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The Nova Scotia plate, which Grabher had for nearly 30 years, was revoked in 2016 by the province's Registrar of Motor Vehicles after the agency received a complaint from a woman who said it promoted hatred toward women.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