Vanity licence plate battles in Canada
His name is David Assman, the family name is Germanic in origin and pronounced “Ossman”.
In English however it could be misconstrued. That’s the opinion of the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) which issues vehicle licence plates in the prairie province.
When the province began issuing so-called “vanity” plates, Dave applied for one with his family name, but SGI refused saying it was an unacceptable slogan. Mr Assman challenged that saying it’s not a slogan or offensive, it’s his name, but his appeal was almost immediately denied.
Not someone to be denied, he arranged for a giant replica of a Saskatchewan licence plate, complete with the four bolt holes. SGI and police say there’s nothing illegal about the giant replica plate on the back of his truck.
Over in the neighbouring province of Manitoba, a Star Trek fan had his vanity licence plate revoked. The plate refers to the “borg” on the science fiction show and Nick Troller had the plate since 2015 and renewed in 2016 without problem.. The plate holder on his vehicle is clearly marked with the borg slogans’ “We are the borg” and “resistance is futile”.
A woman in Ontario complained to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), alleging it was offensive in light of Canada’s history of assimilation policies with the Indigenous peoples.
MPI immediately ordered the return of the plate. Troller is challenging the decision in court saying it has nothing to do with historical issues and Indigenous people and that by recalling the plate his right to free expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That case is ongoing.
Out on the east coast in Nova Scotia, another Germanic family name has come under fire as well. Lorne Grabher’s plate “GRABHER” was recalled following an anonymous complaint claiming it promoted violence against women.
The plate, which had been on family vehicles since 1991, was revoked in 2016.
Lorne Grabher took the case to court and won a small victory along the way. McGill professor Carrie Rentschler, who has expertise in communications and gender studies, claimed in court that the plate referenced a controversial comment by U.S President Trump and supports violence against women. Grabher’s lawyer argued that there was no consideration that it was a family name, and should be inadmissible. The judge awarded court costs in that issue to Grabher. The case continues.
In a somewhat related case, Ontario Provincial Police are hoping to return these licence plates to their owner. The stolen plates were found on a Maserati being driven by a 17 year-old who was stopped for excessive speeding.