The name of this commission is “The commission to investigate the Norwegianisation policy and injustice against the Sámi and Kven/Norwegian Finnish peoples (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission)”.
Until the end of the 20th century, Norwegian authorities periodically enacted a policy against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns that had grave consequences for their culture, language, identity and living conditions. This policy is often described as the Norwegianisation policy.
In the last thirty years, both legal and tangible measures have been implemented to remedy this.
The rights of the Sámi in particular have been strengthened in this time, through a number of laws and institutions. The Act concerning the Sámi Parliament and other Sámi legal matters (The Sámi Act) was passed in 1987, and the Sámi Parliament opened in 1989. The Government’s responsibility to safeguard Sámi people’s rights to develop their own culture, language and society was adopted into the Norwegian Constitution in 1988. In 1990, Norway was the first country to ratify ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous Rights. The Finnmark Act was passed in 2005, with the purpose of facilitating the management of land and natural resources for the benefit of the county’s inhabitants and particularly as a foundation for Sámi culture, reindeer husbandry, use of uncultivated land, business activities and society (section 1). The Government has also apologised for the previous policy directed against the Sámi.
Norway’s support of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1995, which Norway ratified in 1999, meant that the Kvens/Norwegian Finns received national minority status in Norway. The Kven language was recognised as a minority language in Norway in 2005.
This in no way diminishes the injustice perpetrated against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns, and which continues to affect their relationship with the majority population today.
Over time, a desire has emerged for an official commission to be established with the task of investigating the Norwegianisation policy and its effects, following inspiration from similar commissions in other countries. The Sámi Parliament has been one of the driving forces for this commission’s establishment. On 20 June 2017, the Norwegian Parliament approved the establishment of such a commission, ref. Document 8:30 S (2016–2017) and Recommendation 493 S (2016–2017).
The subject of the commission’s work is the Norwegianisation policy carried out by the Norwegian authorities against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns, and the consequences that this policy has had for individuals and groups, as well as for the relationship between them and the majority population. The commission shall primarily map the consequences of the Norwegianisation policy regarding the opportunities for the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns to use and practice their own language, culture and traditional trade. In connection with this, the commission shall also investigate the consequences of the Norwegianisation policy for the majority population in terms of discrimination and the prevalence of prejudice against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns.
The purpose of this investigation is to lay the groundwork for the recognition of the experiences of the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns while this policy was being enforced by the Norwegian authorities, and the consequences these experiences have had for them as groups and individuals. The aim is to establish a common understanding of how Norwegian authorities and society treated the entirety or parts of the Kven and Sámi population and their culture.
The investigation shall have a forward-looking perspective. The primary objective is that the commission, through establishing a common understanding of the Norwegianisation policy and its consequences, shall lay the foundation of continued reconciliation between the Sámi, Kvens/Norwegian Finns and the majority population.
The commission has three main tasks.
The commission’s most important task is to research and describe the policy and activities carried out by the Norwegian authorities against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns, locally, regionally and nationally, from around 1800 until today. The commission can also extend its search further into the past if necessary. The commission shall investigate and document the ideology and goals behind the policy, the measures adopted for its implementation, and its impact on individuals and groups. If the commission believes that a theme stands out as particularly important to research further, this can be prioritised over others. The commission shall particularly consider the role of the educational system, but shall also include religious, academic, cultural and social institutions and organisations’ activities in their investigations.
The commission shall take into account the large diversity within the groups, and differences between the groups. Neither the ideological arguments nor the practicalities of the policy enacted against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns were consistent, and this was also the case within these groups. This includes geographical differences. Previous research may, for example, indicate that Kven/Norwegian Finnish and Sámi groups defined as “border minorities”, for reasons such as security policy, had to endure stricter policy measures than others. The commission’s work must keep in mind that motivations, ideological driving forces and specific, practical measures and repercussions may have been different for different groups, and that there may have been inequalities connected to this within groups, such as gender.
The commission shall also look at how the Norwegianisation policy affected the majority population’s perceptions of the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns, as well as these groups’ own perceptions of their own culture, language and people. Equally, the commission shall look at the consequences of the Norwegianisation policy in terms of the legal or tangible measures that have been implemented in order to remedy or counteract this. The commission shall evaluate the application of the measures directed at the different groups.
The commission shall ensure that personal experiences and accounts are brought to light by facilitating the opportunity for individuals to tell their stories, including those concerning any injustice committed against them personally or others close to them, and how the impacts of this injustice have affected or continue to affect their life situations.
Investigate the impacts of the Norwegianisation policy today
In addition to mapping that historical development and the lessons learnt, the commission shall look at repercussions of the Norwegian policy today, predominantly connected to the Sámi and Kven/Finnish language and culture in today’s society, as well as any material, social, health-related or identity-related impacts of the Norwegianisation policy, both for groups as a whole and for individuals. The commission shall further investigate the repercussions of the Norwegianisation policy in today’s society in forms such as hate crimes and discrimination.
Propose measures for continued reconciliation
The commission shall present proposals for measures that can create greater equality between the majority and minority population, and proposals for measures that can contribute to informing and increasing society’s general knowledge of Sámi and Kven/Norwegian Finnish history and culture today. This may include measures such as the continued promotion of Sámi and Kven/Finnish language and culture, or raising awareness and spreading knowledge of the Norwegianisation policy and its impacts on the majority population. In this context, it is natural that the commission also evaluate the current measures for reconciliation.
As the primary goal of the commission’s work is to establish a common understanding of the past and a broader knowledge about our common history, the commission shall find a suitable means to convey the knowledge gained, in addition to compiling a final report. This can be done through the use of digital media/internet, through collaboration with traditional mass media or through other channels that the commission deems appropriate.
The commission shall set up a systematic and close partnership with affected communities and organisations, so that they are involved and consulted throughout the work. For this purpose, the commission shall consider establishing one or multiple reference groups or equivalent collaboration forums, with representatives of the mentioned communities and organisations.
The commission should use both written and oral sources. The commission shall use interpreters in conversations with informants, when necessary. It may also be appropriate to let informants submit their stories through other mediums of communication to ensure that as many groups as possible are reached.
The commission shall be based on the existing research in the area, which shall form the main basis for its presentation. If the communication reveals gaps in the existing research, it can either independently or with the help of partners investigate archives or other applicable source material in order to identify, describe and document particular themes. The commission may also suggest further research as a means to achieve the commission’s purpose.
The commission shall gather stories related to the Norwegianisation policy from individuals and groups through methods such as arranging meetings and/or interviews, and facilitating an individual’s ability to tell their stories by accepting submissions in writing, as a sound or a video recording, or in another suitable format. Gathering such accounts can either entirely or partly be performed by qualified partners at research institutions, in local communities or other places. In this way, the commission can be based on the groups’ own understanding of their history.
Similar investigations are underway or being planned in Finland and Sweden. The commission is encouraged to keep a Nordic perspective in mind and to contact colleagues in other Nordic countries.
The gathered material shall be handed over to the National Archive Services of Norway once the commission’s work is concluded. This material will naturally contain personally identifiable information, and must therefore be treated in a way that satisfactorily protects the
originators. Simultaneously, this material will be extremely valuable for researchers in the future, and should be made available accordingly. Following the conclusion of the commission’s work, the archive must therefore be restricted and rules for access prepared to ensure that access is only given to researchers who work in line with established ethical guidelines, and that the requirements for the protection of an individual’s private life will be sufficiently satisfied.
The commission is encouraged to contribute to facilitating accompanying research throughout its work.
The necessary funds for the commission’s work will be allocated from the national budget.
The commission shall have its own secretariat.
Public authorities, as well as any party that performs activities on their behalf, shall provide any assistance necessary for the commission to be able to perform the activities stated in this document.
The commission shall complete its work by 1 September 2022, and deliver its report to the Presidium of the Norwegian Parliament.
If the commission finds it appropriate, it may produce progress reports throughout its work.