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Thursday's papers: Sámi rights, baby vaccination rates and slippery roads

Self-determination is a sensitive issue among Finland's 10,000-strong indigenous Sámi community.

Saamelaisia tuvalla
The Sámi are the only indigenous people in Europe. Image: Kirsti Länsman / Yle
Yle News

Prime Minister Sanna Marin's (SDP) government is running out of time to fulfil its promise to make amendments to the Act on the Sámi Parliament, Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet writes.

By intervening into who can identify as Sámi, current laws hinder the indigenous and historically discriminated against people's right to self-determination, according to the paper.

"The current law is problematic because it does not in every way support the rights of the Sámi as indigenous people. The definitions of who is designated as Sámi are currently so extensive that people who do not really have a connection to the Sámi as indigenous people can vote and be elected to the Sámi Parliament," Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kristina Stenman told HBL.

The UN has also condemned the Finnish state for violating an international convention on racial discrimination by interpreting the criteria for who is considered Sámi in a way that differs from that of the Sámi Parliament. 

A revision of the Sámi Parliament Act has long been on the agenda of the government, but has been repeatedly stalled. This is despite Marin's government programme stating that the Sámi Parliament Act must be revised during this government term to better secure the indigenous people's rights, HBL writes.

With parliamentary elections looming next April, the government only has a few weeks to put forward the bill if it is to be processed by Parliament during this electoral term. The new law would change the criteria that apply to those who may be designated as Sámi in the voters' register, meaning who may vote and run for office in the Sámi parliamentary elections.

One of the major issues that the multi-party government is struggling to agree on is who should be defined as Sámi, according to the paper. Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) told HBL that internal disputes on the issue were preventing the reform from progressing.

"Negotiations are still ongoing internally in the government. I am doing my utmost to move the law forward, but it is no secret that the Centre Party has so far not approved the proposal," Henriksson said. 

Children in Finland are well-vaccinated

Some 97 percent of the children born since 2019 have been vaccinated with the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib combination vaccines, reports newspaper Ilkka-Pohjalainen (IP).

Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) expert Mia Kontio said she was pleased with the vaccination coverage of small children in Finland, and that rates have remained stable. There is however room for improvement regarding the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, also known as MMR.

"At the national level, the MMR vaccination coverage has remained around 95 percent for a long time. Wider epidemics are unlikely, but the risk of local epidemics increases, especially for measles, which spreads easily, if the MPR vaccination coverage is repeatedly at this level or lower," Kontio said.

In Finland, a child is considered unvaccinated if they have not received any rotavirus, pneumococcal, MMR and the 5-in-1 (DTaP-IPV-Hib) or 4-in-1 (DTaP-IPV) vaccines. Covid vaccines have not been administered to children under the age of five as of yet, but Finland should make a decision on that soon, according to Kontio.

Slippery road season commenced

Winter tyres can be put on as early as October, if the weather conditions call for it, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (IS) reports.

People in Finland are legally required to use winter tyres between 1 November and 31 March. 

However wet and icy conditions in late autumn as well as poor tyre condition can easily make drivers lose control of the wheel. Water puddles on the roads, black ice and darkening days all have a big impact on road safety at this time of the year, said Mikko Pöyhönen,Fennia's head of vehicle insurance.

"If the road surface is slippery and the winter tyres have not been installed yet, the stopping distance of the car will be longer. This causes dangerous situations for yourself, other motorists and especially pedestrians," Pöyhönen said.

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