Skip navigation

New law on Saami Parliament strengthens Saami self-determination rights

Last December, the Finnish Government submitted a proposal to Parliament to amend the law on the Saami Parliament. The aim is to promote the realisation of the right of self-determination of the Saami and to improve the working conditions of the Saami self-government and the Saami collections, especially with regard to language and culture. The proposal implements Petter Orpo’s government programme and has been drafted in cooperation with the Saami Parliament.

Saami Parliament in Finland (Source: Wikipedia).

For example, the conditions for inclusion on the electoral roll will be reviewed. In the future, the electoral roll will only take into account voting rights and the right to stand as a candidate in Saami parliamentary elections, not who can be considered a Saami. Criteria for inclusion on the electoral roll would also correspond to the language-based starting points adopted in Sweden and Norway.

Other electoral procedures will also be improved, for example, by making it easier to vote in Saami district elections.

According to the Finnish Constitution, the Saami have self-government in their home region in terms of language and culture. The Saami assemblies represent the Saami people in matters which are part of their responsibilities. The current Saami District Act dates from 1995 and is obsolete.

Finland has received reprimands from UN human rights monitoring bodies for violating the civil and political rights of the Saami people. If the proposal is implemented, Finnish legislation is estimated to be in line with international human rights treaties and to take into account developments at the level of international law.

The new law has attracted criticism because the proposal maintains the decision of the Saami District Council to exclude from the electoral list of the Saami people who have been included on the list by the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court (various national minorities such as the Forest Saami, etc.). The organisations of the persons excluded from the new list will organise a demonstration in Helsinki on 8 February against the new Saami Parliament law.