A file photo of the highway outside Hay River in November 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Last Wednesday, Omar Hajam’s car broke down outside Hay River’s ski club. When he returned to fix it on Saturday, he described finding the rear window smashed and his veteran’s licence plate stolen.
Hajam knew there was a risk associated with leaving his car on the side of the highway for a couple of days, but hoped it would be OK until he was able to make it back with the parts he’d ordered to fix it.
“I thought it was kind of vulgar,” he said of the theft, which happened a little more than week after Remembrance Day – “one of those days where you just don’t go there.”
The NWT’s veterans’ licence plates retain the territory’s unique polar-bear shape (Nunavut discontinued a similar design in 2012), but uses red instead of blue and bears the designation VET.
The polar-bear plates have long been a sought-after commodity and prone to theft.
Veteran plates are available to anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces or those of its Commonwealth or wartime allies for a minimum of three years, those who served in the Merchant Navy during wartime, or those who took part in Nato peacekeeping missions with the Canadian Armed Forces.
“I just thought, veteran… like, that’s a little bit low,” Hajam said. “It was a little bit hurtful.”
Hajam has reported the damage and theft to the RCMP, and already has a new plate on the way from the Department of Infrastructure.
Because his first veteran’s plate – VET364 – has been declared stolen, he had to get a new number.
While he’d like to get the original plate back, he knows finding it likely isn’t at the top of the police’s priority list.
“I think this would be more of a community effort than the police thing,” he said.
He hopes that if anyone sees the plate around, they’ll let the police know.