Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and be part of this debate today on Bill S-7, which intends to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The short name of this bill is the “zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act”. I am pleased to speak to this today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
I think all of us the House would agree that domestic violence is a problem in all of Canada, not just in some communities as this bill seems to imply. We see violence at all socio-economic levels in society, in all cultural communities. It is not just among certain populations. Clearly, I think we would all agree that no woman should be subjected to gender-based violence, regardless of her race, religion or citizenship status. That violence would include being subjected to a forced or underage marriage.
I will preface my remarks by saying that if the government sincerely wants to address the issues of violence against women, first we would call on it to immediately hold an inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. That would be a good start. Second, it should bring in a national action plan to end violence against women in Canada. Those two measures would go much further than the Bill S-7, which would be to benefit all women in Canada.
The issue the bill pretends to address, which is underage and forced marriages, is not really addressed. What gets heard by people who are learning about the bill, and certainly by the communications that surround this bill, is that it targets a particular culture. People hear that as being very xenophobic, very unwelcoming. Of course, we all stand together in opposing underage marriage, forced marriage and gender-based violence.
Let me be clear that Bill S-7 contains no new tools or resources to help front-line workers and organizations, the very people who are actually working with the women who are the victims of forced and underage marriage. They have expressly argued against the provisions of the bill because they know it would help fewer rather than more women in that situation.
Not only would this bill not solve the problem of gender-based violence that it seeks to address, but if passed, could very likely and in all probability make the situation worse by driving those victims of forced and underage marriages further underground, leaving them even less able to seek assistance.
In 2013, a clinic in my area in downtown Toronto, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, released a report on forced marriage after conducting an analysis of the surveys that it gave to support providers in order to collect data on forced marriages. It was a survey of the people who worked with and directly helped victims of forced marriage. Of the recommendations accompanying the report, one in particular was not to further criminalize forced marriage, that these women were already very marginalized.
That may sound counterintuitive. Why would we not say that this is against the law? Because most of the perpetrators of forced marriage are in fact their family members, their husbands and sons, et cetera. Victims reported their hesitation to criminalize members of their own family. That is a very real situation with which communities deal. In fact, victims reported that they would be “hesitant to seek any outside assistance if this would result in criminal...consequences for family members”. We must remember that these may be women who have children with the people who have forced them into this marriage situation.
No one is suggesting that forced marriages should be allowed; clearly, they should not be allowed. No one is suggesting that they do not ever occur in Canada; they do occur in Canada. We believe there is a role for government. However, rather than helping the victims of gender-based crimes, which is based in a rather patriarchal view of the role of women in society, the government is too focused on criminalizing this behaviour, locking people up and throwing away the key, instead of eliminating it.
Since this legislation has been introduced, we might ask if there is not other legislation that already covers this situation. The government could have beefed up the enforcement of existing legislation, because obviously polygamy and forced marriage is already illegal. For example, uttering threats, forcible confinement, procuring a feigned marriage and polygamy are already prohibited and illegal. Spousal and child abuse are aggravating factors. The Civil Code of Quebec and the common law of other provinces already require free and enlightened consent for marriage. In other words, this provision already exists in law so the bill is redundant. All the bill serves to do is sensationalize this issue without getting to the root of the problem and helping people.
I referenced a report from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. The government could have implemented many of the recommendations in that report. For example, it found that 50% of the clients who sought its services were not even aware of their existing rights with respect to forced marriage. Therefore, educational campaigns about their rights aimed at service providers, such as social workers, police, teachers and guidance counsellors, to help them understand the warning signs and the pressures faced by victims of forced marriage would have gone much further in terms of preventing forced and underage marriage than the bill does.
There is no allowance for the wives and children of an individual found to be committing these crimes. What happens to them? Those who are found to be engaged in a forced marriage are deported, whether or not they are the perpetrator or the victim of the marriage, which seems very unfair and makes it much less likely that anyone would report that situation or go to the police. That leaves little room for women who are fleeing violence or want out of that situation to officially report that they have been subjected to a marriage against their will. This is especially so if they have children.
Another way the government could have addressed this problem would have been to add forced or underage marriage to the definition of family violence for the purpose of seeking housing. That would have provided women greater flexibility to leave this kind of oppressive situation as they would be given preference for housing along with other people fleeing domestic violence.
Simply put, the legislation does nothing to address the real problem of forced and underage marriage. There is no help for victims, only the threat of deportation and the criminalization of their family. There is no help for enforcement. It would be a very different bill if the government only sought to prosecute by using the laws that are already on the books. There is no help for organizations and government service providers who work with newcomers and citizens to identify and prevent forced and underage marriage to assist victims who are fleeing these situations.
After 10 years in office, the Conservatives have taken Canada in the wrong direction, and the bill just continues along that path. The Conservatives are taking Canadians down the wrong path. Canadians can trust the experience and the principled leadership of the New Democratic Party leader to replace the Prime Minister and address the real issues of gender-based violence in a meaningful way.
That, in light of sustained high unemployment since the 2008 recession and the long term downward trend in job quality since 1989 under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, as documented by CIBC, the House call on the government to make the first priority of Budget 2015 investment in measures that stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada and abandoning its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank you for that very fair and justified ruling that you just gave to the House, which perhaps even set a new precedent for decorum. It was in fact brief and to the point, which was helpful to all members.
I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Newton—North Delta.
Canada's economy has a number of weaknesses. That is why we, the official opposition, feel it is essential to have a debate on our economy today.
I know that my Conservative colleagues would rather talk about something else—anything else, actually—but like the vast majority of Canadians, we want a debate and some answers about the economic realities we are facing, including a very high unemployment rate, a weak economy and the deterioration in employment quality over the past generation that is likely to be long term, according to a new report by CIBC.
We believe that the government does not have a plan B. Canadians know that the Conservative government is only interested in developing the oil sector of the economy. It ignores the rest. It is deeply obsessed with a very controversial pipeline and has nothing to say about other aspects of our economy. The NPD is in favour of a highly diversified and more just economy.
Let us put first things first. We have to understand that despite the Conservatives' current obsession with attempting to change the channel away from economic matters to just about anything else, there is a responsibility for us as parliamentarians to take on the challenges of the day. A clear challenge that is facing us as Canadians and Canadian legislators is the economy.
The statistics prove that we have not seen such worrisome trends since the 2008 recession. This was most recently highlighted in a report by the CIBC, which shows that job quality in Canada has fallen to its lowest level in a generation.
What does that mean? Job quality, as measured, has moved Canadians away from good-paying, middle-class, secure employment to increasingly part-time, insecure, and low-paying jobs that do not support families.
We would think that this would be a preoccupation for a Conservative government that claims to make such great strides on the economy, but, over a generation, we have seen the quality of employment and jobs in Canada steadily decline under both Conservative and Liberal governments. We would think that the government would seek ways to enhance the opportunities for Canadians and seek ways to solve some of the productivity conundrums that we have been having for far too long, yet the choices being made by the Conservatives are most perplexing because they do not address the needs of the economy.
Sure, the $2 billion income-splitting scheme that the government committed to, thereby spending a surplus before it had it, helps the top 15% of Canadian income earners. It is fine for the wealthiest Canadians under a Conservative government. Doubling the TFSA will overwhelmingly help that same group of Canadians. It has been demonstrated in report after report that there are not that many middle-income and low-income Canadians with an extra $11,000 burning a hole in their pocket at the end of the year. However, in a Conservative reality, the people who do have that kind of money, the people who can split their incomes and take advantage of the $2 billion Conservative scheme at the highest end of the Canadian wealth spectrum, are the priority for the government.
They are not the priority for the NDP.
We saw most recently in the Statistics Canada report in January that we actually lost full-time employment, even in a month when we supposedly did well. What was created, again, was part-time, insecure work.
Over the last year, we have seen the Canadian population rate grow at almost double the rate of job growth in this country. That should worry anybody, because the trend is unsustainable if our population is growing almost twice as fast as new jobs and those jobs being created are precarious, part-time, low-paying jobs. Not only are Conservative practices with regard to our environment unsustainable, but we now see that their practices with regard to our economy are unsustainable, and they are leaving a debt.
We know the Conservatives have added somewhere north of $155 billion to the Canadian debt in their tenure. We know they have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs, just since the Conservatives took office. We know that 200,000 more people are unemployed today in Canada than before the recession, yet the Conservatives claim that everything is perfectly fine and there is nothing to do here.
In fact, things are so good, according to the Conservatives, that they have an extra $2 billion kicking around to help out the wealthiest 15% of Canadians. They have so much money right now and the economy is doing so well that the Conservatives were able to dump in more than $1 billion on these self-promoting ads that constantly interrupt every hockey game anyone has looked at in the last few years—to do what? They spend more money by far on these ads than they do on food inspection or rail safety. They do more in self-promotion than they do to help out Canadian workers.
We see youth unemployment doubling the rate of the national average. We know that has not only short-term impacts on young Canadians and their families, but it has long-term impacts on their prospects. For those young people entering into such a weak workforce, it means that they do not go into the professions for which they are trained, with the skills they have invested in. They have to take whatever job might be available in a tough economic market.
We see, in fact, that women's participation in the workforce is at its lowest rate since 2002. For women considering going to work, one of the main factors and principles are the family policies that exist around going to work.
This is why New Democrats highlight and put a circle around the stain of Conservative policies with regard to our economy; the economy that they just do not want to talk about anymore, if members have noticed. We cannot seem to get the Minister of Finance up on his feet in question period anymore. He has been benched and missing in action. Yet Canadians want to know where the solutions are coming from. Where are the ideas coming from? Where is the budget coming from?
Crossing their fingers and hoping things get better in the oil markets is not exactly a plan for the Canadian economy. In fact, over-focussing on just one commodity, as the Conservatives have done with regard to oil for the last 10 years, has put Canada in a precarious place when oil prices fell, as they inevitably do. Yet we have a government in panic mode suggesting that, “Well, we're just going to wait a few more months, and Canadians are going to have to wait with us”.
Well, New Democrats are not waiting. We are putting forward proposals that will actually address the needs of the Canadian economy.
Take, for instance, the New Democrat proposal put forward by our leader to lower the small business taxes in this country. Small businesses account for 40% of our GDP and involve 8 million Canadians. Almost 80% of all new jobs are created by small businesses. When we put forward that motion in the House of Commons, Conservatives voted against it, joined by Liberals for some reason.
When we put forward a motion that would help the manufacturing sector, because we have lost 400,000 jobs in that sector, Conservatives, again joined by Liberals, voted against it.
When New Democrats put forward the idea of an innovation tax fund to help us with our productivity and innovation, because Canada lags behind the rest of the world with respect to research and development, we saw Conservatives, again joined by Liberals, voting against it.
New Democrats are going to continue to support a $15 minimum wage, the $15 affordable child care to help Canadians get back to work, and an economy that works for Canadians, not against them. We will support an economy that will put Canadians back to work. We will form a government in 2015 that is focused on the interests of Canadians and not on the narrow partisan interests of a government just hoping and praying for re-election.
Mr. Speaker, if you would allow me for just a second, I want to answer the question he posed. Now, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta is right, as well, in the fact that we are reinvigorating and growing the industry, which may alleviate any suffering from the removal of the minimum processing requirements.
However, to his question about getting workers for these particular plants, I would just say very succinctly that he is right on target, but wide of the mark. I say so because the fund would have given us the opportunity to market species in a way that we did not have before. Therefore, the new realities realized by the processing industry can be dealt with if, and I say “if”, this money is available, $280 million from the feds and $120 million from the province. Therein lies the essence of the issue.
Again, the free trade itself would provide some of these opportunities via reduced tariffs, but this particular deal that we talk about today, however, casts a different light on this, because the opportunity I mentioned has been squelched somewhat.
To my friend who talked about the other provinces, I appreciate that she talked about the fact that we could be here all day on a litany of broken promises. That is a valid point, but I would like for her to talk about not only the breaking of promises, but also the fact there is a product that is shown in the window and by the time we get to the cash register, the deal has changed.
The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
Order, please. The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Newton—North Delta for her insightful speech today.
I have heard in this House comments about child sexual abuse having gone up by 6% since mandatory minimum sentences were put in place. The question earlier today was that mandatory minimums are not working, so why do we do it?
There is one factor that has not been taken into consideration in this House today. The fact is that because of the bills that have been put forth in this House, more victims are coming forward and speaking out. I find the mandatory minimum sentences extremely helpful. They protect the child.
The tenor in this parliamentary chamber today is so gratifying. I hear my colleague across the way speaking from her heart for the safety of children and I hear my other colleagues saying that it is of paramount importance that children be protected. However, we have to look at the whole picture when it comes to mandatory minimums. They are of paramount importance because of the increase in the number of people coming forward.
I want to ask my colleague across the way if she has looked statistically at how many people, and how many children, are coming forward now in comparison to three and four years ago? I think she would be quite gratified to see the change in those numbers.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Newton—North Delta for her passionate defence of programs that would address chronic and rising youth unemployment and increasing poverty in this country.
I am still flabbergasted by my Conservative colleague across the way who tried to compare the $2 or $3 a day that the Conservative government wants to provide to families to the $1,600 a month it costs the average family in Toronto to pay for child care. The Conservatives are telling Canadians that they are giving them $2 or $3 a day and that they can raise the other $1,400 or $1,500 a month by themselves. This is an appalling and irresponsible attitude toward families. This means that families simply go without child care. There is no other way to put it.
Does my colleague from Newton—North Delta think the Conservatives even understand the pressures that working families are under, if they can say that for $2 or $3 a day they have taken care of child care when thousands of families in this country cannot afford child care because of the Conservative government's negligence?
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Newton—North Delta for her very kind comments. She has also done yeoman's work in the House, particularly with regard to issues recently around child care. I want to acknowledge the good work she has done. As well, the member clearly indicated that the New Democrats would be supporting Bill C-35. It was interesting to hear questions from the other side.
We talk about this place being a democratic institution. Part of being a democratic institution is ensuring that my constituents are represented in the House. That means as members of Parliament we should have an opportunity to rise in the House to speak to particular legislation. The members ask why do we not just get it to committee. I do not happen to sit on the justice committee, so I would be unable to participate in the questioning of witnesses and in any debate at the committee with regard to the legislation. Therefore, it is important that I am able to rise in the House to express what I think are concerns for my riding and to have that voice on the record.
Again, we support the bill and as the member for Newton—North Delta rightly pointed out, we do have concerns. However, let me talk about what the substance of the bill is.
According to the legislative summary, Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), is as follows. It is also called Quanto's law in honour of the police dog which was stabbed to death while helping to apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton, Alberta in October 2013. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests. The legislative summary says:
Currently, an offence is committed under sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code (Code) when someone wilfully kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle or when someone kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a pet wilfully and without lawful excuse.
There are also a number of provisions that address cruelty to animals, including section 445.1 of the Code, which establishes that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.
The legislative summary goes on to talk on to talk about what the new offences are and it indicates:
Clause 3 creates new subsection 445.01 (1) of the Code,3 which establishes that it is an offence to wilfully and without lawful excuse kill , maim, wound, poison or injure a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer's duties; a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member's duties; or a service animal while it is assisting a person with a disability.
It goes on to say that, “A minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months takes effect only if a law enforcement animal is killed”.
Subsequently it refers to the consecutive sentences clause 2:
Clause 2 of Bill C-35 creates new section 270.03 of the Code, which establishes that, if the abovementioned offences are committed against a law enforcement officer...the sentence imposed shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.
We certainly support an initiative that protects service animals. We know they play a very important role in aiding police officers, border security in airports where the service animals are being used for drug detection. We support legislation that enhances the protection for these animals, but as other members have rightly pointed out, there are some serious concerns with regard to the continuing use of mandatory minimum sentences and the consecutive sentencing clause within the legislation.
I want to turn for a moment to the mandatory minimum sentences. There have been a number of scholarly articles written over the last several years with regard to the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences in the United States. I want to quote an article that was published February 10, 2014, by the Heritage Foundation. The articles says, “Reconsidering Mandatory Minimum Sentences”. In the abstract, it indicates:
Mandatory minimum sentences are the product of good intentions, but good intentions do not always make good policy; good results are also necessary.
With respect to each crime, is justice best served by having legislatures assign fixed penalties to that crime? Or should legislatures leave judges more or less free to tailor sentences to the aggravating and mitigating facts of each criminal case within a defined range?
There were numerous arguments with this article, both for and against. As members can probably tell, I am not in favour of mandatory minimum sentences, so I will quote from the parts that support my argument.
I do not have time, unfortunately, to go through some of the cases, but in the conclusion, it says:
Congress was right to be concerned about reducing sentencing disparity and ensuring that sentences are neither unduly lenient nor unduly harsh. Nonetheless, just as law should be tempered with equity, so should rigid sentencing rules leave room for adjustment in certain cases where a legislatively fixed sentence would be manifestly unjust. No statute can account for every variable in every case, and the attempt to do so with mandatory minimums has given rise to punishments in some small-scale drug possession cases that are completely out of whack with the purpose of the federal sentencing laws.
Again, I want to stay with cases in the United States. Over a number of years it has had its “three strikes and you're out” laws and some other mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have now proven to be not that effective.
There was an article on February 22, entitled “Texas an unlikely model for prison reform”. It is a California senator who quoted this, but the article states:
For over 30 years, spending on our prison system has steadily climbed from 3 percent of the state's operating budget to 11 percent. Even during the depth of the Great Recession, spending on prisons and jails increased while spending on education and health care was slashed. It continues to increase today. It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives, and unlikely as it might seem, Texas seems to be leading the way...
Among the members of his board of directors are national conservative leaders Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich.
That is to highlight the fact that it not just the New Democrats or Democrats or Liberals who are indicating that there should be a review of the mandatory minimum sentencing; it is also conservatives in the United States.
The article continues:
How is this happening? Texas is investing in alternatives to incarceration that are proving to be cheaper and more effective at keeping people out of prison. It is also doing a better job of rehabilitating people to keep them from reoffending and...back in prison.
Texas uses risk-assessment and better probation procedures to divert large numbers of nonviolent offenders away from the prison system, keeping them away from hard-core criminals. It requires strict implementation of victim-restitution measures, while offering alternatives to prison such as civil sanctions, drug courts and drug-abuse and mental health treatment. It also offers rehabilitation programs like job training for those in prison to prepare them to re-enter society. And Texas has invested heavily in reducing the caseloads of parole and probation officers so the state can keep better track of the people it supervises and help them move in a new direction.
Texas, which I think most people would agree has had a fairly strong approach to the criminal justice system, is implementing measures that do not rely on mandatory minimums and other such measures. It is actually looking at rehabilitation.
When we talk about prison reform, I want to reference Howard Sapers, the ombudsperson for prisons. For years, he has been raising the issues around how people are treated once they are in the prison system and how many of the things that happen do not contribute to keeping people out of jail once they are released. Many other voices out there are speaking up.
However, the last point I want to touch on is the failure of the current Conservative government to adequately address prevention measures, because the best measure in the justice system is to stop people from going to jail in the first place.
The Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa has a number of resources, but it also has an article titled, “Building a safer Canada: effective planning for crime prevention”. In the introduction to this, it states:
Safety is a vital component of our quality of life. Our police and criminal justice systems play an essential role in helping to achieve these goals, and we should continue to do everything we can to help make them more responsive, efficient and effective.
However, there are no easy solutions to the problems of crime and victimization, and little evidence that simply relying on more enforcement and more punishment will significantly increase our individual and collective safety...
There is also a convincing body of evidence that prevention is an effective way to move forward. The concern is that Canada is not doing enough to make the best use of this knowledge and expertise—we need a sustained commitment to doing more to translate proven approaches into common practice.
Because my time is almost up, I do not have time to go through the whole article, but it has a framework for prevention planning. It says that there are five interconnected questions. One is understanding the problem and developing a vision, an action plan, and responsibility centres. Second is concentrating resources. Third is relying on evidence-based approaches. Fourth is assuming adequate and sustained support, and fifth is informing and engaging the public.
In conclusion, New Democrats support Bill C-35, but we look forward to a full review at committee.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta clearly outlined why the New Democrats will support the legislation. However, she also outlined some of our concerns.
I want to refer to the speech that was given by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, in which she highlighted the fact that the New Democrats had two private members' bills before the House dealing with animal cruelty.
In her speech, she referenced Bill C-232 from the member for Parkdale—High Park. Her bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not just property. She went on to say that the definition of animal was inadequate, which Bill C-232 would attempt to address.
The second private member's bill is Bill C-592 from the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. That bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by intents and acts of cruelty.
Since 2006, we have seen a failure on the part of the Conservative government to address some very valid concerns with regard to animal cruelty. Could the member comment on the government's failure to address some of those other issues?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of the members who participated in the debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and the member for Essex.
I also thank the member for Beaches—East York, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Newton—North Delta, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, Sarnia—Lambton and Windsor West. I thank each of them for their compliments of my work on the motion and for their support of the motion.
It was clear through the comments that we heard on this particular question and on the motion that there are a number of different questions and concerns that arise out of any debate that involves not only our important Canadian waterways but in this case the Great Lakes. Many of those members of Parliament whom we heard from take their economic means from and much of their local enterprise is derived from things such as recreational boating and all of the things that come from that, from retail to services to marinas. All of those economic interests are affected when we clear up impediments such as the canal at Port Severn.
As members heard, this is a beautiful part of our country. We do everything we can to attract recreational boaters and tourists, for a whole host of reasons, to experience the wonders of Georgian Bay and the inland waterway that stretches from Lake Ontario all the way up to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. This is what connects much of that summer-season commerce and we know we want to keep that going strong. That is what the direction of the motion is.
I would just finish off and somewhat encapsulate what we heard with a quote from the lockmaster at Lock 45, the immediate lock there. He was there for more than a decade and his family has been there for generations. He summed it up this way:
...very frustrating for the boaters, as well as for me and the staff, because they thought it was our problem. The years passed and water got lower and lower; the problem magnified. Boats had problems going downstream. With any current, they were on the rock shoal. Boats couldn’t meet under the bridge. The boats from 36 feet and upwards started avoiding the locks because of the dangerous and unsafe area.
That is exactly the precise direction of the motion, to address that particular issue. Once again, I thank all hon. members for their support of the motion, and I look forward to seeing it pass should the members consider it that way.
The hon. member for Newton—North Delta has seven minutes left to conclude her remarks.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, Natural Resources; the hon. member for Newton—North Delta, Social Development, and the hon. member for Drummond, Natural Resources.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for York South—Weston.
The electoral district of Newton--North Delta (British Columbia) has a population of 118,649 with 73,317 registered voters and 177 polling divisions.
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