Conservative senator asked indigenous colleagues whether it is appropriate to hold eagle feathers

The Conservative Senate leader Don Platt has asked the Speaker to rule on whether it is acceptable for members of the House of Lords to hold a eagle feather while speaking in the chamber, saying that he is worried that the use of such “props” may violate regulations.

When Manitoba Sen. Mary Jane McCallum delivered a speech on Thursday, Platt stood up on a procedural issue. He is a Cree senator. Parliamentarians and boarding school survivors are speaking on Bill C-15, which incorporates government legislation (UNDRIP) into Canadian law that incorporates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

McCallum, who is participating in the debate through Zoom, held an eagle fan during his speech. A few minutes after she spoke, Platt interrupted.

“I asked this question very, very reluctantly. Very reluctantly. But we have rules in this room, one of which is that no props of any kind are allowed. I will consider what props Senator McCallum has. I You will be asked to rule on this,” Platt said.

Conservative Senate leader Don Platt asked the Speaker on Thursday to make a ruling on whether it is appropriate for a senator to hold a feather when speaking in the chamber. (Chris Lands/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

After being opposed by other senators, Platt later withdrew his procedural questions, saying he did not want to appear insensitive “in view of the current situation.” He said he had no intention of offending McCallum by asking this question.

But he asked the speaker to “make some rules around what is appropriate and what is inappropriate… I believe we have rules for this.”

Generally speaking, props, objects or displays of any kind are not allowed to enter the council.

This House of Commons procedure and practice Said, “Speakers consistently exclude any type of disorderly display or presentation that members use to explain their remarks or emphasize their positions.”

“Similarly, any form of props used as a way to make silent comments on issues is always considered unacceptable in the chamber.” The Senate generally followed this ban.

The question is whether the eagle’s feathers are “props” or an integral part of a personal cultural identity.

The eagle is considered sacred in Native and Native American cultures because it is said to be the highest flying bird closest to the creator.

Its feathers are used in many rituals, such as conversation circles, healing rituals and powwows. They represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom.

Recognizing the importance of these feathers to certain indigenous peoples, provincial courts in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador have provided them to crime victims , Witnesses, police and others, so that they can take an oath legally without the Bible.

Ilya Harper, Manitoba Provincial Assemblyman and Congressman played a key role in defeating the Lake Mitch Agreement. When Harper refused to support Winnipeg’s Lake Mitch Agreement in 1990, he folded an eagle feather to gain spiritual power. (Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press/Canada News)

Former Manitoba lawmaker Elijah Harper was known for holding up his eagle feathers when he vetoed the Meech Lake agreement in 1990—voting against a motion to debate constitutional amendments in the legislature and derail the approval process. He worried that the amendment was drafted without first consulting with the indigenous people, and that the amendment would allow Quebec to join the constitution.

‘This is not a prop’

McCallum said on Thursday that when talking about “profound and profound themes” like UNDRIP, she clung to the feathers of the eagle because the elders advised her to do so.

“They said it’s important, you carry it with you, which is why I carry it with me today,” McCallum said in response to Platt’s objections.

“This is me, this is what was taken from me, I won’t give up again… Not a prop, this is a ritual weapon.”

Progressive senator Pierre Dalfand defended McCallum by saying that the eagle’s feathers “have no signs other than her own culture and her own identity.”

“Our colleagues wear turbans on their heads, and our colleagues wear them in a certain way that fits their culture or tradition, so I certainly don’t think this is a procedural issue,” he said.

After Platt withdrew his procedural questions, McCallum continued her speech, holding feathers. “I do understand the rules, and I also understand that they need to change, and this change will come,” she said.

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