My spectacular licence plate, that gave a neighbour pause. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

My spectacular licence plate, that gave a neighbour pause. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Reporter’s View: Licence plate hate, on the rise

The other day I was subjected to a phenomenon that has gained prominence during the coronavirus pandemic. A phenomenon I’m calling ‘licence plate hate.’

It happened when I was taking part in Hope’s annual Trash to Treasure day. I was enjoying myself immensely, driving around to different neighbourhoods and gazing at days-to-decades-old knick-knacks people had dusted off and put outside. Kudos, by the way, to the organizers for making Trash to Treasure such a fun experience for the community – a friend of mine picked up not one, but two fishtanks in the early hours of treasure hunting.

After driving said friend reluctantly back to work, I had stopped at a pile of ‘treasure’ outside a home when another treasure hunter parked behind me to inspect the goods. I noted the barbecue looked like a good find, to which she replied “Where are you from?,” gesturing towards my licence plate. “I recently moved from the Northwest Territories,” I replied.

The Northwest Territories is known for its midnight sun (in the summer) and minus 50 windchill (in the winter). Perhaps lesser known is that the NWT has possibly the coolest licence plates in the country – shaped like a polar bear with the word ‘spectacular’ written in bold letters across the bear’s back. For those of you who like random Canada trivia, Nunavut’s licence plate’s from the years 1999 to 2012 are also polar bear shaped.

Thinking we’d start up a quick chat about how we both got to Hope, or how long she’s lived here, I was surprised when she berated for being here. “You shouldn’t be doing this” she said as she jumped in her car, rolled up her window and drove off. It was a short exchange, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

I’m not the only one who has been subjected to licence plate hate. Several people have shared their ow stories, as the coronavirus pandemic raged, of getting lambasted, spat at and threatened over their red Alberta plates. One man in Revelstoke had his car keyed and hand-written note full of expletives left on his vehicle telling him to “F**k off back to Alberta.”

And licence plate hate didn’t start with the coronavirus. I recall a similar thing happening in 2018 as Rachel Notley announced Alberta would ban the import of B.C. wine, while the two provinces were going head-to-head over their respective positions on the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

I do understand the fear that drives these actions. Yes, the coronavirus is scary and no, people shouldn’t be driving just for the hell of it.

My problem with people berating others for having out-of-province plates is threefold – it doesn’t take into account the reality of how people live in our country, it doesn’t make people safer or change their behaviour and in my opinion, it’s not the cure to pandemic virus fears.

First, the reality is that our country and our world is an interconnected place. People live, love and work in different provinces and territories. When Dr. Bonnie Henry says non-essential travel is not allowed, what she is also saying is that some people have to travel for a variety of reasons.

I’ve heard stories of B.C. residents having to pack up and move back home to Alberta, Saskatchewan and elsewhere, after losing their jobs due to the economy screeching to a halt in March. Not to mention the students, some of whom are now packing up and heading home to start their fall semesters from a parent’s living room.

I’ve heard of a retired nurse traveling back to her home province to join the ranks of healthcare workers bracing for the potential onslaught of coronavirus cases. And yes, some people live in one province and work in another. Back when Alberta was experiencing the oil boom, half the cohort of young adults from my tiny hometown on Vancouver Island migrated to the boomtowns of Fort McMurray and Grand Prairie. Some of them live there to this day.

And the reason why I’ve still got my bear plates? Well, I’m one of the poor souls who has to fork over big bucks to replace a windshield so my very close to new vehicle can pass an ICBC inspection. As others who have moved to the province will perhaps agree, if there’s anywhere to direct your expletives you’d be right to direct them to the insurance corporation monopolies of this world.

Second, we cannot prevent people from passing through our town, even though we’d like to. Hope has several highways running through town, and although we’d hope that people take it upon themselves to follow the provincial health officer’s warning and advice, not everyone will. Just like not everyone will wash their hands enough or wear a mask or stay home when they’re not sick. Policing your own actions and ensuring you do the best you can is how we get through this, I believe, rather than trying to police others.

Third, I’m not convinced that the danger of someone coming from Alberta or the Northwest Territories (where there are currently no active cases) is higher than someone coming from a metropolis like Vancouver. Danger, anyways, is the wrong word. It implies that a person has a choice of whether to catch and spread the virus when in reality, we can be as safe as possible and still be unlucky enough to come into contact with COVID-19.

The reality is that fear and hatred does not make our world a safer place. No one is an enemy in this pandemic, and we cannot let our fear of the situation rule our actions.

Some have, with awful consequences for the citizens and residents of Asian descent in this province. Vancouver police say has been a ‘staggering’ rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city ranging from grafitti on landmarks connected to the city’s Chinese community, to racial slurs and violence. For a city with such rich ties to the Asia Pacific region, and the contributions of generations of Chinese-Canadians, Japanese-Canadians and others of Asian descent, these actions are truly grotesque.

Rather than fear and gut reactions, the antidote to the fear many of us are feeling might just be to be kind to each other, to be calm in our interactions and to be safe in our actions.

Emelie Peacock is the Hope Standard’s reporter, you can reach her at news@hopestandard.com.

Coronavirushope

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

Just Posted

Garry Blanchard of Hope won $77,000 correctly guessing the outcomes of all 13 games of NFL week 17. (Photo/BCLC)
Hope resident rakes in $77,000 in NFL Week 17 bet

Garry Blanchard won the record-breaking prize correctly guessing every outcome that week

This urn was found Jan. 4 at a Yale Road bus stop and has now been returned to its owner. (RCMP photo)
RCMP find custodian of urn that was left at Chilliwack bus stop

Police say the urn contained the remains of a family’s cat

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Chilliwack ER doc runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Harrison hoping for $750K to upgrade fire hall

The renovations would include seismic upgrades, changes to social distancing for fire fighters

Keith Carlson, chair and director of the Peace and Reconciliation Centre at Univeristy of the Fraser Valley.
UFV hosts online session about interpersonal violence

Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Abbotsford holds discussion on Thursday, Jan. 21

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk past a window display at a store in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, December 13, 2020. The association representing businesses across Metro Vancouver says the costs of COVID-19 continue to mount for its members.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Greater Vancouver business organization says members face uncertain outlook in 2021

Many Greater Vancouver businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021

Most Read