Society

Man Barred From Using License Plate With His Last Name (Photo)

| by Sarah Zimmerman

A man is moving to sue the Canadian province of Nova Scotia after he has been banned from using his personalized license plate because of his last name.

Lorne Grabher told CBC news he has had the personalized license plate "Grabher" for almost 25 years. He originally bought the plate as a gift for his father's 65th birthday. When his father died in the 1990s, he kept the plate as a tribute to his father and to his German heritage.

But the Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles has canceled Grabher's use of the plate following a single complaint. In December 2016, Grabher received a letter saying that the plate would be banned from use as the public "can misinterpret it as a socially unacceptable slogan."

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In an email to CBC, a spokesman from Canada's Department of Transportation wrote in a statement that "a complaint was received outlining how some individuals interpret [the name] as misogynistic and promoting violence against women."

The spokesman added: "With no way to denote that it is a family name on the plate, the department determined it was in the public's best interest to remove it from circulation."

Grabher was infuriated with the statement, saying the government is "discriminating" against his last name and heritage.

"I was taken aback. How can you say my name is a slogan when it is not?" said Grabher. "Where does the province of Nova Scotia and the government of Nova Scotia get the right to discriminate against a person's name?"

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On April 6, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said that they plan to file a court application later in the month, saying banning Grabher's license plate is a violation of free speech.

"If we have a right to free speech, then we do not have a right to be free from offense -- you can't have both," said president of the Justice Centre, John Carpay, to The Huffington Post.

Carpay goes on to say that the incident reflects a wider trend in Canadian society.

"Canadians are becoming increasingly less tolerant of free expression," he said. "You have more and more people who believe that they have a legal right to go through life without seeing or without hearing things they find to be offensive."

The personalized plate program, introduced in 1989, allows the Registry of Motor Vehicles to ban the use of any plates it deems to be offensive, socially unacceptable or in bad taste.

Grabher says his last name will now forever be tarnished by this incident.

"I'm not a woman hater and I don't promote violence against women. That's what they got me labeled as," he said.

Carpay says he expects the case to go to trial in the summer or fall.

Sources: CBC, The Huffington Post / Photo credit: Lorne Grabher/Facebook

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