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Grabher to appeal ruling that upheld revocation of personalized licence plate

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia man plans to file an appeal of a court ruling that upheld the province's decision to revoke a personalized licence plate that bears his surname — Grabher.
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HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia man plans to file an appeal of a court ruling that upheld the province's decision to revoke a personalized licence plate that bears his surname — Grabher.

Lorne Grabher says the province infringed on his freedom of expression, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said that constitutionally protected right does not extend to government-owned plates.

The Nova Scotia plate, which Grabher had for nearly 30 years, was revoked in 2016 by the province's Registrar of Motor Vehicles after the agency received a complaint from a woman who said it promoted hatred toward women.

In January, Justice Darlene Jamieson decided that licence plates are not "public spaces" with a history of free expression.

The judge also said the registrar recalled the plate because it could be interpreted as a socially unacceptable statement without the benefit of further context that licence plates can't provide.

"This decision is not about whether Mr. Grabher's surname is offensive — it is not," Jamieson wrote.

"The primary function of a licence plate is not expression but is identification and regulation of vehicle ownership. A licence plate by its very nature is a private government space."

The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is supporting Grabher, says there is no evidence that anyone has ever committed a sexual assault because they saw Grabher's licence plate.

"The plate is an expression of the Grabher's family pride over three generations, reflecting their German-Austrian roots and heritage," the centre said in a statement released Monday.

"There was no evidence that anyone, including the anonymous complainant, had suffered any harm as a result of the plate. There is no evidence that censoring Mr. Grabher’s name after 27 years of use on a license plate makes anyone safer."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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