Star Trek-themed 'ASIMIL8' vanity plate insensitive, has to go: Manitoba Public Insurance

Star Trek fan Nick Troller says he is "upset and hurt" after Manitoba Public Insurance recalled his "ASIMIL8" licence plate — which he says is a Star Trek reference, but which others have argued is insensitive.

Nick Troller has been driving around for almost 2 years with Star Trek reference on his licence plate

Nick Troller's ASIMIL8 plate has been deemed offensive by Manitoba Public Insurance, which says it could suggest past attempts to assimilate Indigenous people. (CBC)

Standing in his Winnipeg driveway, Nick Troller dusts off his vanity licence plate for what may be one of the last times.

Manitoba Public Insurance received a complaint about his Star Trek-themed vanity licence plate that reads "ASIMIL8" — and is now recalling it. 

"I'm very disappointed that they're going to take my plate away from me. I struggled to figure it out and, I don't know, it's not very good. I'm upset and hurt," said Troller.

Troller said it took months to come up with his custom plate, sorting through different themes and characters from the Star Trek franchise and trying to figure out a clever combination of letters and numbers that would fit on the licence plate.

He said he doesn't understand why after almost two years of driving around with the plate he has to return it now.

"They said that it was hurting other people and I didn't understand why because looking at the plate, and being a fan of the TV show Star Trek, I don't see anything there that would hurt anybody. If you were a fan you would understand it," said Troller.

He argues the plate is a reference to the Borg, a villainous alien race that threatened Star Trek heroes with the phrase, "You will be assimilated."

Not everyone agrees with Troller. A post about the plate is circling on social media and there are multiple comments calling the plate insensitive in an era of Truth and Reconciliation, and in light of Canada's history of trying to assimilate Indigenous people.

MPI wouldn't speak to this specific claim but a spokesperson told CBC that all personalized licence plate requests are reviewed against established guidelines and that plates deemed to be offensive can be recalled by the registrar of motor vehicles.

MPI also said personalized licence plates cannot include any profane or sexually suggestive language, racial or alcohol/drug-related words, or phrases or innuendo that may be considered offensive or suggestive. Political messages of any description in any language are also not allowed.

A similar incident happened earlier this year in Nova Scotia, where a man had his personalized licence plate pulled after one complaint about it.

Lorne Grabher's licence plate read "Grabher" for 25 years, until it was deemed too rude for the road.

Troller said he can sympathize with how some may have perceived his plate but defended it because of the accompanying stickers on his plate that he said put it in context.

Stickers on the frame around his plate read "We are the Borg," and "Resistance is Futile" — phrases also used in the TV show when the Borg are attempting to assimilate other races.

"You're taking the whole thing out of context and if you're looking at the plate itself you can see the context that it's in, and that's not anything to do with anything but that. And that makes it a little frustrating," said Troller.

Troller said he is also frustrated he wasn't given a chance to try to explain what the plate means. 

"They had two complaints and … that's it, I lost it. Anybody who has a plate that is questionable, if somebody complains, you lose it," said Troller.

Troller has until May 1 to turn in his plates. He said at this point he just wants to be able to keep one of the plates to add to his Star Trek collection.

MPI recalls Star Trek-themed vanity licence plate

5 years ago
Duration 2:02
Manitoba Public Insurance received a complaint about Nick Troller's Star Trek-themed vanity licence plate that reads "ASIMIL8" — and is now recalling it.