It really is an historic occasion.”

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The eagle is considered sacred in First Nations culture because it flies the highest and closest to the Creator.

The eagle feather represents both tradition and spirituality.

“When you see the eagles flying around in circles in the sky and sometimes you would lose the eagle, the sight of it, it would disappear. They fly so high, we were told that moment you lost the eagle in the sky, that’s when the creator grabs and strokes his feathers and pets the eagles and he releases it,” said Leroy Denny, Chief of Eskasoni First Nation.

“If you find a feather it’s sacred because we believe the Creator touched it, touched the feather. That’s why it’s a very sacred gift for everybody.”

RCMP officers await the presentation of eagle feathers in Halifax, N.S. on Oct. 30.

Natasha Pace/Global News

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Before now, there were no provisions for eagle feathers to be used to swear legal oaths in Nova Scotia.

At this point, the feathers are only being introduced into the provincial court system but could be expanded into other courts in the future.

“It gives, I think the criminal justice system a better sense of culture and spirituality of First Nations and is more inviting to a court process which is many instances is very foreign and unfamiliar,” said Nova Scotia Chief Judge Pam Williams.

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The idea for eagle feathers to be used came from RCMP Cpl. Dee-Anne Sack after an elder brought a feather into a detachment last year.

“It was really hard for me not to cry with emotions, I was bursting with bursting with pride and emotions to be a Mi’kmaw member of the RCMP. I had to stop and think and ground myself for a second because I was like this is it, this is reconciliation,” she said following the eagle feather ceremony Monday afternoon.

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The option to use eagle feathers comes as welcome news to many, including Trevor Sanipass, a probation officer with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice.

“Long overdue, but definitely we’re stepping into that right direction. We’re moving forward. Slowly as it may seem but we are.” he said.

Eagle feathers will be given to all Nova Scotia RCMP detachments next year. Officials say other jurisdictions are already looking into implementing the eagle feather initiative in their communities.

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