HALIFAX — A legal battle over whether Nova Scotia violated the constitution when it ruled a man’s personalized licence plate was offensive to women is expected back in court with fresh arguments on Wednesday.
Lorne Grabher had his licence plate with the text “GRABHER” — his last name — revoked last year after government officials agreed with a complainant that it was a “socially unacceptable slogan.”
Grabher’s lawyers say they’ll provide the Nova Scotia Supreme Court with an amended affidavit stating that the regulation is so vague that it violates the freedom of expression guarantee in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
His previous application argued that the provincial decision itself was unconstitutional, while the new motion goes after the law itself and claims its wording is imprecise.
“The restriction of a fundamental freedom … cannot be justified on the basis it ‘might be offensive.’ ‘Might be offensive’ provides certainty of law to neither the registrar nor the citizen,” says the legal document prepared by lawyers with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
“The requirement that laws be precise is fundamental to the rule of law and constitutionalism.”
John Carpay, a spokesman for the group, said in an interview that it’s absurd and arbitrary that an ordinary citizen’s last name should be determined to be offensive.
He says allowing the decision to stand would create wider dangers to guarantees of freedom of expression.
“The single biggest threat to freedom of expression is this notion that some people have that they have the right not to be offended. If that becomes the law of the land … then we have no more freedom of expression,” he said.
“The very purpose of freedom of expression is to allow for speech that is offensive.”