Controversial Sámi bill sent to parliamentary committees for consideration

The proposed law change was debated by MPs on Friday afternoon. ( Silja Viitala / Yle )

Following a plenary debate on Friday afternoon, MPs have agreed to send a controversial bill related to Sámi rights to Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee for consideration and comment.

The draft legislative change will also be sent to the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, the Commerce Committee, and the Employment and Equality Committee for their analysis.

Each committee will then report to the Constitutional Law Committee.

The proposed changes to the Sámi Parliament Act has caused major friction between Finland’s coalition parties and also between the government and the opposition.

Sámi protestors outside Finland’s Parliament building. (Tiina Jutila / Yle )

The dispute largely centres around the issue of who has the right to be included on the voters’ roll for elections to the assembly which represents Finland’s indigenous Sámi people. If approved, the law would change how that register of voters is compiled.

Parliament gave the four committees a deadline of the end of January to report to the Constitutional Law Committee.

This means that the Constitutional Law Committee will not be able to begin discussing the proposal until the beginning of February, chair Johanna Ojala-Niemelä (SDP) said.

Celebrities call for law change

Meanwhile, a group of over 40 Finnish celebrities — including actors, musicians and TV presenters — have released a video on social media calling for reform of the Sámi Parliament Act.

“Sámi people need all of our support to realise their right to self-determination,” musician Sami Yaffa states in the video.

The video was compiled by Erja Morottaja, a native of Inari in Finnish Lapland, as an attempt to raise awareness among the Finnish public about Sámi rights.

“It started to become more urgent as we felt that we were not being heard,” Morottaja told Yle.

Related stories from around the North: 

Finland: Project to educate Finnish students about Sami needs to be permanent: Youth 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

Yle News

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