UN rep. urges suspension of Sámi elections

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A judge has ordered Alaska officials to provide more outreach and resources to Yup’ik- and Gwich’in-speaking villagers in the upcoming November election. (iStock)
A UN representative has urged the suspension of elections to the Finnish Sámi Parliament after a controversial Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) decision to grant Sámi status to 93 people against the wishes of the Sámi parliament. (iStock)
Finland has been urged to suspend elections to the Sámi parliament amid controversy over recent additions to the electoral roll.

Oliver Loode, a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says that the Sámi community must be the arbiter of Sámi identity.

The Estonian member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has urged the suspension of elections to the Finnish Sámi Parliament after a controversial Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) decision to grant Sámi status to 93 people against the wishes of the Sámi parliament.

‘Sáminess should be decided by the Sámi parliament’ : UN rep

Oliver Loode, a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says that the Sámi community must be the arbiter of Sámi identity.

The Estonian member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has urged the suspension of elections to the Finnish Sámi Parliament after a controversial Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) decision to grant Sámi status to 93 people against the wishes of the Sámi parliament.

Oliver Loode says that the decision is contrary to the principles enshrined in the ILO Convention no 169 on Indigenous rights, which Finland has said it will ratify.

“First of all, Sáminess should be decided by the Sámi parliament, not the Supreme Administrative Court,” said Loode. That is one of the principles in the ILO statute, which is not yet part of Finnish law. The last government said it would ratify the convention but then delayed the measure so that it fell to the incoming government.

“Second of all, collective rights are at the centre of the convention on indigenous rights,” continued Loode. “Indigenous peoples have a right to decide as a group who qualifies as part of their group. That is also in the spirit of international law.”

Finland called ‘racist’

The KHO decision caused a huge backlash among Sámi people, with Sámi politician Klemeti Näkkäläjärvi stating that Finland is a ‘racist’ country and resigning from the register of voters.

“I’d like to ask what kind of juridical basis the elections and the incoming Sámi parliament has, if the elections will include voters that the Sámi have not accepted as Sámi,” said Loode. “The elections’ legitimacy is in question.”

Rauna Kuokkanen, an Associate Professor of Aboriginal Studies at Toronto University and a Finnish Sámi from Utsjoki, has urged Sámi people to abstain in the upcoming elections. There is no consensus on the matter, however. The chair of the Sámi parliament, Tiina Sanila-Aikio, has stated that it is important that people vote to make their voices heard.

Related stories from around the North:

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Finland: Sámi politician calls Finland “racist country”, Yle News

Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway:  Norway visa rules worry indigenous peoples, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Sami demand rights as indigenous people, Radio Sweden

Russia: Russia brands Arctic indigenous organization as “foreign agent”, Barents Observer

United States:  Arctic conference spotlights indigenous issues, Alaska Dispatch News

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