There has been a lot of talk in Canada recently about exactly what the Aboriginal population is willing to do to force government action on its issues and about exactly what the non-Aboriginal population owes them. Not dissimilar debates occur sporadically in the United States as well as Australia.
In Canada, the Aboriginal (which includes First Nations, Inuit and Metis) population has some very valid grievances. Perhaps most worthy of consideration is the number of promises made to Aboriginal communities or negotiating groups that have been broken over the years. Then, there were the policies that were meant to assimilate Aboriginals but that resulted in an alienation from both the "white" society and their own.
Sadly, many people in Canada think Aboriginals are demanding what they do not deserve. Yesterday, I read a letter in the National Post that implied Aboriginals were little more than North American palestinians. That lowers the Aboriginal population to a place they do not belong.
A) palestinians were not forced off their lands. No matter what any anti-Zionist or arabphile says: the dispossessed palestinians fled Israel at the urging of their own arab brethren and British propaganda. Nor were they isolated as North American Aboriginals were on reserves. In fact, any "reserves" are those kept by the arabs for palestinians, such as the one in Lebanon currently infested with terrorists and besieged by the Lebanese military.
B) Aboriginals have, in the most, acted with dignity and conciliation when dealing with the government. There have been only isolated acts of sustained civil disobedience and almost none of violent action. The palestinians base their entire philosophy not on justice but on destruction. An Aboriginal homicide bomber or rocket landing in a large Canadian city? Has never happened. The don't even touch on the type of "resistance" offered by many European groups such as the Basque or IRA.
C) palestinians were never asked to assimilate. Israeli-Arabs have their own traditions to themselves. The Aboriginal population of North America was forced to become something it was not. If anything, the rejection by arabs of the idea of assimilating or naturalizing their palestinian residents has only led to the continued misery (as planned by the arab nations and aided by the UN).
D) Aboriginal people are asking for equality. Get some in one area; give some in another. They do not want to destroy Canada or to kill whitey. They want an equal opportunity to succeed in one of the world's wealthiest and most advantageously-positioned countries. As someone from a family where many people, including myself, have worked with Aboriginal people, there are experiences of mistrust but hatred is not found.
I truly believe we have not done right by the Native populations. Much of that is the result of policies that we were not responsible for - the same way I don't hold today's Germans responsible for the actions of the nazis. But, there are still things that can be done.
It's not a question of simply throwing money or land at people. There is an issue of allowing Aboriginals enough of their own culture and ways of doing things that affords them a status of equality but not necessarily assimilation. In this country, we make allowances for all kinds of recent arrivals, yet we often refuse to do so for its most historical people.
This is going to come back to bite us if the situation is not dealt with. Young angry Natives may well look at the tactics of terrorists and the reaction from the west and think it could be successful. At the end of the day it wouldn't be, but I would like to see efforts to ensure that day never comes.