Oaths and Affirmations

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General Principles

See also: Competence and Compellability

Common law requires all witnesses to take an oath to solemnify the evidence given. The purpose of "the law in requiring an oath is to get at the truth relative to the matters in dispute by getting a hold on the conscience of the witness."[1]

Person Administering an Oath

Who may administer oaths
13 Every court and judge, and every person having, by law or consent of parties, authority to hear and receive evidence, has power to administer an oath to every witness who is legally called to give evidence before that court, judge or person.
R.S., c. E-10, s. 13.


  1. Bannerman v R. (1966), 48 C.R. 110 ( Man. C.A.), affirmed [1966] S.C.R. v (S.C.C.) at pp. 137 and 138 per Dickson J.A.


The goal of an oath may also be accomplished by allowing people to opt for taking an affirmation of solemnity. This is provided under section 14 of the Canada Evidence Act (CEA) as well as under most provincial evidence acts[1].

Section 14 states:

Solemn affirmation by witness instead of oath
14 (1) A person may, instead of taking an oath, make the following solemn affirmation:

I solemnly affirm that the evidence to be given by me shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

(2) Where a person makes a solemn affirmation in accordance with subsection (1), his evidence shall be taken and have the same effect as if taken under oath.
R.S., 1985, c. C-5, s. 14; 1994, c. 44, s. 87.


Persons to Administer Oaths
Under s. 13 of the Evidence Act, all courts and judges may administer oaths. Anyone else may administer oaths where they are empowered to take evidence or where it is by consent of the parties.

Young Accused

For proceedings under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, s. 151 states the requirements before a child or youth can give evidence before a Youth Court justice:

Evidence of a child or young person
151 The evidence of a child or a young person may be taken in proceedings under this Act only after the youth justice court judge or the justice in the proceedings has

(a) if the witness is a child, instructed the child as to the duty to speak the truth and the consequences of failing to do so; and
(b) if the witness is a young person and the judge or justice considers it necessary, instructed the young person as to the duty to speak the truth and the consequences of failing to do so.


See Also