The Sámi Parliament has presented the Chancellor of Justice with a complaint referring to negligence by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with respect to the negotiations on the Tenojoki fishing agreement and the preparation of the act bringing the agreement into force. The Sámi Parliament is of the view that, in addition to the problems associated with the actual contents of the fishing agreement, during the agreement negotiations the conduct of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, representing the Finnish State in the matter, was highly irregular and unconstitutional.
“The Finnish state is neglecting compliance with its own constitutional and international obligations, without even duly assessing and recognising – as required by the Finnish Constitution – the effects of its conduct on the rights of the Sámi as an indigenous people. The situation is unsustainable and poses a threat to the survival of the Sámi culture, as well as to Finland’s credibility as a western state governed by the rule of law and as a defender of basic and human rights,” sums up Tiina Sanila-Aikio, President of the Sámi Parliament.
From the perspective of the Sámi, the signed Tenojoki fishing agreement and the resulting, new fishing regulation have far-reaching and broad implications for the region. The Sámi Parliament is of the view that the Tenojoki fishing agreement and regulation violate the protection of the Sámi culture, the protection of the property of the Sami, the principle of non-discrimination and the principle of self-determination as provided in Section 17, paragraph 3 of the Constitution . The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reserved the rights of the Sámi Parliament to negotiate in accordance with Section 9 only after the agreement had been signed and the contents had been finalised in practice. By acting in such a manner, the Ministry by-passed the key, statutory opportunity, currently reserved for the Sámi, to have a say in any decisions affecting them as an indigenous people. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry should have reserved the Sámi Parliament a genuine opportunity, as provided in Section 9 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament , to negotiate and thereby influence the content of the agreement before representatives of the Finnish state were given a mandate to finalise the content with their signatures.
The Sámi Parliament regards the circumstances resulting from the conduct of the Finnish state as a clear violation of Section 17, paragraph 3 and Section 121, paragraph 4 of the Constitution. The seriousness of the shortcomings in the Ministry’s conduct are also highlighted by the fact that the public authorities’ obligation to take active measures to guarantee the observance of basic and human rights in this matter, under Section 22 of the Constitution, was knowingly by-passed during the negotiation of the agreement. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry did not seek to clarify or take due account of the effects of the agreement's content on the fulfilment of the rights of indigenous people and, after the final consultation, submitted the agreement, which violates such rights as provided in Section 17, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, to Parliament for its consideration.
In its complaint, the Sámi Parliament requests that the Chancellor of Justice take note of the absence of the opportunity, as provided in Finnish law, for an indigenous people to participate in decisions affecting it, which enabled the violations of basic rights during the agreement negotiations and the related proposal for a legislative amendment. In addition, the Sámi Parliament requests that the Chancellor of Justice require the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to rectify the errors it has made and remedy any harm done. Finally, the Sámi Parliament asks the Chancellor of Justice to consider raising charges or presenting the police with a request for an investigation with respect to the matter, should the Chancellor of Justice suspect that any errors and negligence by public officials of the Ministry – which resulted in violations of basic rights – fulfil the definitional elements of an offence in public office, or a related offence.
The summary of the complaint can be read here.
For further information, contact Tiina Sanila-Aikio, President of the Sámi Parliament, on tel. +358 50 300 1780, tiina.sanila-aikio(at)samediggi.fi
Section 17 of the Constitution (1999/731) “Right to one's language and culture”
The national languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish.
The right of everyone to use his or her own language, either Finnish or Swedish, before courts of law and other authorities, and to receive official documents in that language, shall be guaranteed by an Act. The public authorities shall provide for the cultural and societal needs of the Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking populations of the country on an equal basis.
The Sámi, as an indigenous people, as well as the Roma and other groups, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture. Provisions on the right of the Sámi to use the Sámi language before the authorities are laid down by law. The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability are guaranteed by law.
Section 9 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament (1995/974), “Obligation to negotiate”
The authorities shall negotiate with the Sámi Parliament in all far-reaching and important measures which may directly and in a specific way affect the status of the Sámi as an indigenous people and which concern the following matters in the Sámi homeland:
1) community planning:
2) the management, use, leasing and assignment of state lands, conservation areas and wilderness areas;
3) applications for licences to stake mineral mine claims or file mining patents; (10.6.2011/626)
4) legislative or administrative changes to the occupations belonging to the Sámi form of culture;
5) the development of the teaching of and in the Sámi language in schools, as well as social and health services; or
6) any other matters affecting the Sámi language and culture or the status of the Sámi as an indigenous people.
In order to fulfil its obligation to negotiate, the relevant authority shall provide the Sámi Parliament with the opportunity to be heard and discuss matters. Failure to use this opportunity in no way prevents the authority from proceeding in the matter.
Section 121 of the constitution (1999/731), “Municipal and other regional self-government”
Finland is divided into municipalities, whose administration shall be based on the self-government of their residents.
Provisions on the general principles governing municipal administration and the duties of the municipalities are laid down by an Act.
The municipalities have the right to levy municipal tax. Provisions on the general principles governing tax liability and the grounds for the tax, as well as on the legal remedies available to the persons or entities liable to taxation, are laid down by an Act.
Provisions on self-government in administrative areas larger than a municipality are laid down by an Act. In their native region, the Sámi have linguistic and cultural self-government, as provided by an Act.
Section 22 of the Constitution (1999/731) “Protection of basic rights and liberties”
The public authorities shall guarantee the observance of basic rights and liberties and human rights.