'GRABHER' licence plate controversy will likely be decided in court
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, April 5, 2017 7:46PM EDT
Nova Scotia’s transportation minister is standing behind a decision to rescind Lorne Grabher’s namesake licence plate, even if the province is forced to defend their actions in court.
The Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles informed Grabher they would be revoking his custom “GRABHER” plate after reviewing a complaint from the public.
Grabher’s lawyer said he is planning legal action, citing freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unless the Department of Transportation overturns the decision by Thursday.
“We aren’t going to be suing for damages or monetary compensation,” Calgary lawyer John Carpay told CTV Atlantic on Wednesday. “We just want a reversal of the government’s unjust decision.”
Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan confirmed it was a single complaint that triggered the review. He said the decision to revoke the plate reflects the best interest of Nova Scotians.
“If court is the ultimate process, then we’ll let the court do their work,” said MacLellan. “We certainly feel for the gentleman, and the family, but the reality is that there are a set of procedures and a decision making process.”
The spat over Grabher’s licence plate has drawn international attention, mainly due to comparisons to the now infamous recording in which Donald Trump – before he was president – bragged about his ability to grab women by their genitals without consequence.
Grabher said the offending plate was issued in 1991 for his father’s birthday as a way to proudly showcase their German family name. It’s since been used by three generations of Grabhers, including Lorne’s son in Alberta. Until recently, he said it’s received nothing but praise from fellow motorists.
“(From) everybody I’ve met, I’ve got the thumbs up,” he said.
Grabher said he received a letter in December from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles saying they would not be renewing his prized plate.
“While I recognize this plate was issued as your last name, the public cannot be expected to know this and can misinterpret it as a socially unacceptable slogan,” said the letter from Janice Harland, director of road safety.
According to the registrar, certain slogans featuring socially unacceptable, offensive, or words and symbols that are “not in good taste” are not accepted on personalized licence plates.
For Grabher, the issue is not about causing offense or running afoul of good taste. He said he sees it as a fight to reclaim his name.
“If I back down than they can do this to anybody,” he said. “I guess a last name doesn’t mean anything to them.”
With a report from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl