'ASIMIL8': Licence plate fight may be headed to court
A Canadian non-profit legal organization is intervening on behalf of a Star Trek fan fighting to use a personalized licence plate deemed offensive by Manitoba’s public insurance company.
Nick Troller’s licence plate with the text “ASIMIL8” was confiscated by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) in April after the Crown Corporation received complaints from two Indigenous people about its reference to the word “assimilate.” Troller was told to surrender his plate and that he could either buy a new personalized plate or receive a refund for the old one.
According to MPI’s policy, plates can’t contain words, phrases or innuendoes that “may be considered offensive.” Licence plates are the property of the Crown and there isn’t an appeal process.
Troller defended his custom plate as a simple reference to the Borg, Star Trek villains with the threatening catchphrase “you will be assimilated,” that he says is made obvious by his licence plate holder that reads: “WE ARE THE BORG. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are advocating for Troller to get the plate back, because they say MPI’s decision violates his freedom of expression.
The organization’s founder, John Carpay, says that the government has to make a choice when it comes to freedom of expression.
“Either we have the right to express ourselves to say what we think and believe or we have a right not to be offended,” Carpay told CTV Winnipeg on Tuesday. “When there’s a conflict between those two, and there always is, government ought to come down on the side of free expression.”
The JCCF said they will be filing paper work to bring the case to court after the MPI refused their request to return Troller’s licence plate.
“It’s important to hold governments accountable when they violate our freedom of expression,” Carpay said.
Troller’s predicament has drawn comparisons to another legal battle over a personalized licence plate in Nova Scotia.
Lorne Grabher had his plate with the text “GRABHER,” his last name, revoked after it was deemed offensive to women. The case attracted international headlines and is headed to court early next year thanks to the help of the JCCF.
"Canadians are becoming increasingly less tolerant of free expression," Carpay said in April. “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."
With files from CTV Winnipeg