Speech delivered by Prime Minister Sanna Marin at the celebration of the Sámi Parliament’s parliamentary term on 17 June 2022
Prime Minister Sanna Marins gave a speech at the celebration of the Sámi Parliament’s parliamentary. Term check against delivery.
Thank you for inviting me to the celebration of the Sámi Parliament’s parliamentary term here in Inari. I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Sámi Parliament and also to the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
The Sámi are the only indigenous people in the European Union. Their status as an indigenous people is enshrined in the Constitution of Finland. As a state, Finland is committed to promoting and safeguarding the fundamental rights that come with this status.
The task of the Sámi Parliament is to look after the Sámi language and culture and to take care of matters related to the status of the Sámi as an indigenous people. The members of the Sámi Parliament carry out their work with great expertise and commitment. I would therefore like to thank the Sámi Parliament for its important work to preserve and develop the Sámi culture.
I met with representatives of the Sámi Parliament last August. At that time, we agreed that good cooperation and dialogue between the Government and the Sámi Parliament should continue. The Government respects and seeks to promote the realisation of the linguistic and cultural rights of the indigenous Sámi people.
Last October, the Government appointed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People in cooperation with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Siida Council. The matter was prepared in close cooperation over four years. In many respects, the commission’s work is a unique, historic process in Finland.
The Government remains highly committed to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People and considers the process very important. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People is the first truth and reconciliation process to be implemented in Finland. It has taken some time for the commission to begin its challenging work, which is understandable. We must also be able to ensure that the commission’s work is moving in the right direction and building trust.
It is important to have sufficient support available in the Sámi languages and in a culturally appropriate manner throughout the commission’s working term. Prior to this, such services have not been available in practice. The Sámi psychosocial support unit Untuva held its opening yesterday. I wish the unit every success in its fundamental work.
A monitoring group has been appointed to support the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Representatives from the parties in Parliament and the Sámi Parliament were invited to join the monitoring group. This is another to support the commission's work across government terms. The Sámi Parliament will meet just before Midsummer to discuss the future of the Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I sincerely hope that we can continue on this path together and can bring the long-awaited work of the commission to completion.
Last summer, the Government adopted its Strategy for Arctic Policy, which extends until 2030. The ever-accelerating rate of climate change and the changes in the geopolitical situation in the Arctic region, which are at the core of the strategy, are more topical now than ever before. The strategy includes measures that are important for the Sámi in several different priority areas. The rights of the Sámi people and the wellbeing of the entire population in the northern regions are taken into account comprehensively in the strategy.
In the Arctic region, climate change is the greatest threat to biodiversity. The Arctic population, particularly indigenous peoples, are the first to experience climate change and its effects on their lives and cultures. Climate change make it more difficult to pursue traditional livelihoods, such as reindeer husbandry. Economic activity in the Arctic has also grown, for its part reducing opportunities for traditional economic and cultural activities.
In the amended Climate Change Act, the Government proposes establishing a new Sámi Climate Change Council. The purpose of the Climate Change Council will be to support the preparation of national climate plans by producing a knowledge base regarding the impacts of the plans. Traditional Sámi knowledge plays an important role in strengthening the knowledge base for development and climate change work in the Arctic. It is great that this has now been recognised at the level of an Act.
During this government term, other legislative steps have also been taken to safeguard the rights of the indigenous Sámi people. For example, the Government Proposal for the reform of the Mining Act aims to strengthen the rights of the Sámi people by requiring applicants for mining projects to assess the impact of their projects on the Sámi as an indigenous people and by further specifying the permit regulations aiming to reduce harm to traditional Sámi livelihoods.
Similarly, the prohibition against weakening and obligation to promote the rights of the Sámi have been recognised in the preparation of the Land Use and Building Act and in the Nature Conservation Act recently submitted to Parliament. With regard to the overhaul of the Antiquities Act, the working group preparing the Act has concluded that it would be justified to include a separate chapter on Sámi archaeological heritage in the Act.
I would also like to draw attention to the linguistic rights of the Sámi people: Languages are an integral part of cultural identity, but many of them are endangered. All of the Sámi languages spoken in Finland are endangered. Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi are at risk of extinction. I am pleased to say that the Language Policy Programme will provide tools for protecting language rights and reviving languages.
A lot has been achieved, but much work remains to be done to safeguard the rights of the Sámi people. We need to continue our cooperation and dialogue.
As one of the most important matters under discussion, I would like to mention that the Government is committed to examining the conditions for ratifying the ILO Convention No. 169, and that we are working to advance this process.
Continuing the work to reform the Act on the Sámi Parliament is also a top priority. We must amend the Act urgently, taking into account the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee in particular. This week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination once again issued a decision on this matter. In my view, it is very important that we prevent violations of rights in the future and respect the right of the Sámi people to self-determination. I also consider it important to ensure that the legislation in Finland respects the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Government has drawn attention to the issue of hate speech against the Sámi people. Indigenous peoples around the world face harassment and intolerance, especially when it comes to disagreements over land and natural resources. In the wake of recent major changes in the world, it is increasingly important to respect and appreciate one another.
I would like to thank you once again for inviting me to attend the celebration of the Sámi Parliament and bring greetings from the Finnish Government.
I wish the best of luck and every success to the Sámi Parliament in its future work!