It's unclear when the next blockbuster in the rebooted Star Trek franchise is coming out, but the hit sci-fi series has experienced a different sort of relevance this summer—in Manitoba, at least.
Provincial insurance corporation Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) has denied a Trekkie driver's request to reinstate a license plate that references Star Trek in a manner that can be construed by Indigenous individuals as being highly offensive. The symbols on Nicholas Troller's plate are arranged to read "ASIMIL8," which, in addition to being a buzzword for colonial Borg people of the Star Trek universe, triggers painful memories and thoughts of the forced assimilation process that Canada's Indigenous population has experienced at the hands of settlers.
A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Troller by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which argues that the language he has chosen to use (i.e. the word "assimilate") is not inherently offensive, and thus should not be censored. Because Troller's plate is paired with a plate holder that overtly says "WE ARE THE BORG" and "RESISTANCE IS FUTILE," his team believes that "it is clear that 'ASIMIL8' refers uniquely and exclusively to Star Trek, and is neither discriminatory nor offensive."
Indigenous activists and representatives feel that the continued use of the plate would demonstrate a glaring lack of respect and be neither allowable or appropriate from a free speech perspective.
"If Indigenous peoples feel triggered by a license plate or a sports logo, or the name of a historical figure on a building, Canadians would be best served to listen to why Indigenous peoples are triggered, and show some care and sensitivity when they express themselves," said Anishinaabe Nation member and University of Manitoba assitant professor Niigaan Sinclair. "You can't just say whatever you want to say without any worries of consequence or responsibility."