Contested Sámi Parliament law heading to Finnish parliament following Centre pushback

Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) drafted the bill. (Petteri Sopanen / Yle)

After ministers voted 11 to 3, Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson, who drafted the bill, said she regretted the decision was not unanimous.

The government’s controversial Sámi Parliament law is headed to Finnish parliament, following conflict within the governing coalition about the bill.

In a contentious decision on Thursday, ministers voted 11 to 3 to send the legislation forward.

Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP), who drafted the bill, noted that three Centre party ministers voted against the measure, adding that she regretted the decision was not unanimous.

The dispute’s centres on the issue of who has the right to be included on Sámi assemblies’ election lists. If approved, the law would change how that register of voters is compiled.

“It’s high time to change the law so that the body to which this matter belongs — i.e. the Sámi Parliament — can approve it,” Henriksson said.

The law change would place more emphasis on the importance of the Sámi language, so that in future, a person whose great-grandparents learned the Sámi language as their mother tongue would be eligible for inclusion on Sámi assemblies’ election lists. Under current law, the language criterion only extends to a person’s grandparents.

The United Nations has reprimanded Finland a number of times for not sufficiently considering Sámi rights in its decision making.

Some members of Sámi assemblies are against the motion and consider the proposed changes to be discriminatory against the Sámi minority. The Centre Party has also opposed the proposal on those grounds.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Feds and Inuit gov in Atlantic Canada sign MOU to explore feasibility of new Indigenous protected area, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Lack of progress on Sami act in Finland “deeply concerning:” Sami Parliamentary Council, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Indigenous knowledge must be included in policy making say Inuit leaders, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

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