Background on the preparation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The international institution of truth and reconciliation commissions emerged in the 1970s. Internationally, truth commissions or truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) refer to processes that investigate collective injustices in history. The purpose of uncovering the truth, i.e., what has really happened, is to prevent such injustices from occurring again. The focus of the work is on building a better future.
Truth and reconciliation commissions have been established in about 40 countries. The internationally best-known commission is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which carried out its work in 1996–2002. The best-known process that directly concerns indigenous peoples is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2008–2015).
The truth and reconciliation process concerning the indigenous peoples of Canada also led the Sámi people to consider the need for a similar process in Norway, Sweden and Finland. In Sweden, the Sámi Parliament, together with the Equality Ombudsman, have been exploring the conditions for initiating the TRC process since 2015. Prior to this, the Sámi people of Sweden and the Church of Sweden initiated the White Paper project to investigate the actions of the Church against the Sámi people. The Norwegian Storting appointed a four-year, twelve-member truth and reconciliation commission in June 2018 to investigate the assimilation policy experienced by the Sámi as an indigenous people and the Kvens as a national minority from the start of the 19th century until today.
The Sámi people of Finland participated in discussions on the truth and reconciliation process within the Sámi Parliamentary Council (SPN) during its previous parliamentary term in 2012–2015, during which time they made preparations on the theme of truth and reconciliation for the Sámi Parliamentary Conference in connection with the celebration of 100 years of Sámi cross-border political collaboration in Trondheim in 2017.
The various events organised by the SPN and the Sámi Parliament have included discussions on themes such as the intergenerational transmission of trauma, the loss of language and culture, the impact of residential schools, the assimilation policies of the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian states and the colonisation policies of states in relation to the Sámi people. In line with the Action Plan of the Finnish Sámi Parliament for the parliamentary term 2016–2019, which states that “a Truth Commission will be established”, the Sámi Parliament has proposed that the truth and reconciliation process be initiated for the state of Finland.
The preparations began in 2017.
The Government launched preparations for the truth and reconciliation process concerning the Sámi people in October 2017. In cooperation with the Finnish Sámi Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice explored how the reconciliation process (commission) should be implemented and what kind of role and composition the independent commission responsible for the process should have.
As part of the process, a wide-ranging round of consultations was held in the Sámi homeland and the largest cities in Finland between 2 May and 29 June 2018. At the consultation events, participants discussed the thoughts and ideas raised by the process, the commission’s mandate, the commissioners and how they would be selected, among other topics. A report on the material collected during the consultation round has been published in six languages.
Prime Minister Rinne’s Government discussed and approved the proposal for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People at its evening session on 13 November 2019.
On 17 December 2019, the Sámi Parliament held a meeting in Inari, where they discussed and approved a proposal for setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People. At their joint meeting on 12 December 2019, the Skolt Councils of the Nellim-Kevajärvi and Näätämö regions discussed and unanimously approved the proposal for the commission.