Norway’s injustice against minorities laid out in new landmark report

For more than 30 hours, representatives of civil society, academia and public service read loud the 700 page report about Norwegianization of the Sámi people, Kvens/Norwegian Finns and Forest Finns.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - June 3, 2023
Photo: Atle Staalesen

The report was on 1st of June handed over to the Norwegian Storting by Dagfinn Høybråten, leader of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It has taken the 12-person expert group five years to complete the report that was commissioned by the parliament in 2018. The legislators wanted a historical mapping of the government policy towards the Sámi people, Kvens, Norwegian Finns and Forest Finns and a review of the consequences of the policy of so-called Norwegianization. It also wanted proposals on how to move forward with measures of reconciliation.

This week, the report was delivered to the Storting and its President Masud Gharahkhani.

It is a story about peoples that have been deprived their language, culture and basic rights. The publication is based on interviews with 760 people, all of them representatives of indigenous peoples that have experienced grave infringements of their basis rights.

“For Norway as a modern and open democracy the protection of human rights is fundamental. It is a commitment for us as society, every day,” Gharahkhani said as he received the report.

“The way we protect our indigenous peoples and minorities is one of the most important indicators of the way we observe our duties and values,” he underlined.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed because we know that we as society have failed in this task,” he acknowledged.

Leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hands over report to President of the Storting Masud Gharahkhani. Photo: Foto: Peter Mydske/Stortinget

The publication was accompanied by a public reading of the report. Over more than 30 hours, a big number of representatives of civil society and academia and public service read loud the full report. The stunt was called “Norway listens” and was broadcasted on national television.

According to Commission leader Dagfinn Høybråten, there continues to be injustice against minorities and indigenous peoples in Norway.

“Today, people still have negative experiences that have their roots in the long history of Norwegianization,” Høybråten says in a comment. “Now it is time to face the injustice committed by the nation in relations with the Sámi, Kvens/Norwegian Finns and Forest Finns,” he underlines in a comment.

Sámi Parliament President Silje Karine Muotka and leader of the Sámi Council Runar Myrnes Balto. Photo: Siv Eli Vuolab/Sámediggi

In a comment, Sámi Parliament Silje Karine Muotka says that issues of Norwegianization will continue to be painful for the Sámi community.

Both Moutka and Leader of the Sámi Council Runar Myrnes Balto were on site as the report was handed over to Parliament.

The Norwegian Sámi Parliament now has big expectations to the government’s follow-up of the report, Balto underlines.

“Every people has the right to be heard in questions of reconciliation and independent processes between the Storting and the different peoples, he says.

“The Storting must also know that the Sámi community expects that the Sámi Parliament, the political body of the Sámi people, follows up the report,” he adds.

Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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