Next steps announced for Sámi reconciliation process

A five-person independent, impartial committee will now be appointed to take the truth and reconciliation process forward.

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File picture of large Sámi flag / Credit: iStock

Moves to establish an official ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to look at the relationship between the Finnish State and the Sámi people is progressing – albeit slowly.

The government decided on Wednesday evening to appoint a five-person commission tasked with investigating and learning lessons from history.

The committee will operate impartially and independently.

The mandate for the commission was prepared in cooperation with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Village Assembly. The appointment process to choose the five commission members will begin after those bodies have discussed the issue.

Background to the issue 

The latest step forward in the process comes a year after a report, published in three Sámi languages, Finnish and Swedish, was compiled after consultations in 2018 with Sámi people around the country.

These discussions looked at whether any sort of truth and reconciliation process would be welcomed in the first place; what issues should be addressed; who should be appointed to any commission; and whether Sámi people would trust the state of Finland to confront any injustices in the first place.

“In general the Sámi people in Finland think the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission is a good idea. It could be important for the Sámi as well to be able to tell about the past, what has happened, what has gone wrong, how do they feel, and the impact of the state’s wrongdoings on the Sámi people” Anni-Kristiina Juuso, a special adviser in the Prime Minister’s told News Now Finland in November 2018.

The consultations also brought up some suspicions of why the Finnish state chose this time to propose a form of reconciliation: whether it was connected with the proposed Arctic railway which cuts through Sámi historic lands, or the stalled legislation about the relationship between the Sámi Parliament and the Finnish state.

In October 2017 the Finnish government announced that it was setting aside €200,000 towards establishing a truth and reconciliation commission. The move was cautiously welcomed, albeit with caveats, at the time.