Tomas Manasek, 68, with his personalized licence plate. (The Canadian Press)

Alberta registrar reverses rejection, man gets to have ‘FREE AB’ licence plate

Am initial rejection letter said the plate didn’t fit within the department’s guideline

Tomas Manasek says he’s thrilled that his beliefs about Alberta independence didn’t end up costing him his personalized FREE AB licence plate.

Manasek, who is 68, has lived in Calgary for the last 35 years. He escaped from a repressive regime in Communist Czechoslovakia in 1977.

Now he’s won a battle to get a licence plate initially rejected by the Alberta Registrar of Motor Vehicles. A rejection letter said the plate didn’t fit within the department’s guidelines.

“They said it doesn’t fit with the guidelines of the program and that they have a right to refuse anything deemed inappropriate. I guess asking for freedom and democracy is deemed inappropriate,” Manasek said.

Manasek, an Alberta Independence Party candidate in last year’s provincial election, fought the ruling with help from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

“This plate is not offensive. It’s not vulgar, so I fail to see any reasons for the rejection,” he said Thursday as he held up his FREE AB licence plate under his chin at his home in southwest Calgary.

“My personal views shouldn’t make a difference. I think our democracy is strong enough to be generous. I’m entitled to my views and I am entitled to promote them.”

Anger over the reelection of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with frustration over delays in completing a pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, sparked an uptick in western alienation sentiment last fall. Some called for Alberta to separate from the rest of Canada.

James Kitchen, a lawyer with the Justice Centre, said the reversal in the plate decision shows that in a free province like Alberta, FREE AB belongs on a licence plate.

“This is a pretty innocuous expression. Free expression is on this guy’s side,” he said.

Kitchen previously lost a court challenge against Manitoba Public Insurance, which had revoked the ASIMIL8 plate of an avid “Star Trek” fan because of a complaint that it was offensive to Indigenous people.

The Justice Centre won the case of a Manitoba Indigenous man, who wanted his NDN CAR plate returned.

The centre is currently representing a Nova Scotia man named Lorne Grabher, whose GRABHER plate was revoked, in a case before the province’s Appeal Court.

Kitchen said the FREE AB case doesn’t belong with the others.

“The other three all have something about them where people could say, ‘I could see why somebody could get upset about that,’” he said.

“This one? I mean how can you get upset about a free Alberta?”

Manasek was low key about his victory.

“I’m quite happy,” he said with a smile.

“I will celebrate when Alberta becomes a republic.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Column: One parenting book certainly doesn’t fit all

Like the fingerprints they are born with – each child is different.… Continue reading

Ryga Arts Festival to include virtual and in-person events

Arts festival in Summerland will run from Aug. 15 to 23

Okanagan and Shuswap MPs want federal funds to help stop invasive species

Concerns raised that spending favours Eastern Canada.

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

COVID-19: Homeless to be relocated from temporary Okanagan shelter

Homeless shelters in Vernon have been combined into one site at the curling rink since April

Dozens of fish die at popular lake near Chase

A few natural phenomena are possible causes for their deaths.

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

Most Read