In the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot in the news regarding Canada's First Nations. The UN Special Rapporteur finished his tour and quite correctly stated that Canada is facing a crisis with respect to its relations with its First Nations.
Harper threw a couple of ambiguous references to Aboriginal peoples in the Speech From The Throne, but it seems unlikely that any of those represent meaningful change as the aboriginal peoples would like to see.
Ironically, the thing that might just serve as a catalyst for a meaningful change for Canada's First Nations in the national dialogue is resource exploitation. Whether that is Fracking, Oilsands, or Transportation of those resources, the public is not entirely in love with these practices. Industry hasn't been very successful in gaining public support for their efforts. Outside of Alberta (which is a political anomaly in Canada), there seems to be a great deal of discomfort with these practices, and events like today's rail explosion will only serve to make more Canadians uncomfortable with the implications of how these resources are being exploited.
While the events this week in New Brunswick are profoundly troubling on a number of levels, the protest itself is aimed at a target which I think a good many Canadians will be able to get behind and support - namely putting the brakes on exploiting resources using techniques which are coming increasingly into question. What exactly happened between the RCMP and the protestors to provoke the heavy response from the RCMP and the escalation into violence and property destruction is not clear to me, and the accounts that I have been able to find have all suffered from a distinct feeling of being incomplete.
That said, Canada's First Nations people are at a crossroads with respect to the national dialogue. If they play their hand carefully, First Nations will be able to use this to initiate a much broader discussion with the engagement of Canadians as a whole. Canadians are becoming more and more wary of the activities of large corporations and a government which is increasingly willing to bend to their will, and the combination of ongoing problems related to fracking activity, issues with the oil sands developments and the repeating problems with transportation of oil and bitumen creates a point of shared intersection where a conversation might be started.