Can a name be offensive? Ask the Grabher family

This plate was recently spotted in HRM. Will the owner of the “GRABBER” plate find themselves in the same boat as Mr. Grabher? Photo credit: Peter Twohig.

This plate was recently spotted in HRM. Will the owner of the “GRABBER” plate find themselves in the same boat as Mr. Grabher? Photo credit: Peter Twohig.


Lorne Grabher was back in the news this week after police told him to remove an out-of-province license plate bearing his controversial last name. Nova Scotia law requires valid plates mounted on the back of a vehicle only; the plate in question was an expired Alberta plate mounted on his front bumper.

Mr. Grabher feels he has been “red-flagged” because he is fighting with the Province about his Nova Scotia plates. Mr. Grabher had been using a Nova Scotia vanity plate with his name on it until a complaint that the plate was offensive caused it to be revoked by Registrar of Motor Vehicles last December. The plate was originally registered by his father 27 years ago.

Mr. Grabher is challenging that decision in NS Supreme Court with the help of The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. They argue that his Charter right to free expression is being infringed by the license plate revocation.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles has a long list of words and phrases deemed unacceptable which are not allowed on vanity plates. The government agency claims that the general public would not necessarily know that the plate was a name and that it could be interpreted as an “unacceptable social slogan.”

Mr. Grabher can probably lay some blame for his situation on Donald Trump. It is hard not to think that Donald Trump’s comments about grabbing women has made this is an issue that captures the public’s attention.

The kerfuffle has gotten a lot of media local and international media attention which will no doubt continue until the court decides whether or not Mr. Grabher will get his personalized license plate back.

Mr. Grabher will have his day in court June 6th. Do you think that this is a case of stifling free speech or is this a reasonable exercise of power in the highly regulated area of driving?

If you have any questions about disputes you can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.

-Dianna M. Rievaj - Managing Lawyer

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