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The centre is currently representing a Nova Scotia man named Lorne Grabher, whose GRABHER plate was revoked, in a case before the province’s Appeal Court.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

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Sunflower Highway, art initiative to connect Fraser Valley, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan

Sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials will be installed on public art trails

Residents warned to stay away from flooded Cache Creek park

Water might look shallow, but is several feet deep in places

Ashcroft receives grants to get new hot tub and lift station

‘The hot tub is a major benefit for many residents’

Cache Creek gets funding for improvements on Old Cariboo Road

Work will help to mitigate damage from water and debris flows during flooding

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Large rogue floating ‘island’ corralled by Lac la Hache residents

At least 60 feet wide, this large mass of plants is free-floating on the lake

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

Most Read