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Controversial Sámi bill sent to parliamentary committees for consideration

The committees are expected to report back to Parliament's main chamber by the end of January next year.

The proposed law change was debated by MPs on Friday afternoon. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Following a plenary debate on Friday afternoon, MPs have agreed to send a controversial bill related to Sámi rights to Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee for consideration and comment.

The draft legislative change will also be sent to the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, the Commerce Committee, and the Employment and Equality Committee for their analysis.

Each committee will then report to the Constitutional Law Committee.

The proposed changes to the Sámi Parliament Act has caused major friction between Finland's coalition parties and also between the government and the opposition.

Sámi protestors outside Finland's Parliament building. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The dispute largely centres around the issue of who has the right to be included on the voters' roll for elections to the assembly which represents Finland's indigenous Sámi people. If approved, the law would change how that register of voters is compiled.

Parliament gave the four committees a deadline of the end of January to report to the Constitutional Law Committee.

This means that the Constitutional Law Committee will not be able to begin discussing the proposal until the beginning of February, chair Johanna Ojala-Niemelä (SDP) said.

Celebrities call for law change

Meanwhile, a group of over 40 Finnish celebrities — including actors, musicians and TV presenters — have released a video on social media calling for reform of the Sámi Parliament Act. 

Useat julkisuuden henkilöt ottivat kantaa saamelaiskäräjälain puolesta
Suomalaisjulkkisten vetoomus saamelaiskäräjälain puolesta leviää somessa.

"Sámi people need all of our support to realise their right to self-determination," musician Sami Yaffa states in the video.

The video was compiled by Erja Morottaja, a native of Inari in Finnish Lapland, as an attempt to raise awareness among the Finnish public about Sámi rights. 

"It started to become more urgent as we felt that we were not being heard," Morottaja told Yle. 

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