Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community

The Swedish government has vowed to set up a truth commission to examine the country's past treatment of the Sami minority.

Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community
Swedish and Sami representatives at a ceremony in 2019, which saw the reburial of Sami remains at the cemetery from which they were taken in Lycksele. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The commission would be tasked with charting and investigating the policies affecting the Sami and their implementation.

“It feels very good that we can finally appoint a truth commission,” culture and democracy minister Amanda Lind said in a statement.

“The government has a responsibility to increase knowledge of the abuses, rights violations and racism that Sami people have been subjected to,” Lind continued.

The minister also said that increasing awareness of “historical injustices” was important to “facilitate reconciliation”.

The Sami are believed to have arrived in the region at the end of the last ice age.

Victims of a brutal assimilation policy in the past, today they have been recognised as an indigenous people and have their own parliament in Sweden, but rights groups continue to denounce the state’s handling of Sami issues.

Although Sweden does not include ethnicities in any censuses, the Sami Parliament estimates between 20,000 and 40,000 Sami live in the country.

Of these, between 2,500 and 3,000 make a living from traditional reindeer herding, closely linked to Sami culture.

The commission would also be tasked with spreading awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect Sami people today.

Last week, a similar initiative was launched in neighbouring Finland, when the government officially appointed a truth and reconciliation commission to “collect Sami people’s experiences of the actions of the Finnish state”.

The independent Finnish panel, whose five members were appointed by both the government and Sami representatives, is expected to begin hearing testimony within the coming weeks and will deliver its final report in November 2023.

Members of the Swedish commission have yet to be appointed but according to the government it would be tasked with presenting its findings by December 1st, 2025.

Representatives of the Sami Parliament, which together with Sami interest groups petitioned Sweden’s government to establish a truth commission in 2019, welcomed the announcement.

“It is now time that the Sami people’s history and reality comes to light,” said Marie Persson Njajta, chair of the Sami Parliament’s group for a truth commission.

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Swedish government wants to ban mobile phones in classrooms

Should there be a blanket ban on mobile phones in classrooms? That’s what the Swedish government would like to see, according to a new bill by the education ministry.

Swedish government wants to ban mobile phones in classrooms

“There should be order in each and every classroom,” Schools Minister Lina Axelsson Kihlbom told a press conference as she presented the new proposal on Friday morning.

The bill would ban the use of mobile phones during lessons, unless the teacher specifically instructs the students to use them for learning purposes.

Today, teachers do not have the right to pre-emptively make students give up their mobile phones unless they are actively being used in a way that disrupts teaching.

Many schools in Sweden, however, have policies in place where students are able to voluntarily hand over their mobile phone when they enter the classroom.

“Teachers shouldn’t spend their time debating whether or not a mobile phone should be put to the side,” said Axelsson Kihlbom.

The government also wants the law to make it clearer that teachers may physically intervene if, for example, a disruptive student refuses to leave the classroom.

The bill follows a series of other bids to revamp Swedish education. The government also recently proposed that municipalities should be able to cut free school funding, and that free schools should not be able to use queue time as a selection criteria.

According to the TT news agency, it is unclear whether there’s enough support in parliament for the latter two proposals, but Friday’s bill may get the backing it needs. If approved, it would come into force on August 1st.