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Editorial: Name shame

Published on May 19, 2017

Lorne Grabher holds his license plate which he is no longer allowed to have on his car because of the spelling of his last name. March 23, 2017. Chronicle Herald photo.

When does political correctness supersede common sense? Or personal rights?

Those questions will soon be sorted out in a Nova Scotia court, and while it may not result in any changes to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it could have implications that are farther-reaching than just that one courtroom.

If the Grabher name is unacceptable on a licence plate, what’s next on the banned list? Where does it end?

Lorne Grabher of Dartmouth is hoping it will at least result in a favourable verdict for his family.

He wants his name back and its honour restored.

For 27 years, the Grabher family name was proudly proclaimed on personalized licence plates. Lorne is proud of his Austrian-German heritage and his son carries on the family tradition in Alberta.

The trouble began in late 2016 when there were two public complaints that the plate’s message was offensive to women. The Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles agreed and cancelled the plate, which had been in use for almost a generation.

Grabher, a retired corrections officer, is not advocating assaulting women or supporting sexual misconduct. His name is not a slogan. Grabher said he put the family name on the licence plate decades ago as a gift for his father's birthday.

Grabher is seeking justice in Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court. He is supported by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which argues that revoking the plate is discriminatory and strips Grabher of his Charter rights to free expression.

Grabher family members are said to be “deeply offended and humiliated.”

A provincial spokesperson said the rejection of Grabher’s licence plate wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the controversy caused by obscene comments made by Donald Trump before he was president, in which he referenced grabbing women by the crotch.

Of course it was. If Trump hadn’t made the inflammatory comments, it’s unlikely that this case would have cropped up.

Encouraging and welcoming diversity is a hallmark of being Canadian. Ethnic groups and their family names are important components of Canadian history and culture.

Yet the Grabher name has been denounced as a socially unacceptable slogan, hateful towards women, misogynistic and promoting violence against females.

If the Grabher name is unacceptable on a licence plate, what’s next on the banned list? Where does it end? How can there be moral outrage over a surname?

It’s time to stop harassing and discriminating against law-abiding citizens. There are more important issues to worry about in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada than wasting taxpayers’ money on a senseless courtroom battle. This sounds frivolous and vexatious.

Family member Tracey Grabher has joined the fray. In a Facebook post she joked, “I’m still looking for a Hiscock. Tracey Grabher-Hiscock has a nice ring to it.”

Lorne Grabher doesn’t want an apology.

He just wants his licence plate.

Though Nova Scotia would be well advised to give him both.