Finland state

Following resignations, Sami Parliament to review functioning of Finland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission – Eye on the Arctic

“The Sami Parliament is taking the situation seriously,” said Tuomas Aslak Juuso, speaker of the Sami Parliament in Finland, on Monday. (Town-Riiko Fofonoff / Sámediggi | Saamelaiskäräjät)

The Sami Parliament in Finland is currently reviewing the functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the resignation of two commissioners appointed by the body this spring.

No one in parliament could be reached for comment on Monday, but in a press release Speaker Tuomas Aslak Juuso said the assembly was taking the situation seriously.

“We need to get an adequate picture of what’s going on and then assess what kind of solutions are needed to continue the process,” Juuso said.

The Sami are an indigenous Arctic people whose traditional homeland spans the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in the western Russian Arctic, a region which they collectively call Sapmi. There are an estimated 10,000 Sami people living in Finland, more than 60% of whom live outside the Sami’s home region.

Colonial policies in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia continue to affect Sami life, culture and land use. They also involved the education system and the church actively discouraging or suppressing Sami languages ​​and culture and forcibly assimilating Sami children into the mainstream culture, which continues to have a negative impact on Sami languages ​​and education today. today.

The Finnish government agreed to the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission in 2019 and after several delays during the pandemic, the process officially began in late October 2021.

The organization was partly modeled on that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canadian Commissioners Marie Wilson and Wilton Littlechild were among the advisers.

Resignation on resources, support

Five commissioners have been appointed: two by the Sami Parliament in Finland, one by the Council Skolt Sami Siida and two by the Finnish government, with a report to be published in November 2023.

The two commissioners appointed by the Sami Parliament, Miina Seurujarvi and Heikki J. Hyvarinen, resigned this spring.

Sajos, the Sami cultural center of Inari, Finland, and seat of the Sami Parliament in Finland. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Seurujarvi said the commission’s lack of resources and lack of support for those involved in the process convinced her that the commission as it was designed would not be able to fulfill its mandate.

“Everything is scarce, financial resources, time”, Seurujarvi told YLE News, Finland’s public broadcaster last month. “The commissioners also have little time and substantive work. This entity has not worked and it will not work.

Seurujarvi says YLE News the commission’s work should be put on hold until the whole process can be redesigned.

On May 22, the committee General Secretary Anni-Kristiina Juuso also resigned.

Parities are working on the way forward

Last week, the Finnish government said the commission’s work was “very important and historically significant” and that a way forward was being worked out.

“The state wants to resolve the commission’s time and resource issues, as well as other concerns that have emerged, with all parties,” the government said in a news release. “It is important to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to the work of the commission.

Anni Koivisto, vice-president of the Sami Parliament in Finland, said talking to the original commissioners and the psychosocial support expert would help pave the way. (Samediggi/Saamelaiskäräjät)

The Sami Parliament has invited the original five members of the commission to a meeting on June 23, along with Heidi Eriksen, Project Manager of the Sami Psychosocial Support Service Unit.

“In order to clarify the situation and the big picture, we believe it is important that members of the Sami Parliament have the opportunity to hear from the people who have so far participated in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the expert in psychosocial support for the Sami,” said Anni Koivisto, vice-president of the Sami Parliament in Finland.

“This will hopefully allow members of the Sami Parliament to better assess the appointment of new commissioners and the necessary steps to be taken.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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