Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People to begin its work in Finland
In its session on 28 October, the Government appointed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People. The work to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has continued in line with the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government. The matter has been prepared in close cooperation with representatives of the Finnish state, the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Siida Council. The aim of the commission is to collect Sámi people’s experiences of the actions of the Finnish state and its various authorities and to make this information visible to the public.
“I wish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission the best of success in its important work. Our common goal is for the commission’s work to increase dialogue and trust between the Sámi and the state. Only by understanding what the Sámi have experienced can we truly find solutions for the future,” says Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
“Today marks the start of an important undertaking to investigate the discrimination experienced by the Sámi and the consequences of state assimilation policy. There are still barriers to the recognition and implementation of the rights of the Sámi as an indigenous people in Finland. I hope that this difficult process will result in concrete measures that genuinely advance the status of the Sámi in Finnish society,” says Tuomas Aslak Juuso, President of the Sámi Parliament.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi people will do important and also very difficult work. The start of the commission’s work follows several years of careful preparations aiming to increase understanding and trust between the Sámi and the state. We hope that the commission will be successful in its work and will have sufficient resources to ensure that success,” says Skolt Sámi Elder Veikko Feodoroff.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an impartial and independent body. It consists of five Commissioners, two of whom are appointed based on a proposal from the Government, two based on a proposal from the Sámi Parliament and one based on a proposal from the Skolt Sámi Siida Council.
The Commission’s members are:
- Heikki J. Hyvärinen, Doctoral Researcher, Master of Laws
- Irja Jefremoff, Master of Administrative Sciences
- Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop Emeritus, Doctor of Theology
- Hannele Pokka, Professor of Practice, Doctor of Laws
- Miina Seurujärvi, Master of Arts
The purpose of the truth and reconciliation process is:
- to identify and assess historical and current discrimination, including state assimilation policy, and violations of rights,
- to find out how these injustices affect the Sámi people and their communities today,
- to propose ways to promote links between the Sámi and the state of Finland and among the Sámi people, and
- to raise awareness about the Sámi as the indigenous people of Finland.
A further aim is to ensure that, as a result of the truth and reconciliation process, the state of Finland will bear responsibility for its actions and, together with the Sámi Parliament, the Skolt Sámi Siida Council and other Sámi operators, will work to strengthen the realisation of the rights of the Sámi people in Finland. Psychosocial support is an integral part of the implementation of the truth and reconciliation process.
The commission will draw up a report on its work that includes proposals for measures. The report will be submitted to the Government, the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Siida Council by 30 November 2023.
In Finland, the status of the Sámi as an indigenous people is guaranteed by the Constitution. By virtue of section 17, subsection 3 of the Constitution, the Sámi, as an indigenous people, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture.
International role models
The international institution of truth and reconciliation commissions emerged in the 1970s. Internationally, truth commissions or truth and reconciliation commissions refer to processes that examine collective injustices in history. Truth and reconciliation commissions have been established in about 40 countries.
Inquiries: Nina Brander, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 160 347, Maiju Ranta, Coordinator, tel. +358 29 160 272, Prime Minister’s Office, Tuomas Aslak Juuso, President of the Sámi Parliament, tel. +358 40 687 3394 and Veikko Feodoroff, Skolt Sámi Elder, tel. +358 50 396 1297