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UN representative urges to consider suspension of Sámi elections

Finland has been urged to consider suspending elections to the Sámi parliament amid controversy over recent additions to the electoral roll. Oliver Loode, a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says that the Sámi community must be the arbiter of Sámi identity.

Oliver Loode
Oliver Loode Image: UNPFII

The Estonian member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has urged to consider the suspension of elections to the Finnish Sámi Parliament after a controversial Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) decision to grant Sámi status to 93 people against the wishes of the Sámi parliament.

Oliver Loode says that the decision is contrary to the principles enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Finland renewed its commitment to the UNDRIP in the UN World Conference of Indigenous Peoples in 2014.

"First of all, Sáminess should be decided by the Sámi parliament, not the Supreme Administrative Court. That is one of the principles in the UNDRIP, which Finland has promised to implement. Now however Finland is already breaching the declaration," said Loode.

"Second of all, collective rights are at the centre of UNDRIP," continued Loode. "Indigenous peoples have a right to decide as a group who qualifies as part of their group. That is also in the spirit of international law."

The KHO decision caused a huge backlash among Sámi people, with Sámi politician Klemeti Näkkäläjärvi stating that Finland is a ‘racist’ country and resigning from the register of voters.

"I’d like to ask what kind of juridical basis the elections and the incoming Sámi parliament has, if the elections will include voters that the Sámi have not accepted as Sámi," said Loode. "The elections’ legitimacy is in question."

Rauna Kuokkanen, an Associate Professor of Aboriginal Studies at Toronto University and a Finnish Sámi from Utsjoki, has urged Sámi people to abstain in the upcoming elections. There is no consensus on the matter, however. The chair of the Sámi parliament, Tiina Sanila-Aikio, has stated that it is important that people vote to make their voices heard.

Correction 2.10.2015 1.33 pm: Loode says that the KHO decision is contrary to the principles enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the ILO Convention no 169 on Indigenous rights, as the article previously stated. Also other references to the ILO convention 169 were wrong and have been corrected to the UNDRIP, as Loode originally said in the interview.

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