First Freedoms President and CEO, Dr. Barry W. Bussey, was interviewed following a BC Court of Appeal decision, Redmond v. British Columbia (Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) 2022 BCCA 72.

The plaintiff in the case, who described himself as an atheist, wanted to build a generator on Crown land along a creek which was spiritually significant for the Cheam First Nation. The province denied his application and he sought judicial review, claiming that the refusal violated his Charter right to religious neutrality. The court disagreed, holding that the province was right to consider the religious practices of the First Nations people.

As quoted in the article, Dr. Bussey commented:

“The law seeks to find a balance, and in this particular case you’ve got legislation that is concerned with protecting the traditional rights of the First Nations people and weighing the public interest in a broad sense. And the court is correct to point out that [the plaintiff] can move on to another river that is not affected by First Nations claims and carry out his plan. […]

“We are now seeing the courts being willing to recognize the Indigenous peoples’ spiritual understanding of the land as something we need to be paying attention to — but it is still in its infancy in many ways.” 

To read the full article, see Ian Burns, “Man’s atheism not impacted by denial of licence to build hydro generator: B.C. Court of Appeal” (March 4, 2022), The Lawyer’s Daily, online: