MPI resolves personalized license plate cases

MPI resolves personalized license plate cases | Insurance Business Canada

MPI resolves personalized license plate cases

Two cases involving personalized license plates have been resolved, with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) allowing one driver to keep his custom plate and barring another.

Bruce Spence of Winnipeg had challenged MPI’s recall for his license plate earlier this year, which read “NDN CAR” in reference to the 1992 folk-rock song NDN Kars by Keith Secola. The insurer initially said that the plate “may be considered offensive,” but the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced that MPI had settled out of court with Spence and returned the plates.

“I’m feeling vindicated right now,” Spence told CBC News in an interview.

The settlement did not involve any money, the Justice Center noted in its release Thursday.

“It’s all about the principle of the matter. It’s about free speech and it’s about people being able to express things that mean a lot to them,” said Justice Centre lawyer James Kitchen.

MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley revealed that the decision to return Spence’s plates was based on his appeal. The insurer had also reached out to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which confirmed that “NDN” is not an offensive term.

“Taking all that into consideration and into account, we wanted to do what was right, so we returned the plate to Mr. Spence,” Smiley said.

However, another personalized license plate case was turned down – specifically the case involving a Manitoban Star Trek fan and his “ASIMIL*” plate.

Nicholas Troller maintained that the plate was a reference to the Borg aliens in Star Trek, which were infamous for assimilating others into a hive mind. MPI had revoked the license plate in 2017, saying it was offensive to Indigenous people due to the history of government assimilation policies.

Read more: MPI refuses to reinstate Star Trek-themed license plate

A Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled on October 22, 2019 that MPI’s decision to revoke the alien-themed plate was a “justifiable limit” on his right to free expression, the Justice Centre revealed.

Kitchen believes that personalized license plate cases will continue to grow in number over time.

“It’s going to continue until governments decide where to draw the line, and right now they’ve drawn the line pretty far deep into the territory of censorship,” the lawyer said.

Read more: Legal battle over “socially unacceptable” license plate reignites

CBC News reported that the Justice Centre is also representing Lorne Grabher, whose “GRABHER” license plate in Nova Scotia has been revoked.