Sami self-governing reform headed to Finnish Parliament

During Sanna Marin’s (SDP) government term, the reform of the Sami Parliament Act ran aground in the Constitutional Law Committee. Pictured here: A Sami youth demonstration in front of the Parliament House in Helsinki on 17 November 2022. (Tiina Jutila / Yle)

The government says it plans to bring the controversial Sami Parliament Act before the legislature before year’s end.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s (NCP) government is the fourth coalition to be dealing with reforms to rules related to the self-governance of Finland’s indigenous Sami people.

A bill that would have helped dictate who has the right to be included on the voters’ roll for elections to the Sami assembly ran aground in parliamentary committee during the end of the last parliamentary term.

Orpo’s government programme now plans for the legislature to consider reforms to the act by the end of this year, with Justice Minister Leena Meri (Finns) giving assurances that the Finns Party is committed to the government programme.

During ex Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s (SDP) term the bill to reform the act fell apart in Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee, where the Centre Party, a governing partner, voted with the then opposition Finns Party and National Coalition Party to not move forward with the matter. At the time Riikka Purra (Finns), now the Finance Minister, suggested that the proposed changes were discriminatory, a conclusion not shared by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman.

Why so controversial?

If approved, the law would potentially change how that register of voters is compiled, potentially removing some who are currently on the electoral roll — a proposal that has drawn criticism.

During the previous term bill also ran into difficulties over its potential impact on land use rights, as there have been fears the changes would give the Sami Parliament too much power over land use within Sami territory, which could affect mining and wind power projects.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Pope Francis finishes Canadian visit in Nunavut, CBC News

Finland: Truth and Reconciliation Commission should continue says Sami Parliament in Finland, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland, Denmark initiate investigation into past relations, Eye on the Arctic

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

Sweden: Truth Commission for the Sami People looking to spread knowledge of past injustices, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous leaders divided over ANWR court ruling, Eye on the Arctic

Yle News

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