First Nation man in Manitoba told to lose ‘NDN CAR’ licence plate

Manitoba Public Insurance has revoked this ‘NDN CAR’ licence plate. (Submitted photo)

A Cree man from Manitoba is losing his personalized licence plate after someone complained it was “offensive.”

Bruce Spence of Winnipeg obtained the “NDN CAR” vanity plate about seven years ago but Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) is now revoking the plate.

“Your slogan ‘NDN Car’ has been identified in our review as phrases or innuendoes that may be considered offensive,” the Crown corporation’s Licensing Services Department said in a February 7 letter to Spence.

“As a result, it is now being recalled as it is prohibited, as per our guidelines.”

Spence, who is a producer at APTN News, disagrees with that assessment.

“I didn’t know how it could be offensive,” he said. “Everybody in Indian Country knows that song.”

The licence plate is a nod to Spence’s heritage and “the Native American national anthem” – the Indian Cars song by Keith Secola and the Wild Band of Indians.

“People ask for pictures of the car or with the car,” said Spence, noting he first had an “an Indian car” when he obtained the plate.

“The bumper was taped up. The muffler was OK; it was old.”

Spence has since updated his ride to a Toyoto Prius but said he still gets honks of appreciation.

He has until February 21 to surrender the plate and accept a $100 refund for what he originally paid for it.

A decision he called “heavy handed and unfair.”

Watch Keith Secola perform Indian Cars on APTN. 

MPI said personalized plates can’t include any “profane, sexually suggestive, racial/ethnic slang, religious or alcohol/drug-related words, phrases or innuendoes that may be considered offensive, suggestive or discriminatory, promote violence, or contain political messages of any description, in any language.”

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the corporation was reviewing personal plates after controversy erupted around another Winnipeg man’s Star Trek-inspired ‘ASIMIL8’ plate.

He said MPI received complaints from Indigenous people who found the message offensive and the plate was revoked.

Smiley said Nick Troller of Winnipeg, who had the vanity plate for two years, is now challenging MPI’s decision in court.

A similar argument broke out in Nova Scotia after Lorne Grabher’s personalized licence plate, which reads “GRABHER,” was deemed offensive to women.

And, in Saskatchewan, a man named Dave Assman was twice denied a vanity plate after Saskatchewan Government Insurance called his surname an “unacceptable slogan.”

Smiley said NDN CAR could be derogatory – not complimentary – in some situations.

“We’re trying to be fair on this but again we’re into a culture and a society now where sensitivity is at an all-time high, so we’re going to err on the side of caution on this stuff now.”

Smiley said a committee helps set the guidelines but the final word belongs to the province’s registrar of motor vehicles.

“The plates are owned by the province. If they want to call the plate back that is their right,” he said.

“There really is no appeal system in place.”

Spence, the son of an Indian residential school survivor, is disappointed in MPI’s decision in “this age of reconciliation.”

He said “that settlers want to reconcile with us on their terms” yet he can’t express himself on a personal licence plate.

 

 

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.

112 thoughts on “First Nation man in Manitoba told to lose ‘NDN CAR’ licence plate

  1. This story is Walking-Eagle worthy!!! So funny, really. (Assman!!! Hahaha). We all have bigger fish to fry, more than ever we need a sense of humour, and I respect this NDN man’s right to his :o). And a shout-out to the original musician who wrote the song: like an earlier commentor wrote- more Indigenous-made music on the airwaves please!!

  2. It’s too bad this licence plate issue and people being overly sensitive has turned into a conversation about race …
    But I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments

  3. What happened to freedom of speech?!? Freedom of expression?!? And sense of humour!?! Geez Canada!!! Get over yourselves!!

    1. Canada has never had freedom of speech. Because there is no overriding constitutional protection, the Canadian government can restrict speech when they want.

  4. You know,
    We say we have become a tolerant people but we have missed the most important thing. The only way to ensure tolerance is to be intolerant to intolerance.

  5. U can put ndn on a plate but it s ok to call a baseball team cleaven Indians…. or a hockey team black hawks…. and the list goes on … only bcuz an native has t on his car it s not ok …….hummm

  6. Response to Jason. If you refer to the fact that you were born in Canada, here is an alternate view. Unless your parents, grandparents, and so on, were indigenous peoples to these lands…you would not be a native Canadian, like the majority of the Canadian population. The term “settlers” would refer to even my family that immigrated 3 generations ago, building Canada’s infrastructure as engineers, doctors, teachers, and tradesmen. We knew that this was not our native land, and so we were grateful to any native person who shared wisdom, knowledge, or just a kind gesture. We are all merely guests on this planet, “renting” use of lands & oceans, hopefully being the good stewards of this earth we know we should be. Just as we would not dessimate a rented hotel room, we teach our children to make choices that will not harm our planet, to look in their hearts, to be kind and thankful to those they encounter on thrir life journey. Just a different perspective. Wishing you kindness.

    1. Well said; if only the majority of the world population thought in this way our planet & all life would be the better for it.

  7. This is so stupid. They didnt think there was anything wrong with the plate when they took his money. I think they should give face value of it now. You cant do or say anything unless you land your self in hot water someone is always upset about stupid crap.

  8. I think that this whole world is over sensitive and offended by the smallest thing. You see something out of the corner of you eye and turn to look you offended someone with your tone of look. If this is going to be such an issue than Don’t offer vanity plates anymore problem solved or wait someone will fine the random collection of number and letters offensive

  9. If people of African heritage can use “the N word” should it not be acceptable for an Indigenous Canadian to use “the I word”?

  10. An Indian car?-,,bumper was taped, muffler ok, and it was old. Upgraded to a white man’s car (new). So much wrong. We can’t have it both ways.

  11. This story is Walking-Eagle worthy!!! So funny, really. (Assman!!! Hahaha). We all have bigger fish to fry, more than ever we need a sense of humour, and I respect this NDN man’s right to his :o). And a shout-out to the original musician who wrote the song: like an earlier commentor wrote- more Indigenous-made music on the airwaves please!!

  12. It’s too bad this licence plate issue and people being overly sensitive has turned into a conversation about race …
    But I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments

  13. This is so stupid. They didnt think there was anything wrong with the plate when they took his money. I think they should give face value of it now. You cant do or say anything unless you land your self in hot water someone is always upset about stupid crap.

  14. You know,
    We say we have become a tolerant people but we have missed the most important thing. The only way to ensure tolerance is to be intolerant to intolerance.

  15. What happened to freedom of speech?!? Freedom of expression?!? And sense of humour!?! Geez Canada!!! Get over yourselves!!

    1. Canada has never had freedom of speech. Because there is no overriding constitutional protection, the Canadian government can restrict speech when they want.

  16. U can put ndn on a plate but it s ok to call a baseball team cleaven Indians…. or a hockey team black hawks…. and the list goes on … only bcuz an native has t on his car it s not ok …….hummm

  17. Response to Jason. If you refer to the fact that you were born in Canada, here is an alternate view. Unless your parents, grandparents, and so on, were indigenous peoples to these lands…you would not be a native Canadian, like the majority of the Canadian population. The term “settlers” would refer to even my family that immigrated 3 generations ago, building Canada’s infrastructure as engineers, doctors, teachers, and tradesmen. We knew that this was not our native land, and so we were grateful to any native person who shared wisdom, knowledge, or just a kind gesture. We are all merely guests on this planet, “renting” use of lands & oceans, hopefully being the good stewards of this earth we know we should be. Just as we would not dessimate a rented hotel room, we teach our children to make choices that will not harm our planet, to look in their hearts, to be kind and thankful to those they encounter on thrir life journey. Just a different perspective. Wishing you kindness.

    1. Well said; if only the majority of the world population thought in this way our planet & all life would be the better for it.

  18. I think that this whole world is over sensitive and offended by the smallest thing. You see something out of the corner of you eye and turn to look you offended someone with your tone of look. If this is going to be such an issue than Don’t offer vanity plates anymore problem solved or wait someone will fine the random collection of number and letters offensive

  19. An Indian car?-,,bumper was taped, muffler ok, and it was old. Upgraded to a white man’s car (new). So much wrong. We can’t have it both ways.

  20. If people of African heritage can use “the N word” should it not be acceptable for an Indigenous Canadian to use “the I word”?

  21. Just ban all personalized plates. They are offensive to me. I couldn’t afford one so they are mocking my previous financial status. They are belittling and condescending to anyone who cannot afford them. So they should all be banned !!

    1. This is an example of people getting offended by everything, as pointed out by Jay previously. Offended because it mocks her previous financial status???!! That’s absolutely ridiculous!

  22. Call me old but i’m still trying to make up something offensive for these letters. Damned that’s what they are just 3 letters from our alphabet!

  23. As a white Canadian man who moved to Canada more than 40 years ago from South America my question is why don’t we know more artists like this? Great song!

  24. When i was in edmonton i saw a license plate that said stm frnt. Its saying “storm front” a white supremacist hate group here in canada, somehow thats ok

  25. political correctness has gotten way out of hand if this person wants that plate and he is native then let him have it what’s the big deal

  26. Just ban all personalized plates. They are offensive to me. I couldn’t afford one so they are mocking my previous financial status. They are belittling and condescending to anyone who cannot afford them. So they should all be banned !!

    1. This is an example of people getting offended by everything, as pointed out by Jay previously. Offended because it mocks her previous financial status???!! That’s absolutely ridiculous!

  27. Has the native american community not been harassed enough? Things like this are ridiculous. We should be learning from the native community not condemning it

    1. Oh my gosh, now I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. GROW UP people and try to get along. I love his license plate and he should be able to keep it.. there is nothing offensive about it.

  28. Like all things, be courageous! If YOU have any kind of beef, with anything, anywhere that anyone does/says then YOU approach and engage that person YOURSELF! Dont call the Cops, your MP, the principal, the teacher…your mommy….YOU personally address the situation that YOU take issue with. If you do not have the Decency and Courage to do so, then keep it to yourself. Thank you

    1. Wow people take this stuff to far ndn.car plate .I think this is canada .I hope .when we start saying what people can do and can not do .says goverment is taking our rights away

  29. Its too much as it doenst really hurt anyone. They are so judgemental. When you get mad at your kids doesnt mean you dont love them right?. Same thing applies to this plate its just something come on!.. does everything now needs to be a personal matter? ..too much!

  30. I think this is totally wrong. If it was some hillbilly white guy with that plate it would be offensive. As a Cree man I don’t see how the government can do this to him. Take a picture of the plate and make a sign to put in the window of the car!

    1. I’m insulted you even said hillbilly white guy . That right their is racist . But hey that’s ok . it’s cool to insult us right

    2. “A hillbilly white guy” I think that may describe me. If asked, I wouldn’t know what that plate stood for. Your just as bad as the person asked to ban the plate.

    3. I am certain that many hillbilly white guys probably have the initials ndn why do we worry about these ridiculous things when there are problems that really need addressing

  31. This crap has gone too far!
    If an “Indian” has this plate on HIS vehicle, OBVIOUSLY he’s not offended.
    I have personalized plates from OFAH, because I hunt & fish. Is this going to be deemed suggestive &/or offensive?

    1. Jason, your ignorance is offensive. We are all immigrants. Just because you’re born here,doesn’t change the fact, that you’re descended from immigrants. Indigenous people are the only true canadians

    2. Get a life bro. He didn’t call any individual names . Settlers are people who come here from other places to settle. Naturalized Citizens .
      Just be nice.

      1. that’s incorrect. i was born and raised in Canada. i have paid taxes my whole adult life to Canada. I AM CANADIAN. PERIOD!!!!!

    3. What is a Canadian???!!! Unless ur ancestors originally lived on this land before it was called “Canada” and didnt come from another country to “settle” here, u can’t claim it. A zebra born in Canada is not a Canadian Zebra, it has been displaced from its land of origin, but still very much an African Zebra!! Politricks and semantics at play here. Don’t get it twisted!

    4. Unless you come from a first nations background in Canada then you are a settler lmao, if youre not from aboriginal descent then you are an immagrant?! Literally what that means

  32. Call me old but i’m still trying to make up something offensive for these letters. Damned that’s what they are just 3 letters from our alphabet!

  33. As a white Canadian man who moved to Canada more than 40 years ago from South America my question is why don’t we know more artists like this? Great song!

  34. When i was in edmonton i saw a license plate that said stm frnt. Its saying “storm front” a white supremacist hate group here in canada, somehow thats ok

  35. political correctness has gotten way out of hand if this person wants that plate and he is native then let him have it what’s the big deal

  36. Has the native american community not been harassed enough? Things like this are ridiculous. We should be learning from the native community not condemning it

    1. Oh my gosh, now I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. GROW UP people and try to get along. I love his license plate and he should be able to keep it.. there is nothing offensive about it.

  37. Like all things, be courageous! If YOU have any kind of beef, with anything, anywhere that anyone does/says then YOU approach and engage that person YOURSELF! Dont call the Cops, your MP, the principal, the teacher…your mommy….YOU personally address the situation that YOU take issue with. If you do not have the Decency and Courage to do so, then keep it to yourself. Thank you

    1. Wow people take this stuff to far ndn.car plate .I think this is canada .I hope .when we start saying what people can do and can not do .says goverment is taking our rights away

  38. Its too much as it doenst really hurt anyone. They are so judgemental. When you get mad at your kids doesnt mean you dont love them right?. Same thing applies to this plate its just something come on!.. does everything now needs to be a personal matter? ..too much!

  39. I think this is totally wrong. If it was some hillbilly white guy with that plate it would be offensive. As a Cree man I don’t see how the government can do this to him. Take a picture of the plate and make a sign to put in the window of the car!

    1. “A hillbilly white guy” I think that may describe me. If asked, I wouldn’t know what that plate stood for. Your just as bad as the person asked to ban the plate.

    2. I’m insulted you even said hillbilly white guy . That right their is racist . But hey that’s ok . it’s cool to insult us right

    3. I am certain that many hillbilly white guys probably have the initials ndn why do we worry about these ridiculous things when there are problems that really need addressing

  40. This crap has gone too far!
    If an “Indian” has this plate on HIS vehicle, OBVIOUSLY he’s not offended.
    I have personalized plates from OFAH, because I hunt & fish. Is this going to be deemed suggestive &/or offensive?

    1. Jason, your ignorance is offensive. We are all immigrants. Just because you’re born here,doesn’t change the fact, that you’re descended from immigrants. Indigenous people are the only true canadians

    2. Get a life bro. He didn’t call any individual names . Settlers are people who come here from other places to settle. Naturalized Citizens .
      Just be nice.

      1. that’s incorrect. i was born and raised in Canada. i have paid taxes my whole adult life to Canada. I AM CANADIAN. PERIOD!!!!!

    3. What is a Canadian???!!! Unless ur ancestors originally lived on this land before it was called “Canada” and didnt come from another country to “settle” here, u can’t claim it. A zebra born in Canada is not a Canadian Zebra, it has been displaced from its land of origin, but still very much an African Zebra!! Politricks and semantics at play here. Don’t get it twisted!

    4. Unless you come from a first nations background in Canada then you are a settler lmao, if youre not from aboriginal descent then you are an immagrant?! Literally what that means

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