As It Happens

Nova Scotia takes away driver's personalized licence plate

The government cancels a man’s personalized plate, saying it could be interpreted as “misogynistic and promoting violence against women.” But Lorne Grabher tells As it Happens it’s simply his last name and he’ll fight the decision.
Lorne Grabher says he'll fight the decision to cancel his personalized plate. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

This story was published on March 23, 2017.  In August 2021, Lorne Grabher lost his appeal to get his personalized licence plate back from the province. And on March 17, 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his case.

Full episode transcript

For years, a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia man has displayed his last name proudly on his personalized licence plate: GRABHER. But, recently, the government revoked Lorne Grabher's plate.

In a statement provided to CBC News, Department of Transportation media relations advisor Brian Taylor wrote: "In this specific case, while we understand it is a last name, that context is not available to the general public. A complaint was received, outlining how some individuals interpret it as misogynistic and promoting violence against women. With no way to denote that it is a family name on the plate, the department determined it was in the public's best interest to remove it from circulation."

Here's part of Grabher's conversation with As it Happens host Carol Off

How did you react when you got the letter from the government that you can't use your name on your licence plate?

First of all, I thought it was joke. As I got reading the letter more, I said, "This is not a joke." Then, I became very angry. I had to call a Mr. McDonald, if I had any complaints or whatever. So, I called him and I tried to explain to him a complaint after 27 years.

I said, "Well, I'd like to inform you that my son lives in Alberta and he has it on his vehicle. He has no problem."

He turned around and said to me, "You're in Nova Scotia now. You go by our rules." 

And I said, "Is that right? Well, you have a nice day." Because I was ready to blow up.

I've never had a person come up to me and complain. Never.- Lorne Grabher

I wouldn't know, if I was looking at this licence plate, that it was your name.

Alright. But, then you could turn around and say, "Well, could it be his name?"

I could.

Many times people look at my plate and I'd be coming out and they say, "Excuse me. Is this your car? . . . Am I reading this right on your car?" 

I say, "Yes, you're reading it right . . . that's my last name." 

[They go], "Oh, that's really unique." 

And they would chuckle and walk away. I've never had a person come up to me and complain. Never.

But they've asked you about it?

Before it was taken away, I was at the Superstore. A man and woman ... same age as me, like in their late 60s, they're looking at it and looking at it. The guy is laughing. I opened up my car and he looked at me and said, "Excuse me. Don't tell me that's your name, is it?" 

said, "Yes sir. That's my name." 

He said, "My god, that's great. Have a nice day."

What are you going to do about this?

I'm going to fight as far as I can fight it . . . It's just the principle now. It's my last name. What am I supposed to do? Give up my birth certificate? Am I supposed to give up my passport? Is my wife supposed to change her consulting business? Is my daughter supposed to change her name now because she went back to Grabher? 

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.