‘GRABHER’ License Plate Hearing Wednesday, April 24 in Halifax

The Justice Centre will be in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on Wednesday April 24 to defend Dartmouth pensioner Lorne Grabher in his legal bid to reinstate his personalized license plate depicting his surname. The long-awaited hearing of Lorne Grabher v Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles commences at 10:00 a.m. at the Law Courts of Nova Scotia, 1815 Lower Water Street, Halifax. The hearing is expected to run until Friday, April 26 and is open to the public. 

Mr. Grabher posing with plate

Lorne Grabher first purchased the personalized “GRABHER” license plate as a gift for his late father in 1991.  This plate has since become a source of family pride, spanning three generations. Grabher’s son today has the family name on his own personalized Alberta license plate.

Mr. Grabher learned from the Office of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles in December 2016 that there was a complaint regarding his plate.  The Registrar then cancelled Mr. Grabher’s plate, despite acknowledging it was an explicit reference to Mr. Grabher’s surname. The Registrar claimed that the plate could be “misinterpreted” as a “socially unacceptable slogan.”

The Justice Centre wrote to the Registrar on March 31, 2017 on Mr. Grabher’s behalf, advising to reinstate the plate or face further legal action. In its letter, the Justice Centre refers to the Registrar’s decision as “discriminatory,” “arbitrary,” “unreasonable” and in violation of free expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Registrar responded on April 6, 2017, stating that it would not reinstate Mr. Grabher’s plate, thereby necessitating a legal challenge.

In the Justice Centre’s Brief , Mr. Grabher argues that the cancellation violated his freedom of expression, as well as his equality rights as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Grabher also argues that the censoring of his family’s name on the Plate, after 27 years, is unreasonable, arbitrary and an act of discrimination.

In 2018, the Crown commissioned an expert report written by Carrie Rentschler, Associate Professor of Feminist Media Studies in the department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University.  Dr. Rentschler claims that the surname Grabher is an “act of violence,” “supports violence against women,” “endangers women,” encourages rape culture, and infers or implies the words “by the pussy.”

An expert report filed by sex science researcher and columnist Dr. Debra Soh challenges  Dr. Rentschaler’s claim that “the Trump case overwhelmingly creates an interpretive framework in which people would likely interpret the phrase ‘Grabher’ as condoning and/or threatening violence against women, whether Mr. Grabher intended it to or not.”

“Exposure to a license plate alone will not lead to sexual crimes against women. A person who wants to commit a sexual offense will do so, regardless of what society’s messages are,” explains Dr. Soh, whose research includes the science of male sexual violence.

Dr. Soh’s report concludes:

“Mr. Grabher’s plate is not offensive or dangerous to women by any means, and I have found no evidence to support the idea that a license plate bearing his surname would increase rates of sexual violence against women or encourage societal attitudes supportive of sexual assault. To suggest that Mr. Grabher’s surname is ‘a statement in support of physical violence against women’ [Rentschler report] is completely unfounded.”