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Sex, Swear Words Banned On N.S. Licence Plates

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You may be a self-professed geek or an atheist, but don't try to proclaim it on a personalized licence plate if you live in Nova Scotia — you'll be turned down.

There are almost 3,000 words and combinations of letters describing race, sexual orientation, profanity, body parts, religious and political affiliations that are banned from appearing on personalized licence plates in the province, CBC News has learned.

Staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, part of the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations department, determine what can and cannot be placed on licence plates — a list that is currently 2,966 words long. The list was obtained by CBC News through the Freedom of Information Act.

Many of the banned plates have a religious base. Some of them include:

- ALLAH

- GOD

- HINDU

- JESUS

- JEW

- PEW

- PRAYS

- PRIEST

Also on the list is the acronym 'IXOYE,' which stands for Jesus Christ Son of God and Saviour in Greek. That was the licence plate requested by Rhonda Lynn Cormier-Clarke, a Nova Scotia woman who wanted to get the letters on the back of her Fiat.

Her request was denied by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, prompting Cormier-Clarke to complain the province was infringing on her right to religious freedom.

Licence plates that have a political connotation appear to have also been banned. Some of these include:

- IRA

- MAOIST

- PREMIER

- TORY

- NDPER

- WEH8NDP

- WEH8PCS

Who decides what's banned?

Paul Arsenault, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, said there is a step-by-step process to approve personalized licence plate requests.

Clerks first check the request against the master list of banned plates.

"If that was on the list of names that we don't allow, that would be an immediate rejection of the application," Arsenault said.

Nova Scotia assembled the list from plates banned in other jurisdictions such as British Columbia and Ontario, and have added to the list as more and more Nova Scotians requested plates that included profanity, or language that was deemed sexist, racist, discriminatory or had a religious or political slant.

See the list for yourself:

If a person's request does not appear on the list, clerks review it and if there's nothing obviously objectionable, the plate is approved.

If there are questions about whether or not the request meets the province's standards, the plate is put on hold and forwarded to an office where a staff member discerns whether the plate would be acceptable — often by consulting the internet.

"There are some websites that we would use, Urban Dictionary comes to mind as one that they would check for modern slang," said Arsenault.

The registrar said staff members resort to the internet dictionary because many requests involve modern slang that may be difficult for them to decipher.

"Most of the names that we get are pretty straightforward," Arsenault said.

"It's the ones that would come in that have — I will call it coded letters — that might be the ones we have to run through."

In some cases, controversial plate approvals can't be decided by the licensing office's appointed staff member. In that case, requests land on the registrar's desk, where Arsenault has the final say.

"It comes down ultimately to what we think is the proper words on the plate," he said.

"It's not black and white."

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