CARC Interview: Finn Lynge

Finn Lynge is a member of the European Parliament for Greenland and Chairman of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference Environmental Commission. As an outspoken advocate of cultural autonomy for native northerners in Greenland and throughout the circumpolar world, he has participated in numerous international conferences and symposia, including a recent CARC seminar on northern wildlife resources. In the following interview, conducted in January, he discusses the potential for stronger ties between Canada and Greenland's home-rule government.


CARC: Why should Canadians be interested in Greenland?

Lynge: I've always asked the question the other way around: Why should Greenland take an interest in Canada? Of course, it is obvious we are turning the tables. Well, I think Canada should be interested in Greenland, because Greenland is encompassed by the Treaty of Rio of 1947 and, therefore, is under U.S. military sovereignty and the Monroe Doctrine. At the beginning of World War II we saw some uncertainty as to whether it would be the Canadians or the Americans who would come to keep out the Germans, but that uncertainty didn't last long-the Americans were there. The American military presence is being felt-they just appropriated another $70 million for the military in Alaska and they are now upgrading the radar in Thule to the point where the Reagan Administration is being accused of a breach of the ABM treaty of Helsinki. I understand you have had a city council vote in Inuvik asking America for military protection. So Canada is also being encompassed, surrounded by "Big Brother", and Greenland is part of that. That would be one answer. It's a little far-fetched maybe, but there is a substantial reality to it.

 CARC: A strategic factor?

 Lynge: Yes, a strategic factor. Then there is, as well, the kind of interest in Greenland that you would expect on the part of Canadian Inuit, because they are the same people-they speak the same language, come from the same stock, and they listen to Radio Greenland. This is your next-door neighbour, the only next-door neighbour you have aside from the United  States. I would say it's a normal thing to take an interest in your next-door neighbour, especially when the aboriginal peoples that live there are of the same stock.

 I would say that Greenland and arctic Canada still have a lot to learn from one another, particularly in arctic housing, air service, icebreaking techniques, and so on.... you could point to many things that ought to create some kind of interest in Canada toward Greenland. Once you follow up on these motives and establish regular contact, and maybe once we get some more exchange programmes in place, for example, between Radio Greenland and the CBC or between high schools and other institutions, I think Canadians will begin to profit from the fact that Greenland is getting more and more integrated into a very broad Nordic culture. It used to be Danish- exclusively Danish; there was an umbilical cord down to Copenhagen. Whatever you had of communication to the outside world went through that umbilical cord. That's why it was so difficult to have the Frobisher air link established-because it was political.

CARC: That was something of a breakthrough?

 Lynge: Yes, that was a breakthrough. Now there is also a very popular link to Reykjavik- Nuuk-Reykjavik direct and there is a Nordic institute in Greenland, an institute that takes care of cultural exchanges, training programmes, all kinds of local needs that can be satisfied not in Denmark, but in Iceland, in Norway, in the Faroe Islands, or in Sweden. We came into the Nordic Council the year before last and obtained regular status together with the Faroe Islands.

 CARC: It seems, then, that closer relations with Canada are part of a larger effort to broaden Greenland's foreign contacts, at least throughout the northern world.

Lynge: The evolution we are going through now is very fast. Our big fight was to get out of the European Economic Community. It took years and years to get out of it, but we did, and now we have a good relationship with Europe...

 CARC: There's no way back on that?

 Lynge: No, that is a non-issue. The EEC sat very heavily on the fisheries resources, but you won't get a people to give away political control of its main resource. Now that we've got control, there is no way we're giving it away. People will never do that. But once the matter was settled with the EEC, we started reaching out toward our immediate neighbours-Iceland and Canada. Canada brings with it the North American continent; Iceland brings with it the rest of the Nordic countries. And, from the Canadian point of view, this is a way of establishing contacts to developments in the Nordic countries.

CARC: The first issue you mentioned was the strategic issue. Given the concern in Greenland over what's happening between the superpowers, would there be some sympathy for the demonstration of greater Canadian interest in military co-operation?

 Lynge: Don't talk military to the Greenlanders. First, they don't understand it; second, it doesn't interest them; and third, if they start getting interested, they get disgusted and turn their backs. We have swallowed the fact that the Americans are there.

CARC: So Canadians at Thule as opposed to Americans wouldn't make a difference?


Lynge: Since the Vietnam War, we haven't had the same warm feelings toward Americans that we used to. World War 1I brought us close to the United States; we liked the Americans very much. We never had it so good in our entire history-we were spoiled by the Americans. But there were later developments, especially the Vietnam War, but also another feeling that we were being manipulated-that they were doing things on their bases in Greenland without telling us. We have a much more relaxed attitude toward Canadians. During World War 11 we had two Canadian consuls; one was Max Dunbar and the other was Trevor Lloyd. And then we had a number of American ones-nobody can remember their names-but those two we know, because they took a keen personal interest in Greenland. We definitely have a feeling of closeness. I like Canada very much; I feel I have an emotional attachment to Canada. Every time I step out of the airplane at Mirabel or Dorval I feel like I am coming to my home country.

 CARC: You mentioned the psychological breakthrough of the Nuuk Frobisher air connection. Clearly, there is economic potential, and one would assume that Greenland, especially in light of its new relationship with the EEC, would see Canada as an area where there is considerable scope for improved trade relations. Is that something Greenlanders view as a real opportunity?

 Lynge: I think you have to keep a few political facts in mind, as well as a basic fact of geography for which I have never had a real explanation. The large masses of land in the Arctic around the North Pole all turn their backs toward one another, so to speak. The coldest part of Canada is to the northeast; the warmest part of Greenland to the southwest. The coldest part of Greenland is to the east; the warmest part of Iceland to the west, and so on and so on all the way around the globe. The reason I mention this is that although we do have this air link and are very close--you can even see Canada from Greenland off Thule-it's a more "useless" part of Canada that's close. If you want substantial trade, it has to be by ship. The distance from Nuuk to Quebec City or the Gulf of St Lawrence is the same as that to Copenhagen. It's hard to believe the first time you hear it, but look at a globe and you will see that it is a fact.

 I would say that it is in the interest of the Greenland home-rule government to develop substantial markets down here, but there would have to be long-term planning. Ordinary companies cannot start shipping goods back and forth and take the risks-this is a centrally planned thing; we are very much a socialist state in that sense. But central planning also includes the long-term diversification of markets because this umbilical cord to Denmark is dangerous. We have to have links to Iceland, we have to have links to Japan, and we have to have more trade with the United States and Canada.

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