Indigenous individuals concerned in courtroom issues in Nova Scotia will now have entry to eagle feathers for affirmations, or oath swearing.

Members of the Nova Scotia judiciary formally adopted the symbolic gadgets at a ceremony in Halifax Thursday. 

Round 30 feathers, harvested by the Mi’kmaq of their ancestral territory of Mi’kma’ki which incorporates Nova Scotia, PEI and elements of New Brunswick, have been blessed and offered to judiciary employees. Two feathers are being distributed to every of the primary courthouses throughout the province — one for courtroom use and one to be made obtainable at courthouse reception. 

“It is a full circle second for me,” mentioned Charlotte Poulette, who’s Mi’kmaw of We’koqm’aq First Nation in Cape Breton. 

Charlotte Poulette, seen right here together with her mom Margaret, a residential college survivor, refused to swear on a Bible as a witness in a authorized matter. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Poulette was requested to offer a witness assertion in a authorized matter in 2016. RCMP officers concerned within the investigation requested her to swear an oath on the Bible, and Poulette refused. 

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Her mom is a survivor of Shubenacadie Indian Residential Faculty and ideas of the Catholic Church could be painful, she mentioned.

“I bought actually upset with them as a result of I needed the eagle feather,” she mentioned. 

“I’m not swearing on a Bible.”

Poulette mentioned that whereas the RCMP supplied her an alternative choice to present a sworn assertion, having her tradition’s traditions represented would have helped to ease her misery. 

“It was a extremely tough second in my life,” she mentioned.

“I wanted [the] creator by my aspect that day. I used to be praying for energy and to search out the fitting phrases … Now, with this ceremony immediately, that second in my life got here full circle.” 

Thirty-three feathers, harvested by the Mi’kmaq of their ancestral territory of Mi’kma’ki, have been blessed and offered to the Nova Scotia Judiciary to be used in each essential courthouse within the province. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

‘A connection to spirit’

Chief PJ Prosper of Paqtnkek First Nation in Nova Scotia led the judiciary ceremony in prayer and offered these in attendance some teachings on the sacredness and symbolism behind the feathers. 

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“For lots of Aboriginal individuals, it gives a connection to spirit. It gives a connection to their place on this planet,” he mentioned. 

“When you might have the prison justice system recognizing the connection and the significance of the eagle feather, it makes it all of the extra related for [Indigenous Peoples] to take part in that system.” 

‘For lots of Aboriginal individuals, [the eagle feather] gives a connection to spirit. It gives a connection to their place on this planet,’ mentioned Chief PJ Prosper of Paqtnkek First Nation. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Prosper mentioned that the eagle feathers, although a essential step ahead, are only a small a part of what must occur within the justice system. 

“There is definitely extra to do,” he mentioned. “There is a lengthy methods to go in non-Indigenous society for presidency to handle the gaps concerned with Aboriginal peoples within the justice system.”

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“There undoubtedly must be a means past course of and punishment to handle the problems we face at a group stage.”

‘We may study so much’: Chief Justice

“I can inform you that is most likely the proudest second I’ve,” Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, advised the Mi’kmaq and judiciary employees on the ceremony.

“I have been concerned within the typical … colonial justice system for a very long time, and let’s acknowledge that it has vital issues in prison legislation, in household legislation. It strikes me, associates, that we may study so much from our Mi’kmaw associates and their approaches to justice.” 

Additional to the eagle feather initiative and its required instructional elements, the Nova Scotia judiciary has been participating in cultural competency coaching, led partly by Mi’kmaw officers, and visiting communities to debate the problems the Mi’kmaq are dealing with.

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