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National languages are not treated equally on the new badges of security authorities

Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen finds that the new badges and ID cards taken into use by the police, Customs, the Border Guard and emergency services on 5 December 2018 do not comply with the public authorities’ obligation to secure linguistic rights. On these  cards, the name of the authority and the card are in a much smaller font in Swedish than they are in Finnish. The Ombudsman finds that the difference in the font size in practice makes the second Finnish national language parallel to a foreign language, i.e. English. On the previous ID cards, the national languages were treated equally (see: https://www.poliisi.fi/about_the_police/police_badge). 
 
The Ombudsman points out that the equal treatment of national languages is guaranteed under the Constitution of Finland and the Language Act. The justifications in the Constitution’s section on national languages require formal equality in the use of the national languages. The justifications in the Language Act, on the other hand, prohibit discriminating against a minority language so that, for example, in a bilingual text, the minority language part is written with a clearly smaller font than the majority language part.
 
The Ombudsman has requested the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Finance and the Population Register Centre to inform the Ombudsman by the end of the year about the measures they will be taking as the result of the Ombudsman’s decision.
 
Decision 6446/2018 by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen is available (in Swedish) on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi.
 
For more information, please contact Principal Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. + 358 9 432 3364.