Nova Scotia man loses legal bid to reclaim GRABHER personalized licence plate

Lorne Grabher has lost his bid in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to reclaim his GRABHER vanity licence plate.

“I’m not giving up. I’m in it for the long haul,” Grabher said in a phone interview Friday.

He said he’d pursue appeals up to the Supreme Court of Canada if that’s what it takes.

Grabher applied for the plate for his father approximately 27 years ago as a celebration of his family name. 

When his father moved to Alberta, the plate was transferred to him. 

Plate revoked in 2016

But late in 2016, the Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles revoked Grabher’s licence plate due to a public complaint. 

Officials agreed the plate could be interpreted as encouragement to grab a woman without her consent. 

Grabher appealed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia saying banning his name from a licence plate violated his charter rights to equality and freedom of expression. 

“And it’s just the principle. I put my name on everything else and there’s no problem,” he said. 

“It’s not the licence plate. It’s the name. They’re using it as a word. It’s not a word, it’s my name,” he said. 

Subject to interpretation

In a written decision on Friday, Justice Darlene Jamieson upheld the province’s right to revoke the plate. 

In her decision, Jamieson wrote that without context, the licence plate GRABHER can be interpreted as promoting sexualized violence. 

“Preventing harm that could flow from such a message on a government plate must be seen as pressing and substantial,” she said. 

She said Grabher is not facing discrimination due to his Austrian-German heritage. 

“The registrar’s actions indicate that anyone with the personalized plate ‘GRABHER’, regardless of their national or ethnic origin, would be denied such a plate,” Jamieson said. 

“The plate was recalled because the seven letters “GRABHER” could be interpreted as a socially unacceptable statement (grab her), without the benefit of further context indicating this was Mr. Grabher’s surname,” she said. 

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