2012/10/15 9:45 Launch of Canada Chinatown Series Toronto edition, and Conference on Chinese Canadians: Mobility, Culture and Community, U. of Toronto

The Canada Chinatown Series published Victoria edition Oct. 2011, then Vancouver in 2012, today launch of Toronto edition at U. of Toronto Library. Coupled withConference on “Chinese Canadians: Mobility, Culture and Community” at University of Toronto, October 15, 2012.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted byDavid Ing.

Canadian Chinatown Series is part of the Chinese Canadian History Project at the David Lam Centre, Simon Fraser University. The Toronto launch was held at the Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library, 8th Floor, Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street, University of Toronto.

[Opening Remarks] [David Chuenyan Lai] [Jan Walls] [Questions for 2 panelists] [Jack H.T. Leong] [Paul Crowe] [Jessica Li] [Questions for 3 panelists]

Introduction by Jack Leong, Director, Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library, University of Toronto

Welcome by Larry Alford, Chief Librarian, University of Toronto Libraries

Paul Crowe, Co-Chair, Chinese Canadian History Project Council

  • Leader of this Canada Chinatown Series project
  • Series that is academic rigourous, and accessible to the general public, to know about diversity and complexity in Canada
  • Both in web content and hardcopy

Vivienne Poy has recently retired after 14 years as a senator of Canada

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Opening remarks

[The Honourable Vivienne Poy, Honorary Patron, Chancellor Emerita of the University of Toronto]

Why is the topic of Chinese Canadian important?

  • First Chinese workers came to Canada since 1788
  • Have contributed to making of Canada as a nation
  • Not as well known as it should be

For the young, and for many people around the world, a better understanding of Canada

[G. Raymond Chang, Chancellor Emeritus of Ryerson University]

From accent, can tell a different route: Jamaican by birth, Chinese by heritage, Canadian by choice

  • Would like the larger community to understand what Chinese have contributed to Canada

[David Choi, Co-Chair, Chinese Canadian History Project Council], also head of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians

National policy regarding Chinatowns

  • NCCC has 5 regions, 8 chapters

NCCC has looked at all Chinatowns, from oldest in Vancouver to newest in Toronto and Ontario

Concluded would be no blanket policy that would apply to Chinatowns

  • They’re not in lock step, they’re all in different stages of development
  • 1858 Victoria
  • 1878 Toronto
  • 1886 Vancouver
  • Ottawa started Chinatown gate last year
  • Vancouver is historical Chinatown

Publications in English, French and Chinese

Need to recognize stakeholders, policy of non-interference

  • Everyone in the community is a stakeholder in each of local Chinatowns
  • Days have passed as Chinatown as a conclave of Chinese
  • Councillors used to take the bus to Chinatown, would be fascinated
  • Chinatown has never been only for Chinese
  • In Vancouver, was going to be a viaduct that would have destroyed Chinatown, was opposed by Mike Harcourt

For NCCC and all members, must recognize and encourage civic policies of Chinatown in development

  • Democratic policy

Vancouver Chinatown on slide, Ottawa is rising

  • Don’t have a Chinatown in Richmond, it’s a big Chinatown in itself
  • Government policy, must have a greater understanding of how it moves forward
  • Vancouver Chinatown is on east side, but all of buildings were made heritage, so landowners couldn’t put tenants on second and third floor, because of structural, electrical, fire standards, and couldn’t rebuilt
  • Vancouver is now relaxing the height limit on different buildings: next 4 will be relaxed to 15 stories
  • NCCC has been lobbied by both sides on this
  • Have to look at process: public hearings, well defined process
  • It doesn’t help to have another system on the side

Three I’s

  • For NCCC and members to initiate, innovate, invigorate

Will carry on launches in Montreal, Winnipeg

Co-authors of Toronto edition, recognizing sponsors

  • Patron, Vivienne Poy, has supported the project since the beginning, her name has helped, has been at every launch, Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto
  • Larry Alford
  • G. Raymond Chang
  • Judy Ouk, president, East Toronto Chinese Chamber of Commerce
  • David Choi
  • Citizenship and immigration Canada
  • Victoria Foundation, at the beginning, through Professor Lai

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David Chuenyan Lai, Emeritus Professor of Geography, University of Victoria, “Toronto Chinatowns: Past and Present”

Introduction by Vivienne Poy

  • Urban development of Chinatowns, and development of Chinese Canadians
  • Order of Canada
  • Honorary Citizen of City of Victoria

[David Chuenyan Lai]

Will be speaking, but am not an expert

Toronto Chinatown is much later than Vancouver, two Chinatowns in 1910

When Chinese population declined, Chinatown moved north

1923 Elizabeth Street

New City Hall in Toronto, then many high buildings

Now, old Chinatown on Dundas has gone, have moved to Spadina

Old Chinatown has been nearly destroyed

Chinatown West: a replacement Chinatown, as many moved to Spadina and Dundas West

  • High density, 3 floors along Dundas, initially controversial, but city allowed street level stores

Dragon Centre, Chinatown Centre

  • When created, pavilion and gateway weren’t created with tiles for severe weather, so tiles fell off
  • In Beijing, they replace tiles every year
  • Now repaired

Later, new immigrants from Vietnam, buildings were already occupied, so then expansion up Spadina

Toronto’s Chinatown East

When Chinatown West rents got high, then people sold out and moved to Chinatown East, along the streetcar route to Broadview and Dundas

  • Newspaper article: 8000 to 10000 Chinese in the Riverdale area
  • Chinese businesses always moved

This was a new Chinatown, not a replacement Chinatown

  • No associations, no churches

Others would be rejuvenated Chinatowns

  • Newspaper story about prejudice in Riverdale against Chinese residents

Charlie Meat Store was one of the first


Chinese characters on street signs

Dr. Sun Yat Sen statue

Stone arch at parking entrance

New Chinatowns: Scarborough

Originally 3 small plaza in Agincourt, Glen Watford Plaza, Dragon Centre

  • Were run down plazas, then Chinese moved in and developed
  • Racial problems: Chinese came in to occupy parking spaces, and all Chinese shops so that non-Chinese businesses blocked
  • Local government liked the development, but prior businesses didn’t like this

Spoke to town planners, this isn’t a racial problem, it’s caused by parking issues

  • Originally thought 2 to 3 parking spots enough, but at lunchtime, 20 to 30 cars come for lunch
  • Contacted church, asked them to offer parking at peak times
  • Should have changed requirement for 5 to 6 spaces per business
  • Result, moving to Steeles and Highway 7, so now standard is 10 parking spaces per business

By 1986, so many Chinese shopping malls, don’t talk about Chinatown, talk about a particular restaurant or plaza

  • Scarborough Chinatown name died out

Mississauga Chinatown

  • Not a Chinatown, it’s a shopping plaza by a Hong Kong developer
  • An arch, built by the private developer

Had previously came to monitor Asian malls, Steeles, Highway 7, 16th Avenue, then gave up

  • Many malls are developed by western people, and rented to Chinese: Asian-themed malls

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Jan Walls, Emeritus Professor of Humanities, Simon Fraser University, “Cantonese and English: Cross-Cultural Reflections on Naming and Transliteration”

Introduction by Vivienne Poy

  • Founding direction of David Lam Centre
  • Taught UBC, U. Vic, and SFU

[Jan Walls]

Names and naming is not a trivial matter: onomastics, the study of names and naming

  • Anthroponomastics: study of personal names
  • Topomastics: study of place names
    • Endonyms: not know by outsiders
    • Exonyms: for public use


  • Only 417 syllables in Mandarin
  • 630 syllables in Standard Cantonese
  • About 10000 syllables in English
  • Will be harder, statistically to pronounced any English name in any Chinese dialect

e.g. B.C. place names

  • e.g. 150 mile house in Mandarin in Guangzhou, Toisan with 150 and then the rest as phonetic
  • Looking at original documents, e.g. handwritten letters or 1920s newspaper reporting, depending on which dialect you’re reading, it’s like reading Arabic numerals with different pronounciations

Transliteration of names, paucity of Chinese syllables, and then the different dialects in Chinese

e.g. Barkerville, Oyster Harbor, Lyton, Hammond, Cache Creek, Dog Creek, Nanaimo, (Fort) Yale


  • New Westminister as second port (after Vancouver as Salt Water City)

Many English expressions in Toisanva from sports

  • Good ball
  • Deuce as tie game
  • Out side (ball) — standard Cantonese won’t do it (dou), have to look to Toisanva (ou)
  • Long shot
  • Change sides, as in tennis match

Can go in the other direction, damage in Anglicizing Chinese place names

  • Dialects become involved, e.g. Peking, that can from southern dialect, now changed to Beijing
  • Nanking also as souther dialect, has become Nanjing

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Questions for 2 speakers

Where if the future of Canadian Chinatowns?

  • Lai: Different from each city
  • In 30 years, Chinatown will have a problem
  • Many new immigrants from mainland Chinatown, they think Chinatown is dangerous place
  • In 30 years, old people will die out, and young people won’t join the associations
  • Toisan association is still active, but many inter-racial marriages, so Toisan won’t survive
  • Chinatown is just a landmark and symbol

Downtown Chinatown as viable, as not a monopoly in Toronto region?

  • Lai: As long as businesses maintain
  • In Toronto, large number of Chinese living there, maintain the associations
  • Edmonton Chinatown is dying out, because few Chinese residents
  • Similarly for Victoria Chinatown, few Chinese residents
  • New people from Hong Kong and mainland don’t come to downtown Chinatown
  • Should integrate mainland people, e.g. menus are coming with northern
  • Mandarin people will dominate now

Some speak Hakka, came to Toronto in the 1970s, Chinatown was interesting, were not as welcome in Chinese restaurants. Now, 30 years later, see more welcome. Chinatown has changed, with diversity of Canada. Chinese are smart enough to understand my dollar is as good as anyone else’s

  • Lai: Toronto Chinatown is different
  • Edmonton Chinatown is dying
  • Montreal Chinatown is booming, because surrounded by high-rise bisinesses, gentrification, have a Holiday Inn
  • Today, hard to write as Chinese Canadian
  • Translation (e.g. Montreal) in China is different from that translation used in Canada
  • Grandchildren are now learning Mandarin

From Edmonton, have an issue in Chinatown. Existing Chinatown is commercial, and then a heritage Chinatown.

  • Lai: Asked by planners, question about Vietnamese

How many Chinese families are spending the time and effort to have them master language?

  • Walls: More than half of the students taught were second or third generation
  • They look back at being forced to go to weekend or after-school classes, resented
  • Teaching was rote education, not enlightened
  • Pedagogical methods have improved, it’s become less boring to learn

2011 Statscan report: learning has gone up 15% in the last 10 years

Learned Cantonese as first language, it’s threatened by Mandarin in Chinatown restaurants and grocery stores. How is this playing out in Canada?

  • Walls: Now getting Cantonese into the proper university system
  • e.g. Cantonese for Mandarin speakers


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Second panel with three scholars

Jack H.T. Leong, Director, Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong-Library, University of Toronto, “Chinese or Canadian: Challenges of Social Integration for Contemporary Chinese Immigrants”

Introduction by Vivienne Poy:

  • Director of the library
  • Interest in science fiction, Chinese diaspora

[Jack H.T. Leong]


  • Canadian immigration and multiculturalism policy
  • Analysis of Ethnic Diversity Survey of Canada (2002), hope they will update with 2012 census
  • Interviewed 131 Chinese immigrants, by 2 students from Hong Kong for each of 3 summers (2010-2012)
  • Conclusion: How to make multiculturalism work for immigrants

Milestone: Universal points system adopted by Canada Immigration system in 1967

  • Attracted mostly professionals
  • A large influx of Hong Kong Chinese around 1997

Multiculturalism policy proposed and adopted in 1971 by Pierre Trudeau

  • Removed barriers for immigrants, so they could fully participate in society and institutions
  • Research will be about how this has worked in the past 40 years
  • Multiculturalism is part of the Canadian dream

Analysis of Ethnic Diversity Survey of Canada, 2002

  • Paper mainly focus on Chinese Canadians
  • Interviewed 39,473 telephone interviews, 2421 reported Chinese, about 6% of sample size, largest group of visible minorities
  • 85% were immigrant


  • 65% of Chinese reported as ethnic identity (as could be multiple)
  • Second lowest among visible minority groups, after Japanese (49%)
  • Higher than most white ancestry groups, except Jewish 68%

Challenges for Chinese Canadians, survey asked 7 aspects

  • Chinese group reported lower than other groups in all 7 aspects
  • Most significant lower in 4 aspects: life satisfacation, belonging, federal voting, and volunteering
  • Trust is the only that reported higher

Difference by generation

  • Recent immigrants less than earlier immigrants (more than 10 years)
  • 6 aspects better for earlier immigratns
  • But recent immigrants have lower scores: maybe they became more attached to the bigger society, due to multiculturalism policies

Four categories: attachment to ethic group, and to larger society: strong, weak

Pluralist, mainstream, ethic, marginalized

. . Attachment to ethnic group
. . Strong Weak
Attachment to larger society Strong Pluralist Mainstream
Weak Ethnic Marginalized

More and more choosing as global citizens

Marginalized group is over-represented

Two challenges:

  • Marginization (although global citizen may mitigate)
  • Racial inequality

Reporting of racial inequality

  • Poverty rate about the same as all visible minorities, but more than non-visible
  • Discrimination is 3x non-visible
  • Reported vulnerability is 2x non-visible

Situation improves if they’re here longer, over 10 years

Study of 131

Pluralist identity

  • 62% adopted, 52% as Chinese and Canadian, and 10% as global citizens

Reason for immigration

  • 33% by push effect, such as political issues in China or Hong Kong
  • 67% by pull effect, icluding the perception of a free and equal society

Education and volunteering experience

  • Professionals, after arriving, may not get so much time
  • 33% filled gap with more family time

Discrimination and racial profiling

  • 67% expressed explicit concerns, although survey group self-selection may skew
  • All transformed these concerns into motivation

Conclusions of factors of success

Multiculturalism works better

  • Positive to live in Canada

Looking forward to the 2011 census on language

  • Hope that ethnic research will be released in 2012

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Paul Crowe, Director, David Lam Centre & Associate Professor of Humanities, Simon Fraser University, “Chinese Canadian Religious Communities and the Transformation of Multiculturalism”

Introduction by Vivienne Poy:

  • Teaching and research on Chinese religions

[Paul Crowe]

Presenting part of a chapter in draft form, on Buddhism in Canada that may be published by McGill U. of Toronto Press

Religious life is always a transformation

Immigrant religious communities as adaptation

  • Ritual, symbols, institutions by Canadians in a new way
  • Recreated

Watada: Christianizing Buddhism in B.C. with pews

Retreat to Chinatowns

  • Lowest religion participation
  • Few temples built: one Hakka 1876, another 1885 in a Chinese Benevolent association

Lower profile, to avoid confrontation

In lower mainland BC today, reversed

  • Chinese religious organizations: need to frame own identity in cultural authenticity and religious orthodoxy
  • High concentration of Chinese immigrant

400000 in Toronto, 300000 in Vancouver

  • Proportion in Vancouver is higher, Chinese is 20%, as compared to 10% in Toronto

Richmond, 57.4% immigration, 49% from Hong Kong and PRC

  • Chinese malls, mean almost any language without need for English

By 2031, visible minority projection will double

Increased intensity of immigrant language transition

  • While some languages have low (Dutch, Creole), other high (Urdu, Chinese) about 70%
  • Overall 41% transmission in 2001, up to 56% in 2006
  • More immigration, plus Internet

Visibile in Buddhist, in lower mainland of BC

  • Connected locally, and globally by members travelling across Pacific, and over Internet

Multiculturalism policy, then Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom

  • Encourages preservation of heritage languages
  • Continued by Chinese Buddhist organizations
  • Gained momentum in the 1980s, and doesn’t look to slow

Language of multiculturalism

  • No shortage of debate in media on enshrined Freedoms
  • More damage by debate than scientific research
  • After 40 years, Garcia observes that criticisms of fragmentary efffects are about what they believe, rather than facts that they say may not be reliable

Need to be self-critical

  • Easy to portray people that come here as not part of the community
  • Minister criticism of Andrew Cohen: Canada as a hotel
  • Ryerson student: it’s good that we don’t have an identity, we’re multicultural
  • Hotel Canada is undermining our development

Underpinnings: Minister Kenney

  • Early years, no Japanese, Norwegian or Chinese — they’re who made us what we are today
  • Given that first Chinese at 1778: how long should they be here, before being recognized?
  • Narrow provincial views by Cohen: “multicultural as a fetish”
  • Polarized rhetoric

Immigrant religions community as hermeneutic, seeing them as independent

  • Another view as not damaging
  • Common spaces: daily journey of exploration that island inhabitants take, towards a shared identity, as bottom-up, where lived experience is gradually and organically shaped
  • Alternative to top-down characterization of Canadian identity
  • We share common workspaces, use same schools, use public transit
  • Focus on public space
  • Alternative to mainstream with minority integration
  • Two-way street sounds friendly, but puts it in opposition

Given size of Canada, imagined community

  • In England, beating of immigrants as shared shame

Cultural islands making a nation

Rorty: identities are created

Chinese Buddhist communities in BC, not founded on a group narrative

  • Continuity

Recent shift in multiculturalism leads back to 19th century language of dominion

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Jessica Li, Faculty Associate, York Centre for Asian Research, York University, “A Passage to Canada: Translation, Transnation, and Transfiguration in Iron Road”

Introduction by Vivienne Poy:

  • Also with Asian Institute at U. of Toronto
  • Chinese-Canadian literature, film, gender studies

[Jessica Li]

Iron Road, release in 2009

  • Adapted from 2001 Canadian Opera
  • 95-minute film version

Argues that Iron Road commemorates Chinese work on CP Rail

  • Looks at from Canadian and Mandarin-speaking perspective

Plot summary

  • BC, 1882
  • Contractor of railway construction, send son to Hong Kong to recruit reliable Chinese workers
  • Woman, Little Tiger, disguises self as boy
  • Works in construction camps, as a tea boy, wants more dangerous work, as she learned from firecracker master in Hong Kong
  • Romantic relationship, after revealing identity
  • Discovers impropriety in camp
  • Father dies, she takes ashes back to China
  • Gives up on romantic lives

Public and private transformation, gender


  • Came from four counties: Taishanese, Cantonese, Kiping, Xinhui, Enping
  • In move, they speak Mandarin Chinese and English

Not just translation of language, as it connotes culture

  • Translating dialect means translating practices into the mainstream language and practices
  • Diversity leads to hegemonic society
  • English as major language, Little Tiger tries best to learn language and culture: metaphor of eagerness to learn English language with gold rush in British Columba, equivalency to gold
  • To master English language as key to success, in the book and film

Transnational cultural conflict

  • Commemorates contribution of Chinese workers to Canada
  • Early in film, says if Chinese people can build the Great Wall of China, they can build a railway across Canada
  • Strength, perserverence
  • David Wu comment with CBC News: when you walk on the railway, you feel the blood, sweat and tears in every mile from every railway worker, red, white or yellow
  • Shows glimpses of white Canadian exploitation of Chinese workers
  • Reconciliation: son shows sympathy towards Chinese workers, due to current Sino-Canadian relation-building

Transnational romance

  • Between Litle Tiger and James Nichol
  • An apparent bond between Chinese and white Canadians
  • Screenwriter: marketing, inter-racial relationship as a metaphor for future opportunities
  • However, conforms to imperial colonical meta-narrative between white man and Chinese woman
  • Asian woman considering white men as cultural capital for upward social mobility: Little Tiger from lower class, James as son of Canadian railway contractor
  • Power dynamic transgresses: ancient women as passive, whereas Little Tiger is portrayed asexually, always wants dangerous work
  • James drops white girlfriend to be with Little Tiger

Gender transfiguration

  • Little Tiger disguises self as boy
  • She can do what men can do
  • Shows patriarchical confinement of the female identity: want equal rights, with assumption that masculinity as stronger
  • In gender equality, women have to submit


  • Another mission to look for her long-missing father in Canada
  • Allusion to Chinese legend, Fa Mulan, who is offered a military position, but then declines to go home to care for her father
  • Female self-sacrifice


  • 21st century retrospection of late 19th century Canadian liminal experience

Article has been published in an edited volume: Susan Ingram (editor), Historical Textures of Translation, Miletre Press 2012

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Questions for 3 panelists

Denigrating immigration policies today?

  • Crowe: Not denigrating, criticizing forcefully
  • In research in BC, people are taking advantage of Canadian policies for a long time
  • Open public spaces
  • This has made us an successful experiment, where other countries have tension and violence
  • Policy has proven effective, but hearing that people say it’s tearing us apart, but no statistical data or well-reasoned sociological research, all opinions smoke and mirrors
  • Then see politicians using smoke and mirrors
  • As academics, rely on data

Can we define mainstream? Especially as second and third generation.

  • Crowe: mainstream with inflection
  • The people in this room are mainstream
  • Don’t have to belong to a club

Immigrants, time period, from Hong Kong or mainland China

  • Leong: immigrants were mainly from Hong Kong
  • Earliest immigrants were in 1950s, but most came in 1980s and 1990s

Chinese contribution to CPR, do you use this film? Entertaining, but garbage. It was Chinese contractors exploiting Chinese workers. White contractors said should be responsible for medicine

What language in telephone interviews?

  • Leong: In original Statistics Canada survey, don’t know, think started in English and then switche
  • In own surveys, mostly Cantonese

Research on Buddhism. Why Buddhism?

  • Crowe: Actually research other groups, as well
  • Other groups are low profile, whereas Buddhists are high profile and in the media
  • In Richmond, the Highway to Heaven, where large institutions
  • They don’t represent the new generation of Chinese immigrants, they have a particular mode of religious practice
  • Nervous: they’re easy groups to pick out as targets, where people don’t know where the traditions come from

Interviewees, what is effective?

  • Leong: People who actually answer the questions

Buddhist temples aren’t only Chinese, in Winnipeg, they’re Vietnamese

Mainstream as a metaphor, from rivering culture. A river becomes mainstream from inflows in tributaries from many different sources.

  • Crowe: each tributaries are each mini-mainstreams

(Comment on first panel) In York region, have 6000 students learning Mandarin, many non-Chinese heritage. Used to be mother tongue maintenance, now called first language retention. Language policy in the home. Typically, if grandmother speaks only Mandarin, then will retain language, otherwise, they’ll switch. Don’t call it heritage language, call it international language.

Influence of economic power of China on current research, e.g. global citizens. Had done research on returnees to Hong Kong. Was difficult.

  • Leong: From 2002 data, four categories, haven’t considered global citizens
  • A lot of people who respond to questionnaires weren’t happy with categories, global citizens as part of time in Canada, part elsewhere
  • Did impact research, particularly on identity

Research based on people’s ethnicity? Citizenship is political. Global citizen means not answering question.

  • Leong: Identity comes from self. People can choose to declare themselves.
  • Answers related more to own perception, and how they relate to society.

Learning Chinese at home, why the third and fourth generation. From Malaysian, which is the largest Chinese minority in the world. Singapore separated, is 75% Chinese. Now, current generation go to Mandarin school, in prior generation, 50% went to English school. Encouragement in Singapore to learn Mandarin, but learned language isn’t as strong as in Malaysian. English was economically beneficially. Way of cultural identity. In Canada, will be difficult for Chinese parents to have children learn Chinese.

Why Chinese parents send their kids to Chinese school is complicated. After the Olympic Games, enrollments spiked.

Response to Malaysian and Singapore: felt more discrimination, so felt more Chinese. Those in Singapore, are just Singaporean. In Canada, it’s economic, with many Chinese coming.


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