A good question we can ask about Finland’s integration act is what it reflects about our views and expectations of newcomers. Can any law integrate people effectively?
If you want to speak of one- or two-way adaption, one should ask some of Finland’s oldest minorities like the Roma and Saami what memories such a law may evoke.
Considering that children who spoke Saami at school in the 1960s were punished in Finland, it’s natural that there are a lot of bad feelings and distrust of white Finns’ intentions.
If we look at second- and third-generation Finns, we don’t even know what these people were supposed to integrate to. It’s sad that the answer to this question has been in some cases society’s indifference and rejection.
Apart form the lack of resources that the present integration law faces, another challenge is if it offers a big picture of our ever-growing culturally diverse society. How, for example, does it promote acceptance as well as respect for new Finnishness and other new identities?
It would be too simplistic to claim that the integration law is a utter failure. For one it keeps those who are hostile to our ever-growing cultural diversity at bay. Its existence permits it to indirectly integrate Finns as well to the idea that we are becoming a culturally diverse society.
What does the act reflect about our views and expectations of newcomers? In many respects it reflects our expectations and too little of those that are being integrated. Thus we speak of two-way integration but in practice it’s one-way.
Canadian Social psychologist J. W. Barry highlighted three important matters in order to manage successfully a culturally diverse society. Even if he speaks of multiculturalism, it can apply well to Finland, which accepts culturally diversity in its laws.
- In our view there needs to be general support for cultural diversity as a valuable resource for a society;
- There should be overall low levels of prejudice in the population;
- There should be generally positive mutual attitudes among the various ethnocultural groups that constitute the society;
- There needs to be a degree of attachment to the larger national society.
Do you agree?