How the government’s Norwegianisation policies harmed indigenous people in Norway

The Norwegianisation of the Sami and Kvens has had severe consequences, which are being felt to this day, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report has found.

Pictured is a Sami reindeer herder.
A commission has revealed the harmful impact that Norwegianisation has had on indigenous people. Pictured is a Sami reindeer herder. Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

Beginning in the 1700s, the Norwegian government carried out the official policy of Norwegianisation, which aimed to assimilate the non-Norwegian-speaking population into an ethnically and culturally uniform society.

The policy was initially targeted at the Sami people of northern Norway but later also directed towards the Kvens. On Thursday, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its report on the policy and its impacts to Norway’s parliament.

“Norway does not have a history to be proud of when it comes to the treatment of minorities,” Dagfinn Høybråten, who chaired the commission, said of the report’s findings.

The policy aimed to suppress the language and cultural practices of several minorities. There are around 80,000 Sami, 15,000 Kvens and 10,000 Forest Finns in Norway today.

“Norwegianisation policies and injustice have profoundly negative consequences for the group’s culture, language, health and traditional industries. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s investigation shows that Norwegianisation has affected much more widely and has been more intrusive in more areas of society than previously known. Children and young people, in particular, have been affected by Norwegianisation measures throughout the history of Norwegianisation,” the commission said in a statement.

The report said that more needed to be done to increase the awareness and knowledge of the culture of the Forest Finns, Sami and Kven.

The Sami have traditionally been involved in semi-nomadic reindeer herding, fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. They speak the Sami languages; there are around ten different Sami languages. The Kvens are descended from Finns who emigrated to the northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Only in 2005 was the Kven language recognised as a minority language in Norway.

Forrest Finns are the ancestors of Finnish migrants who settled in the forested areas of Sweden and Norway. Their language became extinct in the mid-20th century.

Indigenous people continue to face discrimination in Norway today. Last August, a report from the Norwegian Institution of Human Rights found that 11 percent of residents held negative attitudes towards the Sami and that hate speech against the group was widespread.

“The commission hopes that the report itself will increase the knowledge base of the entire population and that the proposals for measures will be followed up as a contribution to a continued reconciliation process. This will be a challenge for both the Storting and for national, regional and local authorities and the rest of society,” the commission writes.

President of the Norwegian Parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, has said that Commission’s report confirms Norway’s failures towards minorities and indigenous peoples.

“How good we are at protecting indigenous peoples and our minorities is one of the most important signs of whether we live up to our duties and values. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed because we realised that we as a society have failed in that task. Today we get serious confirmation of this,” he said.

The commission was initially set up in 2018, with the report taking five years to finalise.

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Why Norway’s former PM is in hot water over her husband’s share trading 

Conservative Party leader and former prime minister Erna Solberg is under intense scrutiny after her husband made thousands of share trades and netted 1.8 million kroner in profit while she was PM.

Why Norway's former PM is in hot water over her husband's share trading 

Erna Solberg was close to tears at a press conference on Friday when divulging more information about the share trading of her husband, Sindre Finnes, while she was Prime Minister of Norway between 2013 and 2021. 

“I have been incompetent in matters I have dealt with when I was prime minister,” she told the Norwegian press on Friday. 

“Now it is clear that he (Sindre Finnes) has nonetheless conducted extensive short-term share trading. He has done that even though he knew he shouldn’t. He also knew why he shouldn’t do it,” she added. 

Solberg said her husband had not been honest about the full extent of his share trading. 

“Breach of trust is always difficult, and especially difficult in a family and a marriage. It hurts me to be as hard on Sindre as I am today,” she said. 

She added that the Prime Minister’s Office warned her husband about his trading but that he continued anyway. 

Finnes has apologised in the press to his wife over his trading. 

“I am very sorry that I have put Erna in this situation. I have not been honest, neither with her nor with the Prime Minister’s office. I deeply regret that” he told business and financial site E24

“I have made serious mistakes which have made it impossible for Erna to assess her competence when she was prime minister. After she stepped down as Prime Minister, I also gave both her and the press incorrect information about my stock trades,” he added. 

What exactly has happened? 

Recently, it has come to light that the PM’s husband had traded shares in several companies while she was PM. 

Documents released by the Conservative Party on Friday revealed that he made 3,600 share transactions over the eight years Solberg was prime minister. 

He also netted around 1.8 million kroner in net profit from these trades. 

Several of the companies he traded shares in have direct or indirect links to the Norwegian government or are affected by government policies. 

The extent of the trading was much more than Solberg and Finnes had admitted to the press previously. 

Why is this a problem? 

Ministers and government members in Norway have a set of guidelines to follow. Among these are conflict of interest rules and impartiality rules. They must assess whether they are acting impartially or whether a conflict of interest has affected their judgment. 

The guidelines for government members also include regulations for the partners of ministers and prime ministers. 

Breaching such guidelines is considered serious as it undermines the public’s trust in the government. 

Finnes’s trading while Solberg was prime minister also opens up questions to whether he was privy to inside information. 

This is something the PM has strongly denied. 

“I have never shared inside information with Sindre. Nor has he acted on any inside information about this,” she told public broadcaster NRK earlier this month. 

What will happen to Solberg?

Norway’s economic crime unit Økokrim has said that it will consider whether there are grounds for opening an investigation of Finnes’s share trading. 

Solberg will be probed by a parliamentary committee in November. Finnes’s share trading will be part of a larger hearing on impartiality and conflict of interest by the control and constitution committee in November. 

The fresh revelations will come as a blow to Solberg. Despite being ousted in the 2021 elections, she remains a popular figure in Norwegian politics. 

Over the previous weeks and months, she had been increasingly critical of the current government, which itself was embroiled in several conflict of interest cases. 

Svein Erik Tuastad, associate professor of political science at the University of Stavanger, has said further revelations could lead to Solberg’s resignation. 

“It could lead to her resignation because the case could turn out to be even more serious than the one here. One could think that it would also weaken her motivation when it comes to continuing, but I like to think that it is the opposite, that she does not want to be a politician who ends with a scandal,” he told ABC Nyheter

Solberg has said that deciding whether she should be replaced as leader would be a matter for the Conservative Party. 

“The question of who is the leader of the Conservative Party is a question that the Conservative Party will decide on itself,” she told the press on Friday.