Could Sami rights bring down the Finnish government?

Could Sami rights bring down the Finnish government?
Source: © Nikola Johnny Mirkovic/Unsplash


Emily Wolfe 

Europe and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

In June 2022, the United Nations criticized Finland for violating the international human rights convention regarding the political rights of the Sámi people (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2019). The Sami are the only recognised indigenous group within the European Union area; they inhabit the Sápmi – a region that crosses four countries and consists of northern parts of Finland (formerly known as Lapland), almost half of Sweden and Norway, as well as parts of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

           Until recently, if asked whether they knew about Finnish legislation regarding Sami rights, most Finnish ministers and the Finnish public would return with a blank stare. The legislation in question is the Sami Parliament Act – a bill that has been silently stalled for 18 months in the Finnish government until it was recently brought to light by Euronews in June 2022 (MacDougall, 2022).

           The original act came to life following harsh and repeated criticism of Finland's treatment of the Sámi from the United Nations in 2019. The UN called for a change in Finland's legislation which would recognise the Sámi's right to self-determination – a right that has been formally recognized already, in both Norway and Sweden. The proposed Sámi Parliament Act would, in theory, fix all these outstanding issues outlined by the UN and would bring Sámi rights into law in Finland.

           Back in 2019, upon election, the current 5-party coalition – led by Sanna Marin – promised to pass the Sami Parliament Act during their time in office. The latest iteration of the act has been sitting ready for 18 months and last week was brought forth by Marin to move the draft law on to Parliament for a vote. Of the five government parties, only one party opposed the vote, - the Centre Party – asking for more time for discussions. That time was given, and the parties talked again on Sunday, with the Centre Party again concluding that they needed more time (MacDougall, 2022).

            Should the Finnish Centre Party continue to stall the motion to move the bill to Parliament, Sanna Marin will likely be forced to take the law to Parliament without Centre Party's consent, as she said she would. The Centre Party would probably pull their support from the coalition government and collapse it (MacDougall, 2022).

Many see this continued stalling and opposition as an act of politics rather than human rights. Petra Laiti, Chairperson of the Saami Youth organisation, told Euronews that she believes the Sámi Parliament Act is being used as a "pawn in a bigger game of power by these parties, and the Finnish media is interested in this law not because of the law itself, but because of the dynamics between Sanna Marin and Centre Party leader Annika Saarikko, and that doesn't help the Sámi at all." (MacDougall, 2022)

           As the deadline to bring this motion to Parliament is quickly approaching, the Sami will continue to wait for their rights to be recognised as just that, rather than tools in a political game. 

Sources and further reading:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions. (2019, February 1). UN Human Rights Committee adopts two Views concerning right to enter electoral roll to Sámi Parliament [Press release]. Retrieved November 23, 2022 from Https:// 

Finland, G. (2019). Government programme. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from 

MacDougall, D. (2022, October 28). Finland PM Sanna Marin 'doesn't care about human rights for Sámi people' as reforms likely to fail. Euronews. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from

MacDougall, D. (2022, November 15). Sanna Marin's government could collapse, as Sámi human rights laws stalled. Euronews. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from