N.S. re­tiree cites ‘vul­gar’ gov­ern­ment ads in bid to get li­cence plate back

The News (New Glasgow) - - PROVINCE -

A Nova Sco­tia re­tiree who is fight­ing to re­gain a per­son­al­ized li­cence plate af­ter it was deemed un­ac­cept­able says gov­ern­ments al­low many po­ten­tially of­fen­sive phrases and names, and anony­mous com­plain­ers should not be able to take his good name from him.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment with­drew Lorne Grab­her’s li­cence plate - it reads sim­ply, “Grab­her” - af­ter of­fi­cials agreed with a com­plainant that it was a “so­cially un­ac­cept­able slo­gan.”

In an af­fi­davit filed this month in sup­port of his con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge of the de­ci­sion, Grab­her cited Hal­i­fax Wa­ter tran­sit ads head­lined “Our minds are in the gutter,” “Pow­er­ful sh*t,” and “Be proud of your Din­gle,” the last one a ref­er­ence to a prom­i­nent water­front tower.

“In my view, it is glar­ingly ar­bi­trary and hyp­o­crit­i­cal for gov­ern­ment to en­gage in such vul­gar ex­pres­sion, when I am pro­hib­ited from dis­play­ing my sur­name on a li­cence plate,” he says in the af­fi­davit, filed in Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court.

He cited “gov­ern­ment-reg­u­lated” place names in­clud­ing Dildo, Red In­dian Lake, and Blow Me Down Pro­vin­cial Park in New­found­land and Labrador; Crotch Lake and Swastika in On­tario; and Old Squaw Is­lands in Nu­navut.

He also cited Sandy Hook, Man­i­toba, say­ing the name has be­come af­fil­i­ated with gun vi­o­lence af­ter the 2012 school shoot­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in Con­necti­cut.

Grab­her’s bat­tle is sup­ported by the Al­berta-based Jus­tice Cen­tre for Con­sti­tu­tional Free­doms, which ar­gues that the word­ing of reg­u­la­tions for per­sonal li­cences are so vague they vi­o­late free­dom of ex­pres­sion guar­an­tees in the Char­ter of Rights.

Grab­her notes his fam­ily had used the plate for 27 years in Nova Sco­tia be­fore the prov­ince with­drew it on Jan. 12, 2017, and a fam­ily mem­ber con­tin­ues to use a sim­i­lar plate in Al­berta.

He says he has not in­tended to of­fend any­one, and is “pro­foundly in­sulted and hu­mil­i­ated” that his name had been deemed of­fen­sive.

“I am in­creas­ingly dis­mayed by the hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity of some peo­ple who are ‘of­fended’ by ev­ery lit­tle thing they en­counter. I am fur­ther dis­mayed that these ‘eas­ily of­fended ones’ are not con­tent only to be per­son­ally of­fended. Rather, they seem uni­formly in­clined to try to use the power of a sup­pos­edly ‘neu­tral’ state to do some­thing about their whin­ing,” he says in the af­fi­davit.

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