WINNIPEG — Manitoba Public Insurance has revoked a Star Trek fan's personalized licence plate after receiving complaints that its message — ASIMIL8 — is offensive to indigenous people.
Nick Troller has been driving around with the plate for two years.
It's held within a Star Trek licence frame that also bears the quotes, "We are the Borg," and "Resistance is Futile."
Troller tells CTV Winnipeg that on his favourite show, an enemy race of aliens called the Borg travel through the galaxy trying to assimilate other cultures into their own.
He says he thought the plate was funny and notes strangers and other Trek fans have complimented him and asked to take photos with the plate.
But Troller got a phone call Wednesday from a staff member at Manitoba Public Insurance who told him two people had complained that the word “assimilate” is offensive to indigenous people.
He also received a letter from MPI on Thursday demanding he "surrender" the plate immediately, telling him he can either get a new plate or a refund on the $100 charge.
“But that’s not the point,” says Troller. “We’ve become way too sensitive. You can’t say anything anymore to anybody.”
Ry Moran, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, insists the word “assimilate” is too offensive to be on a licence plate.
“For basically the entirety of this country’s history, indigenous peoples have been forcibly assimilated through really extremely destructive means and ways,” he says.
“Words like that, meant or not, have an actual impact on many people.”
MPI’s policy states that “plates cannot contain a slogan that could be considered offensive.” MPI says it takes such complaints “very seriously” and will investigate why the plate was approved in the first place.
Licence plates are property of the Crown and there is no appeal process.
Troller’s situation is reminiscent of a controversy in Nova Scotia, where a man named Lorne Grabher’s personalized GRABHER plate was revoked after a complaint that it was offensive to women.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said earlier this month that it plans to sue the Nova Scotia government over the revocation, which it sees as an infringement on freedom of expression.
The JCCF’s John Carpay said the GRABHER licence plate revocation is part of a wider trend in Canadian society.
"Canadians are becoming increasingly less tolerant of free expression," he said. "You have more and more people who believe that they have a legal right to go through life without seeing or without hearing things they find to be offensive."
(CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)