Apegga1c.gif (2007 bytes) The PEGG
May, 1999
Page 17 CCPE Report

What’s In a Name?

By Dan Levert, P.Eng., LL.B.

Dan Levert is President and CEO of
the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers.

For more than three years, the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) and the Association of Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland (APEGN) have been engaged in a dispute with Memorial University of Newfoundland over its use of the words "software engineering" to describe an undergraduate computer science program.

Memorial has refused all requests by CCPE, APEGN and its own Faculty of Engineering to change the name of this program, even though the university has stated publicly that the program is not an engineering program and its graduates will not have the academic qualifications required to be registered as professional engineers in Canada and practice engineering.

In 1997, when our initial efforts to resolve the name issue failed, CCPE and APEGN took legal action against Memorial to defend the term "engineering," which has been an official mark of CCPE since 1989. Memorial responded by acquiring official mark status for the term "software engineering". As a result, anyone wishing to use the term "software engineering" in Canada must first obtain Memorial’s permission. The litigation between CCPE and APEGN, the plaintiffs, and Memorial, the defendant, over Memorial’s misuse of the term "software engineering" goes to trial in September 1999. Approximately 70 per cent of Memorial’s legal costs are being paid by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), which says Memorial should have the academic freedom to name its programs as it sees fit. A decision in the case is expected in March or April of 2000.

In February, in an effort to resolve the dispute and demonstrate to the University the seriousness with which the engineering profession takes the name issue, APEGN removed its consent for accreditation evaluations to be conducted on MUN’s bona fide engineering programs, which are offered in MUN’s Faculty of Engineering. Memorial was informed of APEGN’s decision before it was made public, and advised that consent would be reinstated immediately if the university agreed to change the name of its software program and abandon its trademark on the term "software engineering". If this did not occur, the accreditation of the programs would expire on June 30, 1999.

Memorial not only refused to change the name of its program, it filed an application asking the Supreme Court of Newfoundland to quash APEGN’s decision. This case was heard April 15, 1999, in St. John’s. The judge ruled in Memorial’s favour based on what he described as a "functional and practical analysis" of the Engineers and Geoscientists Act. Essentially, the judge ruled that the "intent and structure" of the Act "poses a duty on APEGN, owed to Memorial University, to consider for approval those programs offered by Memorial to support the grant of a degree in engineering. . ." and that there is "an implicit obligation on APEGN, upon request by the University, to consider whether or not the engineering degree programs meet the profession’s academic requirements, in whole or in part."

APEGN is currently considering an appeal of the ruling, which clearly has serious implications for the profession of engineering and Newfoundland and Labrador, and may impact engineering’s other 11 provincial and territorial regulatory associations.

The significance of the software engineering name issue with Memorial cannot be overstated. Unless the name is changed, graduates of Memorial’s "honours in software engineering" program will inevitably call themselves "software engineers" and compete in the job market with fully qualified bona fide software engineers. This will create confusion in the minds of both employers and the public, and make it more difficult for APEGN to fulfil its statutory obligations to protect the public by ensuring that only fully qualified individuals use the title engineer and practice engineering. Memorial’s purported adoption of an official mark will also make it difficult for APEGN to regulate the use of the term "software engineer".

Equally important, the "software engineering" name issue may only be the tip of the iceberg. If Memorial retains its official mark on the term "software engineering," the door will be open for others to acquire official marks on other engineering-related terms, which would erode the value of an engineering degree and the title engineer.

I encourage all engineers to stand firmly behind APEGN in this fight, and to support your engineering association in the actions it may take in the future to prevent similar situations from occurring in your province. 

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