The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, a coalition of First Nations on Vancouver Island, have successfully forced the federal government into defending Canada’s human rights record before an international tribunal.

The group has lodged a human rights complaint against Canada regarding 810,000 hectares of its traditional territory in southeast Vancouver Island that was confiscated in 1884 and handed over as a land grant to the Dunsmuir Company to build the island’s railway.

The group represents the Chemainus First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Lake Cowichan First Nation, Lyackson First Nation and Penelakut Tribe. It wants to be adequately compensated for the confiscated land, much of which is now privately owned and developed.

The human rights complaint will be heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. as early as this spring. Though the ruling is not legally binding in Canada, the treaty group is hoping to publicize Canada’s treatment of its Aboriginal peoples.