A Native American group in British Columbia has won a ruling by the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that will likely lead the federal government to defend its record on indigenous land rights at an international tribunal that the commission will set up later this year.
The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, whose traditional territory consisted of nearly 750,000 acres of land on the east coast of Vancouver Island, contends that Canada has continuously violated tribal members’ human rights since it converted the tribe’s land to private property in an 1884 land grant to a railway company. According the group’s website, their goal is to secure the titles to tribal lands and regain control over local resources. The group is also seeking compensation for the territory it claims was illegally taken from its members.
At the heart of the case is the issue of whether the current British Columbia treaty process and Canada’s judicial system are effective in protecting Hul’qumi’num land rights. Observers note that the ruling could ultimately change the future of the land claims treaty process in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada.