Man's vanity plate deemed offensive
Vanity licence plates can be witty, cute or funny, but they’ve also attracted their share of controversy.
The most recent was the case of a Manitoba man and big Star Trek fan who wasn’t allowed to keep his personalized ASIMIL8 plate. Nick Troller got the plate in 2015 featuring the show’s well-known words from the alien race the Borg. He put the ASIMIL8 plate in a border that stated: “We are the Borg” and “Resistance is futile.” He then drove around with it for two years.
Things changed in 2017 following a complaint by an Ontario woman. She posted a photo of the plate on Facebook and complained to Manitoba Public Insurance the plate was offensive because of the history of government assimilation policies. It was then revoked by MPI. Troller then challenged the decision saying it violated his Charter rights and violated his freedom of expression.
According to The Canadian Press, Manitoba Justice lawyer Charles Murray told court recently that licence plates are owned and issued by Manitoba Public Insurance, and the insurer cannot be divorced from a historical context of “cultural genocide.”
Assimilate, whether in the sense of a fictional alien race or the real history of Indigenous people in Canada, is “talking about wiping out the uniqueness of people,” Murray said.
James Kitchen, lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, argued on behalf of Troller. Kitchen told court that Troller drove around for nearly two years with the plate on his vehicle without any complaints. In fact, Kitchen said, many people asked Troller for photos with the plate.
“The word assimilate is just a word,” the lawyer argued.
Documents filed in court show multiple emails between MPI officials trying to understand how the licence plate was approved in the first place. The ASIMIL8 plate was considered by a five-person committee. Internet searches were done on its meaning and it was issued without any concerns.
The judge reserved his decision.
Plates are denied for a variety of reasons, including if they are offensive, suggestive, discriminatory or include racial or ethnic slang. They are the property of the Crown and can be recalled at any time.
A man in Nova Scotia who made international headlines is also to be in court this month over a personalized licence plate. Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his “GRABHER” plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint. The name, of German origin, is pronounced ‘Grabber.’
Saskatchewan Government Insurance recently denied Dave Assman (pronounced Oss-man) a licence plate with his last name on it. In response, he put a large “ASSMAN” decal designed to look like a licence plate on the back of his pickup truck.
In Ontario, you can review how to choose an acceptable personalized plate here: guidelines