Canada Institute of Linguistics should create an IP policy to protect member's rights.

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Canadian legal tradition has long recognized that all members of academic institutions have the legal right to own the copyright of their own works. In legal jargon this is called the "academic exception”. This is established legal practise and most institutions have public policies that recognize this right for their staff, faculty and students (examples: TWU, UBC, GIAL - now DIU). The Canada Institute of Linguistics in Langley BC (CanIL for short) does NOT have such a policy. Nevertheless, I have found more than twelve instances where former or current members have claimed copyright to their own works without any problem at all. However, in my case, things turned out differently. The president of CanIL, Danny Foster and several colleagues discriminated against me, denied me my rights and withheld legal information to manipulate me into giving up my rights to a computer program I had created entirely on my own. Please sign this petition to urge the leadership and board of CanIL to implement a written Intellectual Property policy that agrees with the long established legal tradition called the academic exception and recognize this right for all members who work, teach and study there so that no one else will have to endure what CanIL did to me.

I realize that my claim above is a strong and perhaps surprising claim, but I have documented evidence of what transpired between myself and Danny Foster and several others in the leadership at CanIL. This evidence consists of emails from Danny himself and sometimes verbal statements he and others made to me. I will show you his words and let you compare them with his actions. Click here to start reading the extensive evidence I have to back up my claims. What follows below is a shorter version. Then, PLEASE sign this petition and share it with your social network.

Why should you care?

If you are a member of CanIL, or a student there, you have a right to know what happens behind closed doors and how the president and the leadership team conduct themselves. Some of you were silent witnesses to what happened but none of you had the full picture of what actually went on. You were told what to think about my situation and in the end you were even told not to speak with me or my wife lest you hear our side of the story. Now you can find out. You have the right to read Danny’s emails for yourself and decide for yourself if he and other members of the leadership at CanIL lived up to their own policy of “abiding by the highest moral and ethical standards in accordance with Biblical principles” as well as having “scrupulous regard for the highest standards of conduct and personal integrity”.

If you are a member of Trinity Western University, either a student, staff, faculty or administration, or if you are a member of ACTS Seminaries, you also have the right to know that the leadership at CanIL has not always respected the rights of all of its members. You may be especially interested to read how Danny bizarrely (re-)interpreted Trinity Western University's IP policy. (Here is the policy.) Read the evidence and then PLEASE add your voice to this petition by signing it and sharing it with your social network.

If you are a member of Wycliffe (in any of the many countries that this organization exists), or SIL, or another partner organization you probably have heard of others who have been mistreated by leadership. Christian leaders are called to be servant leaders, following the example of Jesus Christ. We deserve such leaders, but unfortunately, we don’t always get them because not all follow his example all the time. I have heard numerous missionaries who have told me their own stories of how they themselves were mistreated by the leaders and administrators in the places they worked. Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada has a policy that states: "It is the expectation of our community that we will hold each other accountable and not ignore violations of this standard by one another. Everyone should expect that behaviors that are contrary to this policy will be addressed with appropriate disciplinary measures." Well, the reality is, that administrators protect other administrators and can give each other the freedom to violate the Standards of Conduct Statements with impunity to which they hold the rank and file accountable. Many members simply suffer in silence because they have no power and no recourse if an administrator does not back them. People with power protect other people with power. I refuse to remain silent because real people suffer real abuse from leaders who should know better because they all claim to be following the ultimate example of servant leadership. If you are a member of Wycliffe Canada you will be especially interested in how Wycliffe Canada responded to my situation. I hope this never happens to you.

If you care about social justice then read the evidence and PLEASE sign the petition and share it with your social network.

My background

I was a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada for 29 years; Fourteen years of that I worked at CanIL in Langley, BC. Before that we lived in Suriname for 10 years doing dictionary, literacy, translation and scripture publishing work as well as computer support. When we came back to Canada in 2003 our third child was severely dyslexic. She was put into grade 6 because of her age, but her reading level was around grade 1 or 2. We eventually found help for her through a tutoring agency and from that experience a dream was born in me: develop a program that can match the words and texts of any language to the reading ability of any student. There was just one small problem: I didn't know how to program a computer. So I approached my supervisor at work, Doug Rintoul, and asked him for help to create this program. He listened to my vision for about 10 minutes, then simply answered: "No, it’s too big". So I began to teach myself how to program. Eight years later I had a program that was supporting literacy efforts around the world. I was providing consulting services to projects that were sponsored by USAID and other international NGOs to improve literacy rates in entire countries. At CanIL no one cared that I was working on this program until I started to get these consulting contracts. I had directed the funds to go to CanIL after receiving promises from Larry Hayashi (VP of Admin) and Kent Royer (Finance) that the money would be used for development. Initially, in 2014, Danny promised before the entire staff of CanIL that “any revenue SynPhony generates will be used to develop SynPhony.” However, once I requested access to it is when I discovered another side to Danny. Please read the documentation I have gathered to find out what happened and how it all ended.

Why did Danny do this?

I don’t have to guess because Danny told me why to my face. He said: “The reason I’m doing this to you is to prevent jealousy.” At the end of 2014 Danny claimed that CanIL owned the copyright to my program and over the next few months repeatedly told me that if I claimed copyright it would jeopardize the charitable status of CanIL. He never provided any evidence that this had ever occured or could occur. For Danny, just the possibility of jealousy justifies breaking his promises, withholding legal information, discriminating against me, denying me my rights, misleading me, manipulation, deception, and lying, for the ultimate goal of withholding the revenue my work had generated. Jealousy has often led to that. Since the dawn of human history. For Danny, money modifies moral codes. Anyone who objects to this characterization should realize that CanIL still has the money my work has generated and has refused to release it. For Danny, not all workers are worth their wages. CanIL’s leadership team had refused three formal requests by me for help. But when it was generating income by the training services I provided to literacy projects in third world countries they then plundered that revenue as well to keep me from developing it further.

Danny hired a lawyer to clarify whether it was legal for members to claim copyright to their own works. He misrepresented CanIL to the lawyer initially, hiding the fact that CanIL is an academic institution, in order to get a verdict he wanted. (I deduced this from his emails.) He misrepresented my situation to others as well. He never informed me nor revealed what the lawyer’s opinion actually was. The day before a teleconference with the lawyer, when I gave up my rights to my program Danny wrote to me: “I sincerely hope we can move forward quickly on this so that we can get back to directing time and resources on SynPhony's development and not it's ownership!” So, in effect he said: give up your claim to own the program you wrote and then we can use the money to develop it. However, once I relinquished my rights he then continued to prevent any use of the revenue the program had generated for further development. Doug Rintoul and Larry Hayashi’s right not to be jealous trumped any commitments to the biblical principles of integrity, keeping his promises, and ethical behaviour. Could it be that they don’t know about the 9th and 10th commandments: “You shall not bear false witness” and “You shall not covet .... anything that belongs to your neighbour.”? Or 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is not … jealous”?

Danny repeatedly told me that he would like to give me the money but he can't because I’m not a “qualified donee”. That is true, I'm not. However, in the document called “Purposes of the Corporation” which legally spells out what CanIL is allowed to do as a charity, point “C” states explicitly: “to develop, fund, facilitate, promote and carry out activities and programs as well as fund and supply equipment, materials and facilities to promote literacy …” Point “D” mentions that it can “fund … programs … which provide education”. Point “E” states that it can “distribute funds and property for the purposes of the Corporation, and for and to such other organizations as are registered charities and ‘qualified donees.” He picks out one phrase that disqualifies me while ignoring several other points that would allow him to release the money. It wasn’t his hands that were tied, it was his heart. CanIL distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to students, none of whom are "qualified donees". Literacy falls squarely within the purposes of both CanIL and my program. Ironically, Danny's PhD topic is concerned with promoting mother tongue literacy efforts in third world countries.

Two of my colleagues, Larry and Doug, participated in these actions. Both of them had had their own contracts with third parties and got paid for their work, which they kept for themselves. Larry had provided data management services to UNBC to help a language group with their dictionary for more than one year; a situation very similar to mine. I heard Larry give yearly class lectures in Field Methods on how to treat language resource persons: respect their intellectual property rights and pay them well. However, both he and Doug actively worked together with Danny to deny me my rights and deprive me of the income my own work generated. Larry wrote to me on Sept 19, 2015: “Thankfully Danny is being very intentional about setting aside any Synphony monies for its development”. I don’t know where he got this from because Danny never said anything like this to me and never allowed that to happen. During the year that CanIL had ownership of the program they added absolutely no value to it. In 2014 when I had asked Larry if I could access the money to develop the program he simply told me, “No” with no explanation.

I believe that it was about a month before I signed over my ownership rights to my program that Danny’s lawyer told him that CanIL members had the right to claim copyright to their own works. He began writing that I should be the legal owner. He wrote on June 22, 2015 that "It is my desire that Norbert be the legal owner over his work" and also "I just want you to know that I am doing everything I can to make sure that you are (or become) the legal owner of SynPhony and that CanIL is not. This is what I have instructed the lawyers to help us accomplish so that there will be no further confusion about this. Although we may disagree about the present status of ownership, I believe that we are in agreement that you should own SynPhony going forward. I want to accomplish this in a way that is backed by the law and not by our interpretations of various policies." What policies? CanIL still has no IP policies. On July 9, 2015 he wrote: "I have been working to see that your desires to have full legal ownership over SynPhony are fulfilled while at the same time protect CanIL from giving away intellectual property illegally." Wouldn’t “doing everything he can” include informing me of my rights? He never informed me that I had actual rights to own my program until the day I signed my rights away. (For some reason his lawyer had made me believe I did not have these rights. His main argument was that CanIL is not a “school”; it’s a “service provider”. I couldn’t think clearly because of my poor mental state and so I agreed to give up my claim. There were five people present at that meeting, including me. Nobody told me that I had any rights.) A week later, on July 17, 2015, the same day I signed the document giving up my rights (but after I signed it), Danny wrote an email to several people in which he states for the first time that such a thing as the “academic exception” exists. He wrote: “... what was confusing things was the different rules for academic institutions versus charities…”. He also stated that: “In many ways, it would have been simpler if we could have just deemed the IP to be Norbert's but that would have had negative ramifications for his ability to continue to develop SynPhony in his current capacity here at CanIL.” After I signed the agreement he tells me and others that it would have been legal and simpler for me to be the owner of my own work. Yet he chose to withhold that information for more than a month and make the more complicated and far more painful choice. Jealousy justifies that. Money modifies your moral commitments. His comment about the “negative ramifications” is also a red herring. That is not a legal requirement. No university, nor the CRA, nor a CanIL policy, requires a professor to change their employment status just because he writes a book and claims copyright on it. It is something that Danny dreamed up (again) to make it sound like a reason.

I consoled myself after I signed over my rights thinking that at least I would now be able to use the money to develop the program because of Danny’s promise. During that time the code I had written participated in an international software competition sponsored by USAID and won. My portion of the prize came to 30%. After waiting more than a year for the promise to be honoured, I was told by Ken Creech: “That’s not going to happen.” When I asked him for the reason, he stated: "It has no commercial value." I have never heard that the person who wins a prize is not entitled to it. For more than a year that CanIL had ownership they added absolutely no value to the project. When I heard Ken’s response I had had enough; I asked for the rights to my program to be given back to me. (Danny had verbally promised me when I relinquished my rights that on the day I ask for it back he would give me the rights again. This again proves that I did have the right, but he withheld that information from me.) However, instead of signing over the rights back to the author of the program, CanIL released it into public domain!

On July 17, 2015, the day I signed my rights away Danny lamented that what contributed to the problem was that CanIL had never created an Intellectual Property policy. He wrote: “It also didn't help that over the years, little had been established at CanIL with regard to IP ownership so everyone came into the conversation with a slightly different starting point.” It seemed he saw the need to create one. However, to my knowledge, even after more than 3 years after he got the lawyer’s opinion CanIL still hasn’t created one!! This is the reason for this petition! PLEASE sign it.

That’s not the end of the story however. In the summer of 2016 another CanIL staff member (Shirley Funnell) published a book and claimed copyright to it without any problems whatsoever. I was absolutely floored! The year before Danny’s lawyer had led me to believe that I did not have such rights, yet now another book had been published without any issues. (In my research I found 13 works that had been copyrighted by CanIL members.) I confided in two professors and another Wycliffe member how Danny had lied to me during the process of my copyright claim. Somehow Danny found out and I was called on the carpet. I was told I was causing disunity and told to apologize for complaining about how I had been treated. Had Danny, Ken, Doug and Larry’s behaviour created unity? These men have dedicated their lives to translating scripture for those who don’t have it in the hope that others will adopt and live by its moral code, yet they give each other the freedom to violate it when they so choose and if you dare to complain about how you get treated in the process, well, you’d better apologize.

In a letter on Feb 8, 2017, Ken Creech repeated Danny’s claim that if I claimed copyright to my own work it would jeopardize CanIL’s charitable status despite having stated that it had no commercial value. This was something that Danny had told me repeatedly and written to me as well. Even though 13 other works had been copyrighted by others, only mine would “jeopardize CanIL’s charitable status”. He wrote this more than 6 months after Danny had received his lawyer’s opinion as to CanIL members being able to claim copyright to their own works. Danny had revealed in an email on the day I signed my rights away that it was legal. Yet now, he repeats this lie again, this time to Ken, who probably accepted it as truth. To my knowledge, Danny has never shown anyone the lawyer’s opinion. This right applies to everyone at CanIL not just to me. CanIL needs to create an IP policy! PLEASE sign the petition.

CanIL’s policy also states: “The President shall not discriminate against any staff member for expressing an ethical dissent nor prohibit staff from bringing grievances to the Board…”  In April 2017 I had told Don Fama, the human resources director and others that Danny had lied (the ethical dissent) and that I wanted to present my case to the CanIL board, but when Danny and Ken found out on April 18, 2017 they gave me an ultimatum and wanted me to come to another meeting. I was at the end of my rope, both mentally and emotionally, so I left and went home instead. By noon I was put on administrative leave. This was the climax after years of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, even thoughts of suicide. No one cared. It was more important to prevent jealousy. Several weeks later I resigned from CanIL to protect my mental health. Staff were told not to speak with me or my wife.

The day after I was put on administrative leave Danny called in my wife and talked with her. He told her that I should never have directed the money to CanIL in the first place. He had also told me the same thing at some point in the past. However, back in late 2014 when I had tried to redirect the money from my contracts back to me because they wouldn’t release it for development (after publically promising to do so) was when Danny, Doug and Larry ganged up on me and started this whole thing. They wouldn’t allow it to happen. Then he also told her: “I know you want to be loyal to your husband, but you have to be loyal to me too.” Wow, my wife should be grateful to him for how he was treating me and reward him with loyalty!

Not once in all this time have Danny, Ken, Don, Larry or Doug ever apologized to me for their unethical behaviour. I was blamed for everything. Don and his wife even told me recently that I should consider it a "gift" that I had been defrauded. The leadership of CanIL violated their own Standards of Conduct with impunity while they accused me of violating it. I had to apologize or face termination. I eventually resigned from Wycliffe as well because the same dynamics happened there as well. I resigned out of moral disgust and to protect my mental health.


PLEASE sign this petition

What should CanIL do?

  • Create a written Intellectual Property policy that recognizes the academic exception for all who work, teach and study there so that others will not have to go through what I went through.
  • Educate everyone on what this right entails.
  • I want a public written and verbal apology from Danny, Ken, Don, Larry and Doug.
  • Release the money that my work has generated for my use. A worker is worth his wages.