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Awkward moment in Denmark's parliament as Greenlandic MP refuses to speak Danish

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Greenlandic MP on Friday refused to speak Danish during a debate in the Danish parliament and instead spoke in her native Inuit language, frustrating uncomprehending lawmakers and highlighting strained relations between Denmark and Greenland.

Aki-Matilda Hoegh-Dam, one of two members of the Danish parliament representing Greenland, held a nearly 7-minute long speech in Greenlandic during a debate about relations between Denmark and Greenland.

Hoegh-Dam refused after the speaker of the parliament encouraged her to repeat her speech in Danish.

Greenland, a Danish colony until 1953 when it became a formal part of the Kingdom of Denmark, has its own official Inuit language, but Danish is still taught in schools. The two languages are nothing alike.

Relations between Denmark and Greenland have soured recently following revelations of misconduct by Danish authorities in Greenland during the 20th century, including the involuntary fitting of birth controls in some Greenlandic women during the 1960s and 1970s.

In comments to Reuters after the debate, Hoegh-Dam said her speech had focused on the recent revelations.

"I don't understand why it is so odious to be allowed to speak what is categorized as the official language of Greenland, which is my constituency," Hoegh-Dam said.

In 2009, Greenland was granted broad self-governing autonomy, including the right to declare independence from Denmark.

"We are no longer afraid to speak out. We are not afraid to use our voice and our language. The spirit of change is here, and the next step in the right direction would be state formation," she told Reuters.

Last week, Greenland's government presented its first draft constitution to its parliament.

"This is a difficult dialogue. I know that the speaker was born in Denmark and speaks fluent Danish," MP Karsten Honge said during the debate.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who also attended the debate, was seen looking nonplussed around the room.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Sharon Singleton)