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A new, permanent sweat lodge sits outside of the Nova Scotia RCMP’s headquarters in Dartmouth on Oct. 10, 2018. – Contributed A permanent sweat lodge constructed at the Nova Scotia RCMP headquarters is the first one in Canada.

Chief Leroy Denny, of Eskasoni First Nation, and Coun. Kerry Prosper, of Paq’tnkek First Nation, joined Cmdr. Brian Brennan in a ceremony at the Nova Scotia RCMP headquarters on Tuesday, said a news release.

“We want to better understand and support the teachings of the Indigenous people and believe that a permanent sweat lodge will afford us that opportunity for all employees,” said Brennan in the release.

White Eagle Sundance Chief William Nevin, sundancer and retired member Jeff Ward, and Cpl. Dee-Anne Sack, community and Aboriginal diversity policing services, were also present on Tuesday.

The idea came after employees, who regularly participate in a Aboriginal perceptions training course in Debert, expressed positive interest and participated in sweat lodge ceremonies, said Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, N.S. RCMP spokeswoman, in an email.

Sweat lodges are part of Indigenous tradition as a space where sacred purification ceremonies are held for spiritual cleansing. The structure, made of natural materials, is to resemble a womb.

During the ceremony, participants sit inside where heated rocks, known as grandfathers, are brought in and water is poured over them to create steam. The heat mimics a baby’s experience inside the mother’s body.

RCMP employees will be able to attend ceremonies for self-reflection and prayer, stated the release.

The sweat lodge will be run by the RCMP’s community and Aboriginal diversity policing services and ceremonies will only be conducted by those trained to perform them, said Clarke.

There are no current plans for sweat lodges to be constructed at other N.S. detachments, said Clarke.

In 2017, Nova Scotia RCMP made the eagle feather an option for victims, witnesses and police officers to swear legal oaths, similar to a Bible or affirmation — a first in Canada.

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