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Eagle feathers offered for oaths in Yukon courts

Ten feathers unveiled for courts across the territory
Eagle feathers are being made available as an alternative to the bible or a solemn affirmation for the swearing of oaths in Yukon courtrooms. (Yukon government/Submitted)

Joining other parts of Canada, the Yukon will now provide eagle feathers in its courtrooms for the swearing of oaths.

A March 8 statement from the Yukon government says the unveiling of the feathers is part of a series of initiatives aimed at making the law courts more culturally inclusive for Yukon First Nations and Indigenous people.

Land acknowledgment signage and a display of First Nations art will also be installed at the courts building in Whitehorse at a later date.

A total of 10 feathers will be made available for use in courtrooms in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Dawson City and during circuit courts in rural Yukon communities. Serving as a practical alternative for swearing oaths in court, the feathers are meant to incorporate First Nations culture into the territory’s justice system.

Previously, witnesses could either swear an oath to a religious text or make a solemn affirmation.

“CYFN is pleased to be part of this collaborative effort to ensure that Yukon First Nations culture is reflected in the judicial process. It’s through projects like this that acknowledge and increase Yukon First Nations presence that move us towards reconciliation and defining a better way forward for everyone,” said Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston.

The Yukon now joins Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Ontario where eagle feathers are used for court oaths in at least some settings.

“For generations, court rooms across the country have acknowledged colonial traditions and willfully ignored the significance of First Nations cultures, practices and beliefs in Canada. By ensuring that witnesses have the cultural means to swear or affirm their oaths with eagle feathers, our territory is taking an incredibly significant and important step in acknowledging and respecting Yukon First Nations and advancing reconciliation,” said Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

“As we look at practices within our institutions, and their colonial history, we need to work together to make them more inclusive and reflective of the people they serve.”

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Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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