Nova Scotia

Critics say decision to pull Grabher licence plate is 'silly'

A prominent Halifax lawyer who's interested in civil liberties and a Conservative MP from Alberta are championing the cause of a Nova Scotia man who wants to keep using his Grabher licence plate.

'Surely a man can use his own name on a licence plate'

Walter Thompson is a lawyer whose interests include civil liberties. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

A prominent lawyer is chiding the Nova Scotia department of transportation for the "silly" decision to yank a licence plate with a man's last name — Grabher and says the government should stop bowing to political correctness. 

"They showed a certain lack of backbone," said Walter Thompson, a longtime Halifax lawyer who's interested in civil liberties.

"Surely a man can use his own name on a licence plate."

Thompson is one of the voices speaking up in support of Lorne Grabher, a Dartmouth man whose 25-year-old personalized licence plate was recently cancelled by the province's Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

'In the public's best interest'

A department spokesman said someone had complained that the plate promoted misogyny and violence against women. Without a way to indicate on a plate that Grabher is a name, "it was in the public's best interest to remove it from circulation," said the spokesman.

Thompson says that's wrong.

"Some super-sensitive, judgemental individual should not intimidate the authority of the province of Nova Scotia into telling him he can't have his licence plate."

Lorne Grabher can't believe he's no longer allowed to use his personalised license plate. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

The issue reached Parliament Hill on Friday when Conservative MP Arnold Viersen rose in the House of Commons to say "political correctness is out of control."

Free speech under attack

"Mr. Grabher came face to face with the 'I'm offended' buzz saw," said Viersen the MP for Peace River-Westlock in Alberta.

"In Canada the right to be offended is still enshrined in law, however free speech is more and more under attack," said Viersen.

He said the person who took offence should have ignored it or talked to Grabher about the plate instead of using "authority structures to shut it down."

Grabher's son Troy Grabher is now worried that his Grabher vanity plate will be banned in Alberta because of the backlash.

Thompson said people who are quick to take offence need to get a thick skin.

'Live and let live'

It's important that people with power and authority say "hold on a minute, live and let live, lets be tolerant and patient, and lets listen to one another and not try to shut down people whose speech may be found to be offensive," said Thompson. 

Some words such as profanities and insults do not belong on licence plates according to Thompson. 

But with almost every word open to misinterpretation, he says sensitivities should not be a reason to restrict freedom of speech.


Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at