Canada does not deserve seat at UN Security Council: Opinion

UN Security Council

A gate on the Morice River Forest Service Rd is dismantled during RCMP operations. Photo: Unist’ot’en Village/Twitter.

Pam Palmater
Special to APTN NewsReconciliation is dead. It died when the RCMP invaded Wet’suwet’en territory with heavy machinery, helicopters, weapons and police dogs to forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en peoples and supporters from their homes on their own lands.In quite literal terms, the RCMP destroyed the “reconciliation” sign posted on the access point to the territory, to make way for pipeline workers to force a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en Yintah (lands) without consent from hereditary chiefs.While they were at it, Coastal Gaslink pipeline workers removed the red dresses memorializing the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been abused, exploited, disappeared and murdered – some at the hands of those who work in man camps.

In reaction to this violation of Indigenous land rights and the aggressive invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands by the RCMP, grassroots Indigenous peoples and Canadian allies have engaged in protests, rallies, marches and blockades all over Turtle Island.

UN Security Council

300 people blocked the intersection at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Photo: Simon Charland/APTN

Meanwhile, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not even in Canada. He is travelling the world campaigning for a seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Canada is a state perpetrator of genocide against Indigenous women and girls. The national inquiry found that all levels of government – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – have engaged in historic and ongoing genocide; a form of gendered colonization which targets Indigenous women and girls for violence and denies them basic human rights protections. This genocide includes the theft of Indigenous lands and resources and the criminalization of Indigenous peoples who peacefully defend their lands and peoples from the violence, especially from the extractive industry.

The UN Security Council should not welcome a state perpetrator of genocide that has failed to accept responsibility for the genocide and failed to act urgently to end it. Similarly, member states of the UN should recall that Canada was one of only four states that fought against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which protects the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, control over their traditional lands and resources and protections from forced removal from their lands by the state. While Canada has reversed its position on UNDRIP and claims to now support it unconditionally, it has failed to implement it into domestic law (with the exception of the Province of British Columbia).

The UN Security Council’s mandate is to maintain international peace and security. They are responsible to identify threats to peace or acts of aggression and have the authority to impose sanctions or authorize intervention. The Council has 15 members, five are permanent (China, Russia, France, United Kingdom and the United States) and ten are non-permanent and replaced on a rotating basis. Canada is vying for one of five seats that will be elected in June alongside other countries like Norway and Ireland. Canada lost its seat under the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To this end, Trudeau is campaigning on the African continent and will soon be headed to the Caribbean and eventually Germany to make his case.

UN Security Council

A truck sits by the tracks near the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Photo courtesy: Annette Francis

Yet, it is hard to contemplate how the member states of the UN could vote for Canada given its record of human rights abuses and genocide of Indigenous peoples. Keep in mind that both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) have shared their grave concerns about the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls finding of ongoing genocide in Canada. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has also asked Canada to urgently withdraw the RCMP and weapons from Wet’suwet’en territory and to halt any major development projects on Indigenous territories unless they have consent.

The UN member states should also consider that Canada has continuously failed to act on the numerous recommendations from various UN human rights treaty bodies pleading with Canada to end its grave human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women. Whether it is the UNCERD, UN Human Rights Council, UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Canada consistently fails to remedy these serious human rights breaches.

While there will be many other political considerations that go into each UN member state’s decision as to whether to support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada’s record of ongoing genocide and human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples, and its recent armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory should give them pause. Canada has long pointed fingers around the world, criticizing human rights breaches, yet it has failed to address its own – and it’s killing our people.

UN Security Council

Red dresses hang at the 27 km marker along the Morice Forest Service Rd. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

Canada does not deserve a seat at the UN Security Council unless and until they address peace and security in their own country. Indigenous women and girls continue to disappear and be murdered, Indigenous peoples are grossly overincarcerated, and our children are stolen into the foster care system at rates higher than during residential schools.

Our lands and waters are being destroyed by massive development and extractive projects without regard for the cost to the planet or human lives. Canada’s continued acts of genocide and ecocide will eventually impact other states as climate change cannot be contained within artificial political borders. The planet is in crisis and the UN Security Council will have to face ever growing threats to peace and security worldwide. The last thing they need is to be guided by states that don’t address their own human rights, peace and security issues.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years and currently holds the position of Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. SOURCE

True test of reconciliation: respect the Indigenous right to say No

Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

Conflict is coming. There is no getting around that fact. Anyone who believes that reconciliation will be about blanket exercises, cultural awareness training, visiting a native exhibit at a museum or hanging native artwork in public office buildings doesn’t understand how we got here. Reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples has never been about multiculturalism, diversity or inclusion. Reconciliation is not an affirmative-action program, nor is it about adding token Indigenous peoples to committees, advisory groups or board rooms. We cannot tokenize our way out of this mess that Canada created. Real reconciliation requires truth be exposed, justice be done to make amends and then Canada’s discriminatory laws, policies, practices and societal norms be reconciled with Indigenous rights, title, treaties, laws and jurisdiction. That process of truth, justice and reconciliation will be painful. It requires a radical change. Nothing less than the transfer of land, wealth and power to Indigenous peoples will set things right. The true test of reconciliation will be whether Canada respects the Indigenous right to say ‘no.’

Canadian courts have been issuing decisions about Aboriginal rights and title and treaty rights, sending the strong message to governments that they must obtain the consent of Indigenous peoples before taking actions or making decisions that will impact our lives. Governments have not listened. Canada’s failure to listen is one of the reasons why Indigenous peoples spent more than 25 years negotiating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which guarantees the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Article 19 of UNDRIP provides:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Consent is a legal concept which can be defined as the voluntary acquiescence of one person to the proposal of another. In general, it is the right to say yes or no to something and/or put conditions on an agreement. Consent must be free from misrepresentations, deceptions, fraud or duress. This is a very basic right, but one which has been denied to Indigenous peoples since contact. Take for example, the actions of Indian agents and police, who used food rations to extort sex from Indigenous women and girls. In the context of being forced to live on reserves, not being allowed to leave the reserve and being dependent on food rations, what real choice would a young girl have? Similarly, when police officers or judges detain Indigenous women and girls, drive them to secluded locations and force them to perform sexual acts — there is no real consent when the threat of lethal force or arrest on false charges is ever-present. This is especially so given our knowledge of the number of assaults and deaths of our people in police custody. There was no consent when they stole our children and put them into residential schools, nor was there any consent when priests, nuns and others raped those children. There was no consent when doctors forcibly sterilized Indigenous women and girls — sometimes without their knowledge.

Feb. 25, 2018: Justice for Colton and Tina rally, Edmonton. The woman at centre holding up sign is Colten Boushie’s cousin Jade Tootoosis. Photo by Paula E. Kirman/ RadicalCitizenMedia .com.Today, the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent has become the central issue in Canada’s reconciliation agenda. Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise of implementing UNDRIP into law and respecting the right of Indigenous peoples to say no. When asked by APTN host Cheryl McKenzie whether no would mean no under his government, he responded “absolutely.” Another way of putting this is that Indigenous peoples could exercise their legal right to refuse to approve or authorize a project. This veto right stems from various sources, but primarily our inherent rights as Indigenous governments with our own laws and rules which govern our traditional territories. They may also come from specific Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and Aboriginal title. These rights are not only protected within our own Indigenous laws, but also section 35 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982 and various international human rights laws, including UNDRIP. Yet, after Trudeau announced his latest idea to create a legislative framework to recognize Indigenous rights and avoid litigation, Justice Minister Raybould stated clearly that “consent doesn’t mean a veto” for Indigenous peoples.

So, we are now back where we started. Canada has not yet reconciled its laws, policies or political positions to the fact that Indigenous peoples have the right to say no to development projects on our lands. This means that conflict will continue to grow over mining, forestry, hydraulic fracking and pipelines on Indigenous lands. The true test of reconciliation will inevitably play out on the ground, like it did in Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church) and Elsipogtog. Will Canada force the Kinder Morgan pipeline to go ahead against the will of British Columbia and First Nations? Will Canada isolate and exclude First Nations who do not subscribe to the extinguishment requirements of Canada’s land-claims process? What will happen to First Nations who stop provincial social workers and police officers from entering their reserves to steal more children into foster care? This will be the real test of our inherent right to say no.

Canada will only truly give effect to reconciliation when Indigenous peoples have the right to say no — no to discriminatory government laws and policies; no to federal and provincial control over our Nations; no to racism from society, industry and government; no to sexualized violence, abuse and trafficking; no to theft of our children into foster care and the imprisonment of our peoples; no to the ongoing theft of our lands and resources; and no to the contamination and destruction of our lands, waters, plants, animals, birds and fish. The right to say no is the core of any future relationship with the Canadian state and its citizens. It’s a basic right — one which is grounded in our sovereignty as individuals and Nations to decide for ourselves the life we wish to live. Canada has made it clear we have no right to say no, only an obligation to say yes. First Nations leaders and citizens should not wait to see how this plays out in court – they should assert and defend their right to say no now. SOURCE

Pam Palmater launches Reconciliation Book Club on YouTube

The Mi’kmaq lawyer and Ryerson professor is helping Canadians self-educate on Indigenous issues with a video series

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Photo: Lisa Macintosh

According to Pam Palmater, the government isn’t doing the work for reconciliation. It’s up to the people – “the true government” – to do that work.

The Mi’kmaq lawyer and Ryerson University professor issued that call to action in the introductory video to her latest endeavour, The Reconciliation Book Club.

Launched in July, the YouTube video series and its comments section are meant to be a safe space for Indigenous peoples and their allies to collaborate on what Palmater describes as an interactive journey to educate the resistance. How to be an ally is not taught in schools, she reminds viewers, so self-education is key.

Palmater has written in NOW about Idle No MoreCanada 150 as a celebration of Indigenous genocide and most recently for our Missing and Murdered cover story. For The Reconciliation Book Club, she’s going beyond her own knowledge, tapping more voices and inviting discussion.

Each month she will recommend a book, and then in the following video she’ll discuss it using subscriber comments as feedback and contributions into the conversation. The series will focus primarily on Indigenous authors, she says, since those voices have been “silenced and ignored.” But Palmater will also feature a few non-Indigenous writers whose books she considers “important works to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and advance our causes.”

Palmater introduced the series in early July, announcing the first book: Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual For Decolonization. The collection of essays from various authors, including late activist Arthur Manuel, was published by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators in BC and is available as a free download.

Palmater’s first episode discussing Whose Land Is It Anyway? dropped on July 27. During the 40-minute video, she highlights the writing of Beverly Jacobs, who maps out the “core relationship between the colonization of Indigenous land and the colonization and targeting of Indigenous woman and girls.”

She describes the book as straight truth. “Truth has to come before justice,” she says. “And justice has to come before reconciliation.”

Check out the introductory video below.

The Canadian Green New Deal and migrant justice

Image: kai kalhh/Pixabay

The Canadian Green New Deal movement is picking up steam, as prominent activists join forces with over 80 organizations to demand radical change.

On June 11, Indigenous lawyer Pam Palmater and journalist Naomi Klein were two of the speakers at a Green New Deal town hall in Toronto. More town halls are planned in the next few weeks, with an open invitation to organize events to anyone committed to building the movement.

Instead of implementing temperate solutions such as the carbon tax, the Canadian Green New Deal calls for an economy that redistributes wealth and resources to benefit the vast majority of the population while drastically reducing emissions.

That translates into transformative action on “systems of transit, energy, housing, agriculture, and public services” as well as addressing migrant justice.

“The migrant labour piece needs to be central in that,” says Karen Cocq, an organizer with the labour-advocacy group Fight for $15 and Fairness.

Alongside multiple unions such as CUPE, the Green New Deal coalition includes labour advocacy groups including Migrant Rights Alliance for Change.

Cocq emphasizes solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad who have been displaced due to corporate extractivism, leading to disruption and forced migration. MORE

Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent

The federal government’s skewed view of Indigenous consent, and its apparent conflict of interest on the pipeline, could pose a legal problem.

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Photo: Indigenous drummers perform a drum circle prior to a demonstration against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on June 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

he latest cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline came less than a day after the federal government declared a climate emergency. While the irony was a dream for satirists, it wasn’t the biggest contradiction of the day. Instead, it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre definition of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) with regard to projects that will impact Indigenous land and rights: “[FPIC] is what we engaged in doing with Indigenous communities over the past number of months. It is engaging, looking with them, listening to the issues they have and responding meaningfully to the concerns they have wherever possible.”

By Trudeau’s definition, consent is: listening to issues, responding to concerns wherever possible, and then forging ahead. As Indigenous lawyer and scholar Pam Palmater pointed out, imagine if that definition of consent was applied in the context of sexual relations?

The prime minister’s comments largely went unnoticed in the mainstream media, but his government’s skewed understanding of FPIC and half-hearted attempts at consultations with Indigenous communities remain the core reason it will be unable to move the project forward. Moreover, Ottawa’s purchase of the pipeline created an inherent conflict of interest as it purported to sit down for meaningful consultations.

“Listening to the issues”

So, what exactly was the government “engaged in doing” with Indigenous communities since last August, when the Federal Court of Appeal found that “Canada did not fulfil its duty to consult” on the pipeline and quashed the National Energy Board’s approval of it?

Many of the First Nations that had appealed to the court expressed their dissatisfaction with the renewed Stage III consultation process that the court had mandated.

The Squamish First Nation said it had been assured there were no time limits for the consultations, only to discover that cabinet did have an end date in mind. Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation spokesperson, told a news conference that they had been sent documents for feedback after May 22, the federal government’s self-imposed deadline for comments.

“What we experienced was a shallow attempt at consultation that resulted in a failure to address our concerns,” said Khelsilem. “The failure to meaningfully engage with rights holders means this government is either not serious about building this pipeline or not serious about respecting Indigenous rights.”

Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band said, “The meaningful dialogue that was supposed to happen never happened.” A study of the community’s aquifer had not yet occurred, and an existing pipeline spill has yet to be remediated.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said that consultation once again fell well below the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada in a number of key decisions, including Tsilhqot’in. This constitutional obligation of the Crown’s was re-emphasized in the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. George-Wilson also noted that the federal government was in a conflict of interest – that its multiple hats as proponent, decision-maker, enforcer of laws and fiduciary to First Nations and all Canadians made it impossible to make an open-minded, unbiased decision.

David Suzuki, prominent environmentalists launch cross-country tour warnings of global crisis

David Suzuki
David Suzuki makes an appearance at United Church on Bloor Street on June 10, 2019.

Some of Canada’s leading environmentalists are trekking across the country to illustrate what they are calling global climate crisis.

Toronto marked the first stop on a seven-city tour for The Leap, a collective of prominent activists who are backing a Green New Deal, an ambitious U.S. plan to curb climate change and transform the economy by investing in clean energy jobs.

The movement is gaining traction among members of the Democratic Party in the United States.

Among those who were touting its virtues in front of a sold out crowd at United Church, located near Tuesday night were author and activist Naomi Klein and environmentalist-turned-broadcaster David Suzuki, who blamed the media for not properly highlighting the perils of planet-wide climate change.

“In May, the United Nations released a study saying we are causing a catastrophic rate of extinction threatening a million species of plants and animals,” Suzuki said. “The next day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a baby and pushed everything out of the news.”

“Fundamental changes are urgent,” he warned, saying consequences to ecosystems, food supplies and economies will be dire by the year 2100 if global temperature increases aren’t capped to within 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial era averages.

His sentiments were echoed by Pam Palmater, who works as a professor, lawyer and aboriginal rights activist.

“What will it take for people to wake up and realize we don’t need to just change things around the edges? Stop using plastic straws, yes! But that won’t save the world. This isn’t about who you vote for. The most irresponsible a citizen can do is vote and then call it a day.”

The next stop on The Leap’s cross country tour is Thursday in Montreal, with appearances scheduled to follow in Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.  MORE

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Gender discrimination and the Indian Act

 

The Indian Act (1876-to Present) is the piece of legislation that not only defines the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Settler Canadian government but also serves to regulate the membership of indigenous communities and access to reserve lands and services by dividing indigenous people into status and non status Indians.  The Act, which was designed with the twin goals of controlling and assimilating Indigenous peoples into the Canadian body politic, did so by slowly bleeding indigenous communities of women and their children. This was done in part by imposing patriarchal understandings of family and inheritance on indigenous societies and sidelining traditional governing structures in favour of Bands and Band Councils (which banned women’s participation until 1951 when the Indian Act was amended).

 

How The Government Decided Who and Who Was Not An ‘Indian’

To qualify as a ‘Status Indian’ under the act you needed to be a man who was believed to have indigenous lineage and belong to a Band, the child of a ‘Status Indian’ or married to a ‘Status Indian’.  Under the Indian Act women became entirely dependent of their fathers and husbands for their Status as well as their band membership and made heterosexuality mandatory. If a woman married a man who had ‘Status’ and was a member of a different band she and her decedents would then become members of the husband’s band. If a woman married a ‘Non Status’ indigenous man or a non-indigenous man she and all of her decedents lost their ‘Status’ in perpetuity. A startling number of women and their children were struck off the register and were denied access to their communities and their cultures through these provisions of the Act.  Later amendments saw women who had married men belonging to different bands being forcibly enfranchised if they were widowed or abandoned by their spouse. As a woman’s status was intrinsically tied to her husband’s status a severing of that relationship left women without access to their adopted bands and reserves and without the legal standing to rejoin their birth community.  SOURCE

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Women leaders rip Ottawa for not ending Indian Act discrimination

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Women leaders were in Ottawa Tuesday demanding an end to sex discrimination in the Indian Act.

It was supposed to have been taken care of in a bill passed last year called S-3.

But there is still unfinished business because a compromise between the house and senate to pass S-3 is still unresolved.

“Canada is an outlaw,” says Pam Palmater. “It’s an outlaw with regards to failing to uphold the basic human rights of equality for Indian men and women.”

Palmater was one of several leaders asking for an order in council – a vote in the federal cabinet that is approved by the Governor General.

Sharon McIvor says it would immediately make S-3 complete.

“Any given Tuesday the cabinet can make us legally equal to our male counterparts.”

Bill S-3 was supposed to do away with any lingering discrimination faced by women passing on status to their children after they marry non-Indigenous men.

The House of Commons wanted to keep a cut-off date of 1951 meaning those born before would still face trouble passing on status.

“The fact that we’re all here fighting for this makes absolutely no sense when we have a government that says there’s no relationship more important than the one with Indigenous peoples,” Palmater said.

“Unless they meant only Indigenous men.” MORE

Bill C-92’s Indigenous child welfare act risks continuing the status quo


Pam Palmater: There are many problems with Bill C-92, but the main problem is it does not deliver any of what was promised by the federal government.

Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families, has been heralded as a “historic turning point,” an “important first step,” a “major milestone” along with other similarly over-used and under-impressive political phrases to describe yet another top-down initiative from the federal government. While the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde (AFN) claimed that this legislation was “co-drafted” by the AFN and the federal government, that was not the case. In fact, Dr. Cindy Blackstock confirmed that First Nations did not co-draft the legislation and First Nations were not even permitted to see the second draft before it was tabled. This should be no surprise as Justice Canada does not co-draft legislation with anyone other than the French and English legislative drafters at Justice Canada — this is their long-standing practice. Bill C-92 content is glaring evidence that First Nation experts in child welfare did not hold the pen on this bill.

There are many problems with this bill, but the main problem is it does not deliver any of what was promised by the federal government. Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal government promised to address the “humanitarian crisis” through federal legislation that fully recognized First Nation jurisdiction in relation to child welfare; that would provide statutory funding; and would eliminate the over-representation of First Nation children in care. If this bill is not substantially amended before it is passed, it will not accomplish any of those important goals. Ultimately, it will be our children and our families on the ground — in our communities — that will pay the biggest price. The fact that the AFN is promoting this bill so strenuously, without regard for the numerous and serious concerns raised by First Nation leaders, lawyers, academics and child welfare experts, shows how disconnected they are to the crisis at hand.

Despite the many issues raised by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and others, the AFN supports this bill as do the Métis National Council (MNC) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). While I also have numerous, detailed concerns with the wording, structure and content of this bill, they are too many to include in this blog. What follows is a general overview of my concerns from a First Nation perspective. MORE

Canada Without Poverty: National Inquiry Coalition

Coalition calls for urgent action to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls

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OTTAWA – A coalition of human rights organizations has released their report of recommendations to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in which they call for a crisis-level response to the increasing rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), Canada Without Poverty, and Dr. Pamela Palmater, the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, made their oral submissions to the National Inquiry and filed written submissions in December of last year. In the report, made public today, the group calls for urgent, comprehensive, and transformative action from all levels of government in Canada.

“Canada is in the midst of a human rights crisis of its own making. Discriminatory laws, policies, and practices have created an infrastructure of violence and Indigenous women and girls are dying because of it,” said Dr. Palmater.

“Simply tweaking programs and services or making minor amendments to laws will not end the violence. We need immediate, radical and strategic action – substantive remedies that match the scope and character of the human rights violations.”

Shelagh Day, Chair of the Human Rights Committee of FAFIA, said “Indigenous women, civil society organizations, and international human rights authorities have repeatedly urged Canada to act strategically and urgently. So far, Canada’s responses have been un-coordinated, piecemeal, and ineffective. Our coalition is calling for a national co-ordinated action plan to attack the root causes of the violence with resources to support change and timelines for implementation. Nothing less will do.” MORE

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