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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Finland

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 3.5 3.5 4


1. Recognition of land rights/title

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • In the late 19th century, Nordic countries, including Finland, confiscated Sami territory under the Taxed Lapp Land system. Under this system, the Sami people lost their legal right to their traditional lands.
  • Finland has regularly denied that they have ever acknowledged that the Sami people had ownership rights to their traditional territories (Arhen 2004, 78).
  • The Nordic countries, including Finland, maintain to this day that it is “beyond doubt that the Saami people’s nomadic land use has not given rise to legal rights to land and that the Saami traditional lands, water, and natural resources belong to the [Finnish] state” (Arhen 2004, 93).
  • Section 4 of the Constitution of Finland states that “The territory of Finland is indivisible. The national borders can not be altered without the consent of the Parliament.”
  • In a report to the UN, the Finnish government stated that: “Finland has, for a long time, tried to settle the rights of the Sami people to the lands traditionally used by them in a manner acceptable to all parties, but without success” (UN 2009, 3).


2. Recognition of self-government rights

   Partial: limited to matters of language and culture; and subordinate in an advisory capacity to the Finnish government.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • The Sami of Finland have an elected representative body, the Sami Parliament, which elects 20 representatives every four years.
  • The substantive power of the Sami Parliament, as set out by the enabling legislation, “is to look after the Sami language and culture, as well as to take care of matters relating to their status as an indigenous people.”
  • The Sami Parliament is the supreme decision-making body of the Finnish Sami. It falls within the authority of the Ministry of Justice but is not part of the State administration. The Parliament represents the Sami in national and international contexts and attends to matters related to the language and culture of the Sami and their position as an indigenous people. The Parliament may submit initiatives and proposals and prepare statements for authorities (UN 2007a, 15).
  • According to section 6 of the Sami Parliament Act (1973), the Sami Parliament shall represent the Sami in national and international connections in matters pertaining to its tasks. The legislation does not afford the Sami Parliament a power of veto over the national Finnish Parliament.
  • However, given the inadequate authority for executive governance, the Sami Parliament is more an advisory body to the Finnish government than a body for the administration of Sami affairs.


3. Upholding historic treaties and/or signing new treaties

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There is no evidence that Finland has ever signed a treaty with the Sami people.
  • The Lapp Kodicill, an annex to a 1751 border agreement between Norway and Sweden, details rights and duties of the Sami people. The Sami have maintained that the Lapp Kodicill has status as a binding treaty under international law, and as such confirms the signatories’ duty to respect the Sami nation.
  • In 2001, the governments of Norway, Finland and Sweden, and the Sami Parliament in the three countries, appointed an Expert Group to draft a Nordic Sami Convention. In November 2005, the Expert Group presented the draft text to the three governments and the three Sami Parliaments. Negotiations have since stalled the process.
  • When signed, the Sami Convention will be a legally binding treaty between Finland, Norway and Sweden on the rights of the Sami people, and can thus be viewed as a renewal of the Lapp Kodicill (Ahren 2004, 75; Ahren 2007, 12).


4. Recognition of cultural rights (language, hunting/fishing, religion)

   Yes, but limited largely to matters of language.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • The Sami have a constitutionally protected right “to maintain and develop their own language and culture” as per section 17 of the Constitution Act of Finland.
  • Despite the lack of formal rights to land, in 1995 the Finnish Parliament granted the Sami the right to cultural autonomy within the demarcated areas of the Sami Homeland. This right to cultural autonomy was afforded constitutional protection by an amendment in 1995.
  • As the Finnish constitution states, provisions on the right of the Sami to use the Sami language before the authorities are laid down by an act. Indeed, the Sami Language Act [2003] contains provisions on the right of the Sami to use their own language before the courts and other public authorities, as well as on the duty of the authorities to enforce and promote the linguistic rights of the Sami.
  • The Sami in Finland have no special rights to land or water use in the pursuit of traditional hunting and fishing activities.
  • Under the 1990 Finnish Reindeer Herding Act, the right to reindeer husbandry in Finland requires mere residence in the Sami Homeland area, and thus non-Sami can pursue reindeer herding in this area as well.
  • Reindeer-herding, fishing and hunting constitute the right of any citizen of not only Finland, but any member state of the European Union, having his or her permanent residence in the reindeer-herding area of northern Finland (Hannikainen 1996, 45).
  • The Fishing Act of 1982 excludes mention of the northern region of Finland, the Sami Homeland area. The law regulating fishing in Sami Homeland is the 1902 legislation that denies Sami rights to land and water use.


5. Recognition of customary law

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Finland revoked the recognition of Sami customary law in the 19th century. While there has been some minor acknowledgement of customary law by the courts, customary law is not widely recognized (Ahren 2004).


6. Guarantees of representation/consultation in the central government

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • There are no specific provisions for the representation of Sami, or other persons belonging to ethnic, national or linguistic minorities, in the Finnish Parliament or the Municipal Councils, which are bodies nominated by general elections and regulated by the Elections Act.
  • The Finnish Rules of Procedure of the Parliament (article 37) stipulate that the Sami can be heard in Parliament in the context of the preparation of a matter by a committee to influence the subject matter of a proposal.
  • In accordance with the Sami Parliament Act, the Finnish Department of Culture, Sports and Youth Policy within the Ministry of Education aims to negotiate with the Sami Parliament in the preparation of strategies, policy programs, and legislation that may affect the Sami people as an indigenous people.
  • The Advisory Board on Sami Affairs, consisting of 12 members, works in connection with the Ministry of Justice for the coordination and consistent preparation of issues concerning the Sami population. The Advisory Board’s tasks include monitoring the development of Sami people’s legal, economic, social and cultural conditions and employment conditions. It also monitors the realization of regional policy objectives in the Sami Homeland. On the basis of its observations, it submits proposals and initiatives on these issues to the relevant ministries. The Sami Parliament nominates six members, and the other members represent the government (UN 2007a, 14).


7. Constitutional or legislative affirmation of the distinct status of indigenous peoples

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Section 17 of the Constitution Act of Finland (2000) explicitly state that the Sami are an indigenous people as does numerous sections of the Sami Parliament Act.
  • The draft Nordic Sami Convention will recognize the status of the Sami people as the only indigenous people of Finland, as well as Norway and Sweden (Scheinin 2007, 41).


8. Support/ratification for international instruments on indigenous rights

   Partial.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0.5

Evidence:

  • Finland voted in favour of adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This declaration is non-binding and does not impose duties or obligations on the Finnish state.
  • Finland has not ratified ILO Convention 169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. Discussions between the Sami and Finnish parliaments over Finland’s ratification of this instrument have been ongoing since the 1990s (Koskenniemie and Takamaa 1998).
  • In 2000, the Finnish Ministry of Justice set up a committee to evaluate obstacles to meeting the minimum criteria that are required for the ratification of ILO Convention 169 (UN 2006b, para. 63).
  • Finland, along with Norway and Sweden, has been in discussion since 2005 with the three Sami parliaments on the adoption of the draft Nordic Sami Convention. The Expert Group that was commissioned to draft the convention makes clear that it is a rights convention, “with very few general or merely aspirational provisions” (Ahren 2007, 13).


9. Affirmative action

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There is no evidence that affirmative action for the Sami people exists in either law or policy.

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