Greenland legislator decries abuse of Greenlanders who don’t speak Greenlandic
“It is so unworthy of our country, if we get some people to feel inferior“
There’s too much trash talk against Danes, and Inuit in Greenland who don’t speak Greenlandic, says Naaja Nathanielsen, a member of Greenland’s legislature.
“Something has happened so it’s now more legitimate — more permissible — to talk badly about the people who speak Danish,” she said in a recent statement sent to media in Greenland on the Inuit Ataqatigiit party letterhead.
About 58,000 people live in Greenland. About 12 per cent of the population are Danish.
Nathanielsen, a member of Greenland’s parliament for the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, said the bashing is done through cat-calls on the street, vicious comments on the bus, and snide remarks over coffee, on Facebook, in workplaces, in the media — it’s everywhere, she said.
“This division of people in ‘real Greenlanders’ and ‘wrong Greenlanders’ is completely the same logic that has been used to separate ethnic groups. There is no other word for it than racism. And I will not accept a slippery slope towards a racist, hateful society,” she said.
Nathanielsen said “yes, it is enormously inconvenient that our administration must run at least two languages — because we do not have enough manpower to even fill the positions — but it is not the Danish-speakers’ fault.”
“Yes, it is unfair that you can not be served in Greenlandic by your doctor or local authority — but it’s not the Danish speakers’ fault,” she said.
Nathanielsen said this anger puts Greenland in a terrible situation and “it is so unworthy of our country if we get some people to feel inferior. “
Nathanielsen quoted Nobel peace prize winner Nelson Mandela, who said “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal that I am prepared to die for.”
Nathanielsen’s statement has prompted Inuit Circumpolar Council president Aqqaluk Lynge to say the language debate in Greenland is skewed.
Politicians should be talking more about social inequality and poor education because that is what the language debate is fundamentally about, he said.
The debate over language surfaced in the recent election campaign in Greenland, and again during a Partii Inuit meeting April 28 in Nuuk.
While Lynge acknowledges there’s a gap between Danish-speaking residents of Greenland and those who only speak Greenlandic, he said he’d like to know how Partii Inuit, now part of Greenland’s ruling coalition government, will solve the problem.
“We can not blame others. Now that Partii Inuit holds power in the country’s top political leadership, we want to know what specific action they will take,“ Lynge told Greenland’s Sermitsiaq AG newspaper.
Lynge said much is being done in Greenland to retain the Greenlandic language but there are too few readers to make publishing reading material financially viable.
“So it’s no surprise that we have more political parties than bookstores,” Lynge said.
The government needs to do more, said Lynge, who is also an author of many books in Greenlandic.