Finnish Deputy Chancellor of Justice criticizes Government for handling of Teno Fishery Agreement
Text by Sara Wesslin
In that case, the Sámi Parliament would have had a genuine opportunity to influence the content of the fishery agreement. However, the negotiations were not held until after the agreement had been signed. The Deputy Chancellor of Justice investigated the issue on the basis of an omission complaint submitted by the Sámi Parliament.
The Deputy Chancellor of Justice is the authority that monitors the lawfulness of the acts of the Government in Finland.
The Constitutional Committee and the Deputy Chancellor of Justice agree
The Constitutional Committee has found that the obligation to negotiate as provided by the paragraph 9 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament was partly neglected in connection with the negotiations concerning the Teno River Fishery Agreement and the preparation of its entry into force.
“In its statement, the Committee reprimands that the obligation to hear the Sámi in matters that, to a great extent, influence their rights must be taken into consideration when drafting a legislative proposal. However, the Finnish Parliament decided to adopt, in the first reading, the Teno River Fishery Agreement and a law on its entry into force despite the fact that the Parliament knew that the obligation to negotiate with the Sámi had been partly neglected.”
The Sámi Parliament should have had a real opportunity of influencing
The Deputy Chancellor of Justice Hiekkataipale agrees with the Finnish Constitutional Committee that the Sámi Parliament should have been guaranteed a possibility to influence the procedure in connection with the Teno River Agreement.
“Like the Constitutional Committee, I find that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has partly neglected to fulfil the obligation to negotiate with the Sámi as provided by the Act on the Sámi Parliament. In the negotiations held in October 2016, the Sámi Parliament could genuinely only negotiate on the matters that concerned the entry into force of the agreement.
According to the Deputy Chancellor, the Sámi Parliament should have been given the opportunity to negotiate on the agreement and its contents before the closure of the negotiations between Finland and Norway. This would have provided the Sámi Parliament a real possibility of influencing the content of the agreement.
“I also find that, in this respect, the procedure was not proper from the point of view of the requirements of good governance provided by the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. Thus, I also draw attention to the actions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as concerns proper negotiations and the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as the realisation of rights in accordance with good governance,” the Deputy Chancellor of Justice writes in his decision.
This story is originally posted at Yle Sapmi and re-published as part of Eyes on Barents, a collaborative partnership between news organizations and bloggers in the Barents region.
Tenojoki fishery agreement
The agreement regulates salmon fishing in the Tenojoki River, known as the Tana River in Norway and just Teno among locals. The 361-kilometre river supports the largest Atlantic salmon stock in the world and is the most productive salmon river in both Finland and Norway. The agreement was signed by Finnish and Norwegian government representatives on 30th September 2016.