By Mayank Bhatt for New Canadian Media

Immigration in Canada is an issue which everyone admits requires an urgent redress but nobody quite knows what exactly is to be done about it. Generally speaking, a majority of Canadian politicians favour immigration, which by itself is commendable considering the rising tide against immigration all across Europe. But even as it favours immigration, Canada really doesn’t have a clue what do with newcomers.

Two illuminating events – a lecture and a panel discussion – highlighted the indifference to newcomer integration in Canada.

At a lecture in Toronto organized by the Literary Review of Canada (LRC), Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Toronto and Medical Director at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, observed that the Canadian approach to immigration is flawed because it focuses on workers rather than people. “Workers build an economy, people build countries,” he said. 

Selection of the right immigrant is of great significance. Using a hockey analogy, McKenzie noted that Canada’s policy on immigration should have the same philosophy as the legendary Wayne Gretzky, who planned his moves in anticipation of where the puck would be rather than where it currently is.

In his one-hour talk, which was co-produced by LRC with Big Ideas (TVO), McKenzie suggested that applicants should be evaluated for their emotional quotient in addition to their skills.

He once took a taxi whose driver was a doctor in philosophy from West Africa. When McKenzie asked the cabbie about his life in Canada as an immigrant, he answered – with the equanimity of a wizened man who had come to terms with the frustrations of life – that he had resigned to being a taxi driver, but hoped that his children would succeed. “If they don’t, I’ll come to you at the [mental health] hospital.”

McKinzie said by denying highly-qualified people their right to careers in their chosen field, Canada is actually committing two grave injustices – it is depriving developing societies of their finest talent and wasting these talents in Canada.

Deconstructing “Canadian experience”

One of the bottlenecks immigrants face is the demand from employers for “Canadian experience”. A University of Toronto project is attempting to look at the “Canadian experience” from a human rights perspective. At a seminar in January, “Beyond Canadian Experience” panelists were united in their conviction that the issue is not a human resource problem at all.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, the Mennonite New Life Centre, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, and the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

The project has twin visions:

·         A Canadian labour market that prospers from the full and meaningful integration of immigrants from all regions in the world

·         A Canada that respects, values and makes use of the international education, experience, and expertise of immigrants

Izumi Sakamoto and Lin Fang, both from University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, are the lead investigators for the project, which proposes to “deconstruct” the notion of Canadian experience to be able to reduce barriers to immigrants’ employment.

Barbara Hall, the former mayor of Toronto and the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was the keynote speaker at the event. She remarked, “Traditional thinking has always approached the problem from the perspective of human resources; a growing movement suggests that it must be thought of in terms of human rights.”

The impressive panel included Claude Balthazard, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Human Resources Professional Association; Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator, Policy and Communications, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Gerard Keledjian, Journalist & Writer, New Voices Magazine, Mennonite New Life Centre-Toronto.

-         New Canadian Media

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 00:24

PULSE: Ukraine

Written by

by Marika Washchyshyn

Ukrainians in Canada have always been dedicated to pressuring the Canadian government to maintain strong ties with Ukraine. Several Governors General, including Ray Hnatyshyn, Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean have made visits to the country. More recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a concerted effort to keep ties with Ukraine strong, including a visit in 2010 and the deployment of a task force of over 500 volunteers to observe last October’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

Another example of Ukrainian-Canadian lobbying presents itself in the construction of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Many professionals and scholars of Ukrainian descent have pushed the museum, with success, to set up a permanent exhibition to the Holodomor of 1932-1933, Joseph Stalin’s man-made famine that took millions of Ukrainian lives.

Ukrainian-Canadian media in the latter part of 2012 focused on a few historical anniversaries along with present-day issues, including the 79th anniversary of the Holodomor, and the highly controversial parliamentary elections in October. Typical Ukrainian-Canadian media also highlighted major news stories in Ukraine to keep immigrants up to date with news in their homeland.

In July, a Ukraine-wide vote preceded the passing of a controversial law regarding Ukraine’s official languages. Many Ukrainian-Canadians came together in peaceful protest to raise awareness of the ever-oppressive Russian presence in the country, as posted by the “Kонгрес Yкраїнців Канади” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress).

Ukrainian weekly newspaper “Hовий Шлях” (New Pathway) spoke to UCC President Paul Grod about the importance of the Ukrainian voice in Canada, especially given the recent issue of marred parliamentary elections. “Гoмiн Yкраїни,” (Ukrainian Echo) another weekly paper, was also thorough in their coverage of Canadian involvement in the elections, including an interview with Member of Parliament James Bezan in which he thanked Canadian volunteers for their diligent work.

In November, weekly television program “Kонтакт” (Kontakt) aired a number of episodes pertaining to the anniversary of the famine-genocide in Ukraine, the Holodomor. Especially important to the Ukrainian-Canadian community is the dissemination of history and culture through their youth; a special segment by members of the Ukrainian-Canadian School Board was dedicated to teaching children about the Holodomor and other difficult subject matter. Newspaper “Гoмiн Yкраїни” provided a comprehensive account of the Holodomor, including a piece on the Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture at the University of Toronto by Rutgers professor Alexander Motyl.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, new weekly television program Forum TV followed Ukrainian-Canadians during their preparations and celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s on the Julian Calendar. Many Ukrainians across the country attended New Year celebrations called “Malanka” during the month of January.

Ukrainian-Canadians are fiercely proud of their roots. This is evident especially in the most recent recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Lisa Shymko, Paul Grod, Father Roman Dusanowskyj, Dr. Borislaw Bilash, Lesia Szwaluk, Orest Steciw, Eugene Czolij, Dr. Roman Serbyn, Yurij Luhovy and Peter Kardasz are just some of the very deserving recipients of the prestigious medal for their contributions to the Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian communities. Inga Bekbudova, a reporter at Kontakt, explained the importance of being recognized by the Canadian government.

“Some politicians like Ted Opitz (MP-Con), Peggy Nash (MP-NDP) and Donna Cansfield (MPP-Lib) have gotten close with Ukrainians because of all of their hard work,” Bekbudova said. “When Canadians with Ukrainian background get involved, they always draw back to their roots and use their heritage as a starting point to make changes in their field of work, which is a great way to change the future.”

(Marika Washchyshyn holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. She is pursuing a career in broadcast television news, with plans to obtain a Masters of Global Affairs. Her experience includes stints in print, online and television media. She is a proud member of the Ukrainian-Canadian community in Toronto where she was born and raised.)


The Armenian Diaspora and Turkey’s civil society should work together to pressure the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, a Turkish-German historian told the Armenian community in Toronto, ruling out that recognition would lead to comprehensive reparation.

“Armenia as a small nation does not have enough leverage to pressure Turkey,” said Taner Akcam, the first Turkish academic to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. “In order to pressure Turkey there are two main mechanisms — one is the Diaspora and the second is the domestic opposition in Turkey. Unfortunately the Diaspora and the civil society in Turkey do not work together. This is the missing link.”

Up to a million and a half Armenians were massacred after 1915 as they were forced out of their homeland towards the Syrian desert during the First World War.

Akcam said he believed the Diaspora is currently putting pressure on the Turkish government in an indirect way when they urge their own governments to pressure Ankara and “mostly the U.S. and Canadian governments or other big powers use this Armenian asking for recognition for their political interests.” Akcam is a professor of Genocide Studies as well as the holder of the chair of Armenian Studies at Clark University, a private research university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Akcam made his comments at the start of a three-day event commemorating the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink. The event was jointly organized by the Toronto chapter of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society and Bolsahye Cultural Association of Toronto.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide will not eventually lead to full reparation, Ardahan-born Akcam told members of Canada’s second largest Armenian community. “You can never bring back what was lost,” he said, expressing hope a final solution would aim at creating a feeling of satisfaction among the Armenian people “at least with the majority of representatives from the state of Armenia and the Diaspora.”

Many Armenian political organizations in the Diaspora demand a restoration of the Turkish-Armenian border as demarcated by former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, and a hefty amount of cash reparations.

“There are several ways to compensate,” he said. “Turkey, for example, can open the port of Trabzon for Armenian exports and imports without any taxation.” Port of Trabzon is located on the southeastern shores of the Black Sea, 602 kilometers from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Most of Armenia’s imports and exports currently pass through the Georgian Port of Poti, 559 kilometers from Yerevan.

“I wish the best solution is to make the boundaries meaningless between Turkey and Armenia and that Armenians see Ararat as their own,” said Akcam, who earlier delivered a presentation on the English edition of his “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity” book, first published in Turkish in 2008.

Present at the event were Donna Quan, the director of education at the Toronto District School Board, Harout Manougian, TDSB Trustee for Ward 17 and Robert Mewhinney, TDSB Program Coordinator for Social & World Studies & Humanities.

Akcam, who was arrested in 1974 at age 21 for participating in student protests against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, said Turkish society has remarkably changed and become open. “Turkey now is not Turkey of 2007 or that of 1991 when I published my first book,” he said, noting that several television channels are inviting him to attend live debates on the legacy of Dink. “There is another Turkey now and it’s growing.”

Saturday, 19 January 2013 22:35

"We are Canadian, too," say Somali-Canadians

Written by

Montreal − A new study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the perception that the Somali Canadian community has failed to integrate into the wider society. Instead, its author finds that many young Somali Canadians have a strong attachment to Canada that is often accompanied by identification with Islam and with Somalia.

In her study “I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians,” Rima Berns-McGown also reports that her in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians demonstrated no widespread or significant support for the al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia or any other organization that might threaten the public safety of Canadians.

Berns-McGown, who teaches diaspora studies at the University of Toronto, highlights some of the significant roadblocks young Somali Canadians often encounter, including the trauma that they and/or their families experienced in Somalia before leaving, racism in school and on the part of the police, and negative media coverage.

According to Berns-McGown, “social cohesion would be much better served if we addressed the specific challenges Somali Canadians continue to face, rather than stigmatizing the community and contributing to the criminalization of its youth.”

To that end, the author offers a number of proposals for school boards, law enforcement agencies, federal and provincial governments, and the media, such as targeted support for Somali Canadian youth and ways to address institutional barriers and stereotyping. “These measures could enhance Somali Canadians’ inclusion in the wider society and foster a balanced approach to public safety issues,” concludes Berns-McGown.

This study challenges the perceptions that the Somali Canadian community has failed to an unusual degree to integrate into the wider society. That this is the fault of the community itself and that this supposed failure represents a threat to Canadian security because of suggestions that some Somali Canadian youth have been lured to the radical extremism of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia, and because some have become involved in drug trafficking and street violence.

Drawing on her previous research and some 40 in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians, Berns-McGown finds that most of these youth self-identify as Canadian and want very much to be a part of this country, which they see as their home. They also, and not in contradiction, feel strongly Muslim and Somali. Extensive quotations from the interviews provide insights about these multiple identities. To the extent that integration involves the identification of newcomers with their adopted home, most of these young Somalis appear to be integrating well.

But integration is a two-way street: it entails the willingness of new Canadians to embrace their new home and — equally significantly — the willingness of the wider society to lower the barriers to their becoming active and productive members of their adopted home. And in that regard, many young Somali Canadians encounter significant roadblocks that are not conducive to integration or social cohesion. These include systematic, institutional racism on the part of schools, police and intelligence agencies, and the media. In light of the significant challenges the Somali Canadian community has faced, the author’s assessment is that its achievements have been quite extraordinary.

Berns-McGown found no widespread or significant support for al-Shabaab or any other organization that threatens the public safety of Canadians, and she maintains that characterizations of the community as disengaged and a security threat are unwarranted and deeply problematic.

[“I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians” by Rima Berns-McGown can be viewed at the Institute’s Web site (]

Unknown to the larger Canadian public and media, a story that originated in Toronto this month had caught the interest of Koreans around the world. Spawned on a Facebook page, it was about a sexual assault in the Yonge and Finch area of the city leading to murder and suicide. The details were bizarre and soon it found traction on social media and got picked by the hyper-active South Korean media.

That’s when Toronto’s Korea Times Daily reporter Jay Jung decided it was time to investigate a story happening right on his turf.

“It went viral on the Internet, so we went for the source of the story,” Jay told the Toronto Star.

Kay’s reporting for the local ethnic paper cast doubts on the original story, reiterating that police in Canada were not confirming any of the reports. He spoke to the Facebook poster again and this time he confessed that it was a fake story. “It turns out it’s all fabricated by him,” Jay told the Star. He said the man apologized to him for lying. “He didn’t say why he’s done it, but his mother actually (said) to me he’s under a lot of stress.”

Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash told the Star of the force’s concern that misinformation has been so widely disseminated within Toronto’s Korean community of more than 34,000 people.

But thanks to Jay’s original reporting in the Korea Times, the fallout from the false news was stemmed before it could do more damage. And it reinforces a Ryerson University journalism professor’s suggestion that ethnic media outlets will better serve their communities if they put more emphasis on reporting local news.

At a recent presentation to ethnic media representatives, Professor April Lindgren said many media organizations that publish in languages other than English devote too much time and attention to homeland news that is easy to access online.

Offering more local coverage would give ethnic media a competitive advantage, she argued, because it isn’t as readily available on the internet for people with limited English-language skills.

“I’m not saying eliminate home country news,” Lindgren told the 30-odd members of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC) as she presented her findings her ongoing The Local News Research Project.  “Some people don’t have access to the Internet or don’t use it for news. My plea is to just think about the balance” between news from home and news about the Greater Toronto area.

Lindgren said that local stories act as a road map for newcomers trying to understand the people, places and events in the Greater Toronto Area. Yet many ethnic papers have so little local coverage it was difficult to find papers with enough content to explore as part of her ongoing investigation into local news and its role in Canadian cities.

Apart from Lindgren’s ongoing scrutiny, a keener observer of the ethnic media In Canada is the federal government.

The Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister, spent $463,300 in January 2011 on a two-year contract with the same ethnic media monitoring company that Citizenship and Immigration Canada paid almost $750,000 over the past three years.

This information, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, make clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney consider ethnic media critical sources of intelligence.

"In fact, both the minister of immigration and the prime minister have been quoted as saying that 'ethnic media sources are the new mainstream media' and that 'more people follow ethnic media than mainstream sources,"' states the backgrounder in a May 2011 contract document.

After coming under fire for the spending, Kenney said ethnic media monitoring is a window into the problems and concerns of minority communities and boosting the budget for the activity was a conscious decision made soon after the Conservatives formed government in 2006.

“I have to say the most important reading I do in the morning is the ethnic media scan because frankly, very few other people in government are as focused on that,” he said during a news conference in Toronto.

“I’m picking up stories, issues, voices and perspectives there that are often not reflected in so-called mainstream media and I think it’s very valuable.”

Poor local content  

That value is arguable going by the Ryerson professor’s study.

Lindgren analyzed the news content of four ethnic newspapers as part of her work. She examined the Chinese language daily, Ming Pao, in 2008, and then in 2011, she looked at the dailies Canadian Punjabi Post and Korea Times Daily, as well as the weekly newspaper, Russian Express.

With the exception of Russian Express, all the newspapers paid much more attention to homeland news relative to local coverage. Eight per cent of Ming Pao’s news content was local compared with 26 per cent in the Canadian Punjabi Post, 26 per cent in the Korea Times Daily, and 39 per cent in Russian Express.

Some members of the NEPMCC – which has 530 members across Canada – defended their emphasis on news from their country of origin.

“In our community, they want to know what’s happening back home,” one member said during the question-and-answer session with Lindgren.

Another member, Arif Ahmed of the Bangladeshi newspaper Jogajog, said that probably only about 40 per cent of his readers are interested in local news.

Many in the audience, particularly those from weekly or monthly publications, also did not see any value in regurgitating local news that readers might have already heard or read in the mainstream media.

“You look for stories that bounce off the news,” Lindgren responded. She said a stale story about a robbery can be turned into a feature on the issue of crime in the neighbourhood as a whole. Stories can also be “localized” to include the voices of people from the news outlet’s target audience, she said. A story about Toronto homeowners who are fined for not clearing snow from the sidewalk in front of their houses is a good example of how news can indirectly inform readers about local rules, responsibilities and practices. It would be even stronger, she argued, if it included community members reacting to the bylaw, or talking about the challenges faced by newcomers who aren’t used to dealing with snow and its many complications.

Lindgren also said that mainstream media outlets miss local stories specific to certain ethnic communities, a reality that ethnic media can use to their advantage to attract audiences. Her research, for instance, shows that the Toronto Star published 21 local stories dealing exclusively with the Chinese community while Ming Pao had more than 300 in the same period.

“So, obviously, Ming Pao is telling its community about local news that people aren’t going to get from the Toronto Star or CP24,” she said.

Preventing ghettos

Lindgren said greater emphasis on local news coverage would also be a way to introduce members of different racial and ethnic groups to one another. The GTA, she noted, is a place where visible minorities will become the visible majority by 2030 yet other groups turned up rarely in the ethnic publications she examined.

“Ethnic media can play a major role in introducing these different groups to one another even as they improve their local coverage,” she said.

Journalists working for ethnic media, she suggested, could identify issues affecting other groups and then explore those issues within their own communities. A newspaper could point out that another ethnic group is grappling with tensions caused by interracial marriages, she noted, and use that as a jumping off point to explore how its own community handles the same problem.

Lindgren said it is also important for journalists working in ethnic media to avoid negative representations of other groups. In Ming Pao, for instance, 25 per cent of stories that mentioned other racial or ethnic groups did so in a way that was inconsistent with Canadian Press guidelines. The guidelines state that a person’s racial or ethnic background should only be mentioned if it is relevant to the story.

The problem was particularly pronounced, Lindgren said, in crime stories involving the Vietnamese or Black communities. Stories that gratuitously mention the arrest of  a Vietnamese man for running a marijuana grow-op or the shooting of a Black man sitting in his SUV present those two communities in a negative light, she said, especially since there is little positive coverage to offset the unflattering coverage. There is no reason to mention the racial or ethnic background of the individuals involved in either story, she pointed out.

Conversely, Lindgren said, it is also inappropriate to mention race in a positive story about a person from another ethnic community. “By doing that, you’re making them exceptional,” she said, noting that the reference would suggest it is unusual for a person from that group to do something positive.

Gerald Paul, associate editor at The Caribbean Camera, said he was intrigued by Lindgren’s suggestion that ethnic media should introduce readers to other groups of people in the Greater Toronto Area.

“That’s an area that I will mention to (my editor) that we need to get into,” Paul said. “As Caribbean people, we do intermarry with other ethnicities and do business.”

Parry Long, reporter and marketing director for three Chinese-language weekly magazines – Ads Guide, Chinese Real Estate Magazine and My Home Guide – said his magazines only mention whether or not subjects are Chinese. Reporting on other ethnic groups, he noted, can be difficult.

“In our community, we are familiar with which event is an important one and most attractive,” he said. “For other communities, maybe there’s a big event, but we are not familiar with that. So in that case, we cannot write too much about it.”

Long and representatives from other ethnic media outlets said reporting local news is a challenge for many of their news organizations.

“If we just put homeland news, we can get it all from the Internet,” Long said, highlighting how much easier that is than local coverage. “For local, we should translate, we should interview in person or by calls, and also we should go to some event to be involved in the event so we can write (the story).”

Ned Blair, a journalist at The Caribbean Camera and vice president of business development of the NEPMCC, said many journalists working for ethnic news media confine their reporting to covering events: “Hardly likely do we have the staff or the expertise to follow up on a particular story that would take weeks and weeks.”

NEPMCC members said increased training opportunities would make boosting their local news content easier. They cited the need for workshops and professional development that address issues such as:

•Canadian media law and how to avoid being sued

•Journalism ethics in the Canadian context

•How to find and develop local stories the target audience can relate to

•How to handle negative reaction to stories about sensitive issues that cast the community in a less-than-positive light

•Canadian Press style for coverage of other groups

-          With additional reporting by Sahar Fatima, Ryerson journalism student

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 10:07

New intake for skilled trades draws applause

Written by

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Monday a new Skilled Trades Stream program for immigrants.


The emphasis will be on reducing the shortage of skilled workers. The list of eligible professions is expected to include such trades as pipe-fitters, mechanics, transportation jobs and electricians. The applications for the program will be accepted as of January 2, 2013. In the beginning, to avoid backlogs, a maximum of 3,000 applications will be accepted per year.


Launching the new category, Minister Kenney said, "This is about having an immigration system that works for Canada, works for our economy, works for newcomers [and] fuels our long-term growth and prosperity.” The new category was developed to address concerns that the federal skilled workers program did not cover trade workers adequately. It will allow those who fulfill certain criteria to complete the immigration process faster.


The applicants for the program will need to comply with these criteria:


·         Have a job offer in Canada.

·         Have basic proficiency in French or English, but not at the level required by the skilled worker points system.

·         Prove that they have recently worked in the trade and have a minimum of two years' experience.

·         Show that their occupation falls within the federal trade classification system.


Professional associations, such as the Canadian Construction Association, welcomed the announcement. “The new program ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications,” association president Michael Atkinson said.


Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business also supports the program: “With the shortage of qualified labour in many parts of Canada growing once again, the launch of the Skilled Trades immigration stream is very welcome news.”


For future immigrants, this is a new program which, since it does not have a backlog of applications, will be faster and more responsive. Also, having slightly lower language thresholds, program will be more adequate for trade workers than the Federal Skilled Worker Program, allowing these applicants to qualify more easily.


Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants welcomes this expansion of the Federal Skilled Workers Program. “The stream makes it easier for those who would not qualify under the current point system (where 67 pts are needed) because of level of language fluency required and education levels and the points given for each of these. Service support and intervention may still be needed (for acculturation and integration issues) and will be available.”



Regarding the effects to the immigration community, Douglas explains: ”The program does not necessarily benefit immigrants already here. In Ontario, our Provincial Nominee program tends to privilege those who are high skilled or international students. What this new stream does is open up the door for many who would otherwise not qualify to come through the skilled workers' class.”


Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree foundation, believes the new immigration stream is welcome and long overdue. “The program’s focus on skills and experience, rather than just on formal education, is practical and recognizes the reality of how tradespeople often gain their training and expertise.”

Omidvar adds that we need to be careful about occupation lists because projecting labour needs can be challenging – what is needed now might not be what is needed in the future. “ We need an immigration system that values workers who can adapt and change with the labour market. While we look forward to welcoming more skilled tradespeople through this program in the future, employers need to remember that we have highly skilled and experienced tradespeople already living in Canada, including immigrants who might have come to Canada as family members or refugees. These skilled tradespeople are here, now, and are ready to work.”

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