A First Nations leader in British Columbia says Canadians can expect more protests to turn as violent as the anti-fracking one in New Brunswick did this week when police moved in to arrest protesters.

Forty people were arrested Thursday following the clash between police and protesters that included the fire-bombing of police vehicles in Rexton, N.B.

At a rally and march in downtown Vancouver Friday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs denounced the political powers that he said are ultimately behind the escalation of the confrontation in New Brunswick.

"Without question, governments are trying to send a very harsh message that if you stand up and oppose any of these projects, you are going to face the brute force of the state."

Phillip also said the clash between police and members of the Elsipogtog First Nation and their supporters, who were opposing shale gas exploration near their homes, is just the beginning.

"People are mobilizing right across this country right now, and this will not dissipate," Phillip said. "And the Harper government is obsessive in their efforts to become a world petro-power, and he will stop at nothing."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

Grand chief Stewart Phillip says the brutality of the attack on protesters in New Brunswick was a message to all opponents of pipelines. (Majula Dufresne)

Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was also at the rally in Vancouver, where he said that Canadians' reactions to this event will make this an important moment in Canadian history.

"We have been saying for decades, it's either a moment for collaboration or collision," he said.

A crowd of more than 400 then took to the streets of downtown Vancouver, blocking afternoon rush-hour traffic as they held banners, signs, and shouted chants in support of the New Brunswick protesters.

Earlier Friday, in Victoria, close to 200 people marched to the legislature in a show of support. Speakers at that event blamed New Brunswick police for escalating the situation that led to the violence.

Nasstasea Yard, who was among the demonstrators in Victoria, said the issues of fracking, First Nations rights and the government's response to protests should be of concern to all British Columbians.

"There is peaceful resistance to that happening right now all over Northern B.C., so it's very relevant for us too," she said.

Yard said many fear the provincial government's support of liquefied natural gas projects will lead to more environmental devastation by hydraulic fracking.

With files from the CBC's Tery Donnelly and Chris Brown