New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 05 July 2016 10:05

Maybe Ad Campaigns Aren’t the Solution

Commentary by Tasha Kheiriddin

Most of Islam’s leaders present their faith as one of peace. That, unfortunately, is not how a majority of Ontarians see it these days.

According to a study commissioned by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), “only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion and more than half feel its mainstream doctrines promote violence (an anomaly compared to other religions).” Of Canada’s six major religions, Islam is the one most likely to be viewed by respondents as an incubator of violence. The report concludes that “there is an epidemic of Islamophobia in Ontario.”

There is, of course, also an epidemic of radical Islamist terrorism in the world, playing out nightly on the video screens and smartphones of the globe. Just this weekend ISIS slaughtered 200 people in a Baghdad market. According to Le Monde, in the first eighteen months after it established its “caliphate” in 2014, the terror group killed 1,600 people in 83 terror attacks and hostage events in 20 countries. And whatever the Orlando shooter’s true motivations, he claimed to have killed fifty people at a gay nightclub in ISIS’ name.

Many religious Islamic states, such as Saudi Arabia, oppress their own people, particularly women, in the name of Islam. They mete out violent punishments for “crimes” such as adultery, blasphemy, pursuing same-sex relationships and criticizing the government, punishments which include lashes and death by stoning. When the Saudi government attempts to justify these punishments as consistent with or Muslim religious law, it doesn’t make Islam look like a faith that likes to turn the other cheek.

Asking the average person to ignore this — to completely separate violence practiced in a religion’s name from the religion itself — is a tall order. While it’s true that the vast majority of Muslims want nothing to do with ISIS, abhor its practices and are far more likely to be its victims than its accomplices, the fact remains that its atrocities cause the Muslim faith to be viewed with suspicion and fear.

Asking the average person to ignore this — to completely separate violence practiced in a religion’s name from the religion itself — is a tall order.

And as long as countries like Saudi Arabia continue to follow a form of religious law that runs completely counter to Western values of equality, freedom and minority rights, Islam will have a hard time being seen as a religion of peace.

Islam isn’t the first faith to be linked to violence, of course. The Crusades saw Christians and Muslims wage war in the Holy Land from the 11th to the 15th centuries. The Catholic Inquisition saw thousands of Jews expelled from Spain and thousands of other “unbelievers”, including Muslims, tortured and killed. In 19th and 20th century Canada, up to 6,000 First Nations children died in residential schools run by Christian priests and nuns; countless others were abused. Between 1969 and 2002, 5,000 people died in Northern Ireland due to sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants. In 1985, Sikh terrorists bombed Air India Flight 182 out of the sky, killing 329 passengers. Religious violence in India between Hindus and Muslims continues to claim nearly a hundred lives a year.

And as with many ‘religious’ movements, many of ISIS’ motivations are rooted not in faith — or even in a perversion of faith — but in power, money and territorial control. In war-torn regions where legitimate employment is hard (or impossible) to come by, many recruits join the organization purely for the income. Nevertheless, at the root of ISIS lies a fundamentalist, extremist version of Islam. Here’s how writer Graeme Wood described it in his fascinating, in-depth profile of the terror group for The Atlantic last year:

“Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery and coins, ‘the Prophetic methodology,’ which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

Until ISIS is defeated, Islam will continue to be viewed with suspicion and mistrust. Until Islamic governments treat women, minorities and LGBT individuals as equals, the faith will be seen as discriminatory and out of sync with Western values.

And all the public education campaigns in the world, such as those currently playing out across Toronto, won’t change the fact that fundamentalist practitioners of Islam maintain a worldview very different not only from those held by non-Muslims, but from those held by moderate Muslims as well.

And all the public education campaigns in the world, such as those currently playing out across Toronto, won’t change the fact that fundamentalist practitioners of Islam maintain a worldview very different not only from those held by non-Muslims, but from those held by moderate Muslims as well.

As with any extremist religion-based movement, it’s the latter group that holds the key to transforming the faith and the way it is perceived. Moderate Muslims need to speak out against extremism, from the mosque to Main Street. Otherwise, radicals and their actions will continue to feed the fires of prejudice, help elect Donald Trump to the White House, and undermine the very principles of tolerance and equality which Western countries — including the millions of Muslims who call them home — hold dear.

Published under arrangement with ipolitics.ca

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 02 June 2016 18:26

Ontario Sikh Genocide Motion Defeated

 THE World Sikh Organization of Canada said on Thursday that it is deeply disappointed by the Ontario Liberal Government’s vote against a motion recognizing the November 1984 attacks on Sikhs as a genocide. NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh had introduced a Private Members’ Motion reading, “That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of […]

 

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Published in Politics

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

Canadian writers and educators are expressing a need for more children’s books about refugee and diaspora stories that reflect Canada’s diversity. 

“It was very difficult several years ago when we tried to promote diverse kids’ books,” says Sheila Koffman, who hosted the workshop “Diverse Kid Lit” at the first-ever Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, ON. Koffman has owned and managed Another Story Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Toronto, for nearly 30 years. 

“We started in a basement of a house,” she shares. “We went around [to] schools, doing presentations and selling books.”
 
When she first began as a bookseller, Koffman was the only one showcasing diverse books – an experience that she says was “very devastating” because of the criticism she faced and the challenge of low book sales.
 
Since then, things have improved. Her bookstore has received many invitations to do presentations at different school boards, who are now very welcoming of Koffman’s diverse children's literature.  

Stories of Canada’s kids

“There weren’t nearly enough diverse kids books in Canada,” Koffman says, adding she still relies on diverse children’s literature from England and the United States to stock her shelves. 

“We have a lot diverse children books in Canada, but we need more.”

“We have a lot diverse children books in Canada, but we need more,” says author and educator Nadia Hohn.
 
At the workshop, Hohn presented her children’s picture book Malaika’s Costume, a story loosely based on her childhood. The story starts with the first Caribbean Carnival that Malaika attends as a child 
after she moved to Canada with her mother. Hohn explains that many children, like Malaika, have come to Canada with their parents who must find work abroad to provide for their family.

“This is a fact for so many kids, not only Caribbean kids, but kids from so many ethnicities . . .” explains Hohn. “Growing up in Canada, a lot of children don’t know about how some of their classmates live. That’s their reality.” 

From Joseph’s Big Ride, about a child refugee’s bicycle dream, to Sex Is a Funny Word, which is about gender identity, human bodies and sexuality, Koffman introduced a few examples of diverse children’s literature authored or published by Canadians.
 
She says there are not enough books for youth that discuss mental health – particularly mental health issues affecting immigrants and refugees.
 
Jael Richardson, Artistic Director of FOLD, introduced her new children’s book The Stone Thrower along with illustrator Matt James.
 
Based on a true story, The Stone Thrower tells of how Richardson’s father, Chuck Ealey, grew up in a poor and racially segregated community in Ohio and found refuge in Canada. The book’s cover features a photo of a young, Black man throwing a football. Ealey eventually became a professional player in the Canadian Football League.
 

“Most authors have full-time jobs and are doing this on the side.”

Supporting independent authors

Hohn attended Koffman’s presentation as the founder of Sankofa, a collective of authors of African and Caribbean descent. 

“I try to learn as much as I can to help me as an author and a writer,” explains Hohn. 

She says authors from diverse backgrounds need support to write books that fit the needs of children.

“Most authors have full-time jobs and are doing this on the side,” Hohn explains. “Especially if you are self-published, you are paying for everything out-of-pocket.”

She adds that self-published writers face the additional challenge of not having their books showcased in certain bookstores and catalogues.

“Some libraries just started to accept some independently published books, so if most of the books published by Black authors are self-published and so many doors are closed, that means those books are not getting into where they need to,” she says.

“Those books are windows to other worlds for our kids to learn about lives of kids from other ethnicities or even in their own country.”

Diverse literature gaining momentum 

Hohn says she teaches in a school that has a mandate to reflect Black or Caribbean history, and believes all schools should reflect the diversity of Canada in their books. 

“I don't think we should wait for the books to reflect the kids. Those books are windows to other worlds for our kids to learn about lives of kids from other ethnicities or even in their own country,” she explains. 
 
FOLD, which Richardson says started two years ago in a coffee shop in downtown Brampton, is working toward this.
 
“Over the past year, provincial and municipal organizations, Canadian publishers, industry professionals, local companies, and community partners have stepped up to bring nearly 40 authors and performers to Brampton, delivering more than 30 sessions and events that showcase diverse Canadian literary talent and provide training for emerging writers,” Richardson says.
 

FOLD’s inauguration took place from May 6 to 8.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books

MORE than 323,000 children from low-income families are getting free dental care through the new Healthy Smiles Ontario program. Under the expanded program, Ontario is providing free dental care to help families raise healthier kids. Children from low-income families can access free preventive, routine, emergency and essential care from licensed dental providers.

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Published in Health

ONTARIO is banning the arbitrary and race-based collection of identifying information by police, referred to as carding or street checks. The regulation prohibiting carding also sets out, for the first time in Ontario’s history, clear and consistent rules for a range of voluntary police-public interactions where police are seeking to collect identifying information. These rules […]

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ONTARIO Premier Kathleen Wynne released the following statement regarding the passing of Rob Ford on Tuesday: “It was with deep sadness that I learned that former Toronto mayor Rob Ford has passed away. “As the son of the late Doug Ford Sr., a former MPP, Rob Ford grew up in a family with a strong tradition […]

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by BJ Siekierski in Ottawa

Patrick Brown has already taken the Ontario Progressive Conservative party in a new direction since becoming its leader — now he’s encouraging his former federal colleagues to do the same as they try to reinvent themselves in the post-Harper era.

On Saturday afternoon, over 300 people filled a warehouse in Barrie, Ontario to hear from Brown and six current Conservative MPs, all of whom are at least exploring the possibility of running for the Conservative party leadership.

The event was called “Conservative Futures” and the majority of them were confident about the party’s prospects in 2019, convinced the Liberal government will defeat itself through a combination of bigger-than-promised deficits, unmet promises, and arrogance.

Fewer, however, were willing to really look critically at the past — and specifically the last election.

Patrick Brown was an exception.

"[I]f we do not defend minority communities of every religion, of every race, then every other cultural group will say: are we next?”

“(It’s) important to have this pause and understand where mistakes have been made so we can go into the future with a sense of conviction that we’re on the right path. My sense, showing up to probably about 1,000 cultural events in the last year in the GTA, is that if we do not defend minority communities of every religion, of every race, then every other cultural group will say: are we next?” he told the crowd.

“I think we lost our way when we did not say that unequivocally. I think there were mistakes made, and I think we have to learn from that.”

Reconnecting with ethnocultural communities

As both his and Jason Kenney’s persistent outreach to different ethnic communities have proved, Brown added, many ethnic minorities share Conservative values. But the party went “too far” with its niqab rhetoric during the federal election campaign.

They alienated voters they’d spent years bringing into the Conservative tent.

It was a blunt assessment that only Conservative MP Michael Chong would come close to matching on Saturday.

“I think it’s clear in the last election we lost the ethnocultural communities in this country, and we need to regain their trust.”

“I think it’s clear in the last election we lost the ethnocultural communities in this country, and we need to regain their trust,” Chong said.

He then recounted the struggles his father faced as a Chinese immigrant to the country in the 1950s, only four years after the repeal of the Chinese exclusion act. And the struggles he faced as a “mixed-race kid” growing up in rural Ontario in the 1970s.

“I tell you these stories because we need to reconnect with ethnocultural communities. We need to tell them that we understand the challenges of coming to a new country, often with a foreign language. We need to tell them that we understand the barriers that they face; that we understand their fears, hopes, and aspirations; that we understand the plight of Syrian refugees coming to this country, scared, facing an environment unknown,” he said.

"We need to tell them that we understand the challenges of coming to a new country, often with a foreign language."

Closer to turning the page

Though Chong acknowledged the mistakes, he didn’t mention the niqab specifically. Nor did he mention the barbaric cultural practices tip line Conservative candidates Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander introduced in the final weeks of the last campaign, and which was met with widespread scorn and derision.

Leitch, who spoke of the need for tolerance on Saturday, didn’t touch on it either.

“We know as Conservatives that we have to make sure that every Canadian is treated fairly and equally,” she said.

“We are the party where families of all religious backgrounds, of all ethnic backgrounds, have a home. As Patrick was mentioning, Jason Kenney has done outstanding work in reaching out to so many different groups across this country. He did a remarkable job. And he had many of us join him in doing that.”

A few weeks ago at the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa, it was clear Conservatives were still bothered by the divisive identity politics that featured so prominently in the last campaign.

On Saturday in Barrie, five months to the day Canadians replaced a Conservative majority with a Liberal one, they came a bit closer to turning the page.

But they didn’t get all the way there.

“The reality is, in four years there will be people looking for change,” Brown said. “And if the Conservative Party has the courage to talk in a positive fashion…I believe there’s going to be a lot more Conservative MPs, and one of the people running for this Conservative leadership will be the prime minister of Canada.”


Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Politics

AMRITSAR-BORN Ratna Omidvar of Ontario is among seven people who Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday he is recommending to the Governor General for appointment as senators. Omidvar tweeted: “Unbelievably proud and humbled to serve Canada as a newly appointed Senator by [Justin Trudeau].” Last April, the Globe and Mail in an article […]

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by Florence Hwang in Regina 

Communities across Canada are ramping up their efforts to link their local settlement services to meet the needs of newcomers through the federal Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) program. 

The idea behind the program is to enhance existing partnerships by building networks upon existing networks to make sure Syrian refugees and other newcomers get connected with the resources they may need in their new communities. 

Recently, the Sarnia-Lambton Local Immigration Partnership in Ontario helped 20 families of Syrian refugees settle into its community, while Moncton, New Brunswick also found out that it would receive funding to start its own LIP. 

Across the country, more cities are getting on board with this model. Here’s a look at two examples: 

Brooks, Alberta: Envisioning stages 

Even prior to it signing up for this program in the fall of 2015, immigration was a major part of this city. 

Shannyn Creary is the coordinator for the Brooks Local Immigration Partnership (BLIP). Creary estimates that immigrants make up 20 to 25 per cent of the city's population, which includes temporary foreign workers employed by the JBS Food Canada packing plant. 

“We are very equipped to receive newcomers.”

One selling point that draws immigrants to a small community like Brooks is the low cost of living. 

Even though it isn’t one of the main centres where immigrants tend to gravitate, Brooks meets settlement needs, including housing and education. 

“We are very equipped to receive newcomers,” says Creary. 

On Jan. 26, Brooks held a forum to introduce the BLIP to the community, during which many questions were raised. 

“We’re in that envisioning stage. What can we do? Where is our community at? Where would [residents] like to see this go?” Creary explains. “If we were to embark down certain paths, how would the community rate the project as a success?” 

One of the first things the BLIP has to do is establish a baseline in terms of statistics. In order to do that, it needs to figure out how to collect data in a formal manner. However, Creary notes that there are already partnerships within the community. 

People are used to having an informal network. LIPs can help formalize these networks and provide structured means of collecting information or doing research for community projects. 

One service she says needs to be met is mentorship, as there aren’t many established immigrant families who can formally mentor newcomers. 

The next step is to have the BLIP council established so the program’s steering committee can begin work by March. 

Simcoe County, Ontario: Rapidly growing 

Even in cities where LIPs have been long established, newcomers continue to seek new ways of connecting to services, requiring the programs to keep up. 

Shelley Sarin says that when she moved to Toronto from India as a 21-year-old student, she felt included. But 10 years later when she moved to Barrie, Ontario, she says she was isolated in a place where she didn’t feel a sense of community. 

Sarin noticed other ethnicities also didn’t have formal organizations that brought them together.

That led Sarin to start the non-profit South Asian Association of Simcoe County four years ago. Since then, the association has grown. Diwali, which people primarily used to celebrate in their own homes, is now marked with an event Sarin’s organization puts on that attracts 400 people. 

Sarin started working with the Simcoe LIP when it formed in 2011. 

“As I talked with them, I went to more of these meetings, I realized it wasn’t just the South Asians that were feeling that way,” she recalls. “It was the Spanish people involved, the Filipino community was there, the Chinese group was very active, so there are a lot of ethnicities within Simcoe. And they were in the same place as we were.” 

Sarin noticed these other ethnicities also didn’t have formal organizations that brought them together. 

Simcoe LIP worked with each of these groups to provide them with guidance and mentorship. 

“They showed us we had to register as a non-profit organization and we had to do things the proper way and [showed us] what’s out there and what kind of funding we can ask for,” Sarin says. 

“The new Syrians can benefit from the pilot projects we have in place with the local libraries.”

Today, about 7,000 new residents are coming into the Simcoe County annually, according to the Rural Ontario Institute, says Sandra Lee, project manager of the Simcoe LIP. 

Syrian refugees are among the recent new arrivals who are benefiting from the network – and forcing its expansion. 

To connect immigrants face-to-face with the services offered by the community, Simcoe LIP added libraries as information and referral mechanisms, because previously there were only two physical buildings within the county where immigrants could access settlement services and community information.

The libraries create 32 more points of access across Simcoe County, which is spread out over 18 municipalities.

“We have had time to prepare for [the Syrian refugees],” says Lee. “The new Syrians can benefit from the pilot projects we have in place with the local libraries.” 

Simcoe LIP is also working towards building a multicultural centre where various ethnic groups can host their respective celebrations. 

“We’re hoping to have inclusiveness,” says Sarin. “We’re painting the stage of Simcoe to be more colourful and being more actively involved in the festivals and embracing the different dynamics that we have within Simcoe.” 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories
Saturday, 06 February 2016 10:12

Canada Defends Fast-Track Refugee Plan to U.S.

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: India’s Republic Day was not a celebration for everyone, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to a Sikh shrine was less controversial than first reported and Canada’s plan to settle 25,000 refugees faces more challenges.

Refugee resettlement strategy under scrutiny 

The Canadian government’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees through immediate government and private sponsorship is facing criticism from south of the border. 

Canada’s government defended its refugee plan at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Feb. 3 titled “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.” 

In a Canadian Press story picked up by the Epoch Times, it was reported that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, declined the Republican-controlled committee’s invitation to attend in person. 

Instead, Doer sent a note outlining five security measures related to the Syrian refugee program, four of which involved regular border co-operation with the U.S. 

“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives.”

“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives,” Doer wrote. “Rather, the government has devoted significant resources to this effort.”

Canada’s plan will have to stand up against testimony from border guards, anti-terrorism organizations and economic experts who argue that tightened borders affect the flow of exports from Canada to the U.S.

In related news, some of the Syrian refugees who have arrived are feeling “hopeless” as they wait in hotel rooms to be settled into homes, find work and go to school. 

“Some of the 85 government sponsored refugees say they want to return to the camps in Jordan and Lebanon as opposed to staying in Canada,” reported the Epoch Times, citing a CBC report. 

The Times also refers to an op-ed piece in the Toronto Sun that asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow more refugees to be accepted through private sponsorship.

India’s Republic Day marked by ceremony, criticism

Events took place in India and Canada on Jan. 26 to celebrate Republic Day, though some were not without controversy. The event marks the adoption of India’s constitution on the same day in 1950. 

As the Indo-Canadian Voice reports, this year’s celebration in New Delhi was a display of pomp and military prowess for politicians and dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande. 

The Indo-Canadian Voice also reports that the Sikh Regiment was excluded from the Republic Day parade in Delhi, which Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal later called “sad and regrettable” in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Meanwhile, according to South Asian Daily, separatist leaders were put under house arrest to prevent protests at the Republic Day celebration in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir state. 

"[O]ur annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.”

In Canada, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made a statement wishing a memorable Republic Day celebration to Canada’s Indo-Canadian community. 

“With a proud and vibrant Indo-Canadian community, British Columbia has always had a special cultural connection with India,” said Clark, as reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice. “As we continue to expand trade and research relationships, those ties will grow stronger,” she went on to say. 

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne marked the celebration at the Consulate General of India offices in Toronto, ahead of her visit to India on Jan. 27. 

“Sixty-six years ago today the Constitution of India came into force signalling a new era for the entire country,” said Wynne, as quoted in Canada Wishesh. “It was a moment of great triumph and celebration for India, and our annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.” 

Conflicting accounts of Wynne’s visit to Sikh temple 

News sources published different reports of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s stop at a Sikh shrine during her visit to India last week. 

Even before her visit to the Golden Temple on Sunday, the Hindustan Times in India reported that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would not present the premier with a siropa (robe of honour) because of her support for same-sex marriages. 

According to the Indo-Canadian Voice, SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar told the Hindustan Times: “Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.” 

“Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.”

The Times maintained that Wynne did not receive the siropa even after photos of her were published wearing the robe following the visit, reports the Voice. 

“The SGPC apparently avoided mentioning the presentation of the siropa to save face after having declared that they would not honour Wynne with it. The Punjab government apparently exerted great pressure on the SGPC to present Wynne with a siropa,” reported the Voice. 

An article by Indo-Asian News Service, picked up by both South Asian Daily and Darpan, reported that Wynne was honoured with the siropa, as well as a tour of the shrine’s important areas and a gold-plated photo of the site. 

However, the Punjab Star noted that Wynne did not receive the siropa. 

The Star also reported that a major discussion point for SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh was the issue of exempting Sikh men from wearing helmets while driving motorcycles in Ontario. 

It is not clear whether Wynne will consider the exemption.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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