2017 Bi-Monthly Update Series: March/April

To keep you informed, here are some highlights of changes and updates made to Clicklaw in March and April:

Jan-Feb | Mar-Apr | May-Jun | Jul-Aug | Sep-Oct | Nov-Dec


Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia

  • Navigator for Youth Transitioning to Adult Services
    Youth with disabilities in BC face challenges when transitioning from childhood to adult services. This program helps youth aged 14 to 25, their parents and members of their Transition Support Teams, connect with the services they need, such as disability benefits, health services, or school supports.

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Disability Alliance BC

The following help sheets are now available in 5 languages: Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Persian, Punjabi, Spanish.

Legal Services Society

Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry

People’s Law School

Each of the following publications now has a fresh new look, new content, and more practical guidance. Both are available in multiple media formats: wikibook, EPUB (for reading on a tablet or e-reader), PDF (print version), and printed booklet (order via Crown Publications).

  • Essentials of Consumer Law
    Explains consumer rights for common purchases and contracts. Now includes a new section on making a contract.
  • Scams to Avoid
    Covers 15 of the most common scams. Now includes new sections on romance scams, charity scams, and expanded coverage of online and computer scams.

Provincial Court of British Columbia

  • Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court
    Many self-represented litigants find that having a trusted friend or family member with them to provide emotional support, take notes, and organize documents can be a big help. The BC Provincial Court recognizes this, and has adopted guidelines to make it easier to bring a support person to court.

Common Question – Provincial Court Resources for Everyone: Small Claims Court

On June 1, 2017, the limit for small claims will increase to $35,000 from $25,000. This page has been updated to include this information and a link to the New Small Claims Procedures from the Provincial Court of BC. Note: The Provincial Court Resources pages will be updated for May 2017.

Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL)

  • Older Women’s Dialogue Project
    This project looks at law and social policy issues that affect older woman and explores what can be done to address barriers to their quality of life.
  • Older Women’s Legal Education Project
    A collaboration with West Coast LEAF, this project tries to enhance the capacity of seniors-serving professionals to support older women fleeing violence occurring in the family and to inform older women of their rights in situations of abuse.

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | April 2017

This month, we feature the BC Provincial Court, a Clicklaw contributor.

An Innovating Court

The Annual Report notes that the BC Provincial Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years.

The BC Provincial Court’s  2015/16 Annual Report highlights several of their innovations: the use of video technology to save transports for prisoners’ preliminary court appearances, an active website and social media presence for more open communication, improvement in caseload management, an open and accountable complaint process, and volunteer activities by the Court’s Judges, Judicial Justices and staff.

Their efforts to serve the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative forum for justice also include several notable initiatives with direct public impact: In addition to hosting the second-ever Twitter Town Hall, the Court is also taking greater efforts to improve meaningful access to justice for self-represented litigants (SRLs), and has recently released Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court.

Support Persons Welcome

The Annual Report noted that the Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years. A self-represented appearance means an appearance where at least one of the parties does not have (is not represented by) a lawyer.

The Guidelines clarify that the Court welcomes self-represented litigants (SRLs) to bring support persons to civil and family court trials or hearings, although individual judges still have the discretion to decide whether the support person’s presence would be disruptive or unfair in a particular case.

The help provided by the support person can include: taking notes, organizing documents, making quiet suggestions to the SRL, providing emotional support, and doing any other task approved of by the judge.

The Court hopes that this initiative will bring clarity, consistency and credibility.

Further details are provided in the Guidelines and the Court’s eNews announcement.

Twitter Town Hall 2.0

The Provincial Court ran its second ever Twitter Town Hall, which included participants from: justice system organizations, lawyers, students, and people with legal problems.

Chief Judge Crabtree answering questions at the second annual Twitter Town Hall

The event invited anyone to “tweet” a question to Chief Judge Crabtree, who would endeavor to answer all questions in a two-hour period on April 6th.

As the Chief Judge explained, “Last year’s Town Hall wasn’t just a one-off event intended to make a splash. It was part of the Court’s ongoing communication initiatives dedicated to two-way engagement with the public…It’s just as important that we listen to the questions and comments of British Columbians about their courts and justice system. Our public speaking engagements permit this two-way communication, but Twitter provides an opportunity to engage with more people in a different way and with people who may not be able to attend a class or meeting due to geographic or other barriers.”

The Court received 176 tweets and responded with 129 answers and 9 comments.

Recurring themes included: Access to Justice, “unbundled” legal services, the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal and changes to Small Claims Court, diversity on the bench, using plain language, restorative justice, and First Nations Court.

The success of #AskChiefJudge inspired the Nova Scotia Courts to launch their own #AskaNSJudge event.

Information for the Public

The Court also continues to publish new information through its website. As a Clicklaw contributor, the Court ensures its resources are made more widely available and searchable on Clicklaw.

Read eNews for useful and interesting information about the Court and its work.

The Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator, retired judge Ann Rounthwaite, said “We try to provide people with useful and interesting information about the Court and its work by regularly publishing short eNews articles on the website, engaging in two-way communication through @BCProvCourt on Twitter, and providing helpful information on our website.”

For example, see these resources on Small Claims:

Stay Informed with BC Provincial Court

You can subscribe to eNews and follow the Court on Twitter.
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Apr. 2017 Events – Online & BC-wide

Bookmark this post! It will be updated as more events are announced. You can also get frequent updates via our Twitter. Have a suggestion? Email us.

A community-driven event about how we can achieve women’s equality in BC. Join the Single Mothers’ Alliance BC for an all-candidates debate and keynote speakers on women’s rights in BC. Ahead of the May 9 provincial general election, learn about BC political party platforms on gender equality and discuss the issues that matter to you in community roundtables. The event will end with a networking reception for all attendees.

The BC Society Act, which provides the rules for governance and incorporation of non-profits, officially proclaimed important changes on November 28, 2016. There will be a two year transition period by which time all societies in BC will have to make the switch to the new Act. This workshop will provide the information on the bylaw and policy changes necessary for your organization to effectively make the transition when the new Act is proclaimed.

Tickets are $50, or free for workshops in the Kootenays (Kaslo & Revelstoke) due to the funding and support of Columbia Basin Trust.

  • April 3-27 (Various Dates): People’s Law School presents numerous events (some in collaboration with Mediate BC) on the following topics in Burnaby, Cranbrook, Lake Cowichan, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Surrey and Vancouver:

Wills & Estates, MyLawBC (guided pathways), Strata Law, Restorative Justice (in collaboration with Mediate BC), Scams, Employment Law, Civil Litigation, Power of Attorney, Investment Frauds, & Effective Enquiries (in collaboration with Mediate BC)

Register here.

  • April 5 & 8 (Various Dates): BCCLA has a couple of events going on this month:logo_bccla

April 5 (7:00pm) Justice for Hassan Diab – Mr. Diab’s Canadian lawyer Don Bayne and Hasan Alam of Critical Muslim Voices speak about the 8 year nightmare of Hassan Diab. At the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, Combined Peter and Alma Room, 350 W. Georgia St, Vancouver, BC. RSVP required.

April 8 (2:00-4:00pm) Equal Citizenship: No More Second-Class Citizens! Join us for a discussion featuring the BC Civil Liberties Association’s Executive Director, Josh Paterson, to talk about citizenship equality and your rights as a Canadian citizen. At the Welsh Hall East, West Vancouver Memorial Library (1950 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, BC). RSVP here.

Wednesday, April 5 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Live Demo of the Personal Planning Registry. Register Online.

Wednesday, April 12 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Health and Personal Care. Register Online.

Wednesday, April 12 (1:00-2:30pm) In-Person Presentation: Planning for incapacity and end-of-life. No Registration required. At South Granville Seniors Centre, 1420 West 12th Avenue (between Granville & Hemlock) in Vancouver. Held in lounge on 3rd floor.

Wednesday, April 26 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Financial and Legal Matters. Register Online.

Do you have questions for the Chief Judge? About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, changes to Small Claims Court or …? Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017. “He’ll tweet you back between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues. Not available on April 6? Tweet questions to #AskChiefJudge any time before April 6!

Join the conversation with Hugh Segal, Former Senator to discuss a Guaranteed Income for people with disabilities. Free Admission – everyone welcome. Reception at 6:30pm, light refreshments will be served.

Register at: http://ow.ly/FhtG309N9Jl or call 604.299.7851

Watch as students present their App creations from LAWF 3780 – Apps for Access to Justice, and vote for your favourite! OM 3772 or http://livestream.com/tru/law

We’ll be live-streaming this event at the Vancouver Courthouse Library, 3rd floor, 800 Smithe Street, and at our Kamloops Courthouse Library, 455 Columbia Street, Room 314. Let the front desk know when you walk into the library that you’re here to watch the Battle of the Apps. If you have any questions, email training@courthouselibrary.ca.

A number of important changes to disability assistance benefits have been introduced in recent years which affect persons with disabilities (PWD) applicants and recipients including the introduction of an Annualized Earnings Exemption (AEE), several new categories of income exemptions (including gifts), and a significant asset limit increase. In this one hour webinar offered jointly by POVNet, Disability
Alliance BC and Courthouse Libraries BC, Sam Turcotte & Annette Murray of Disability Alliance BC will summarize the most important recent changes and examine how they benefit people receiving or applying for PWD benefits as well as some of the challenges and misconceptions that have arisen as a result.

Register Online.

Stay informed:

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Twitter Town Hall this April 6th

Do you have questions for Chief Judge Crabtree?

About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, or …?

You’ll have an opportunity to ask him yourself, in two weeks’ time. Clicklaw will also be at the event in support, to answer any questions about public legal education and information (PLEI) in BC, contributor organizations, and more!

How to Participate

Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017. He’ll tweet you back between 11am-1pm.

Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues, and may not be able to answer all questions during the Town Hall, but efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions on the Court’s website after the event.

Answers will also be available at #AskChiefJudge.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday to last year’s first ever Twitter Town Hall: See the post that gave a recap of all the events.

Stay informed with the Provincial Court:

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2017 Bi-Monthly Update Series: January/February

To keep you informed, here are some key changes and updates made to Clicklaw in January and February (plus one March bonus):

Jan-Feb | Mar-Apr | May-Jun | Jul-Aug | Sep-Oct | Nov-Dec


Going to (Provincial) Court
by Provincial Court of BC

Most people attending court are nervous, but knowing what to expect can help. Here are answers to some of the questions you may have, depending on why you’re going to court.

Common Question: What if I want legal help for only part of my (family law) problem?

Unbundled legal services may be an option for those who want the advice and assistance of a family lawyer, but for whom hiring one from beginning to end is too expensive. Unlike the traditional full-representation model, a lawyer providing unbundled legal services works on, and charges you for, only those tasks that you agree to in advance. Read more at the Common Question page and see lawyers/paralegals who offer unbundled services on the Roster page.

Mothers Leaving Abusive Partners: Information on Custody and Access for Women with Children
by Legal Services Society and YWCA Vancouver

This updated resource contains information on: what abuse is, how to protect yourself and your children, what the courts can do, deciding parenting arrangements, and where to get help and support. Includes a checklist of what to take with you when you leave an abusive relationship.

Court rules, forms and self-help guides to court procedures

All links to court forms changed this February as Ministry websites were redesigned. Our flow chart that helps you find the forms you may need when going to court (among other things) and has been updated with the latest links.

Service: BWSS Drop-In Family Law Information and Referral Clinic
by Battered Women Support Services

This clinic is designed to provide legal information to women who have urgent matters in family law proceedings; legal information, legal referrals and legal advocacy support will be provided during one to one appointments.

Starting a Franchise in B.C.
by BC Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction

This resource covers: What is a Franchise?, Franchisee Checklist, Questions to Ask when purchasing a franchise, Q&A on the new Franchises Act that came into force on February 1, 2017.

An Agenda for Justice
by Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch

The CBABC presents a series of reforms and recommendations aimed at improving access to justice for all British Columbians. An effective justice system is one that actively supports the ability of families, communities and businesses to evolve and thrive.

A Vision for Publicly Funded Legal Aid in British Columbia (March Bonus!)
by Law Society of BC

This report prepared for Benchers by the Law Society’s Legal Aid Task Force concludes that legal aid is a crucial part of the proper administration of justice in a free and democratic society. In a society based on the rule of law, every person must have equal access to the justice system. The report provides a brief history of legal aid in BC, sets out the need for a principled vision, and makes a number of recommendations to realize the Law Society’s Vision for Public Legal Aid in BC.

Stay informed:

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Happy Social Media Day from Clicklaw

SocialMediaDay_HashtagsWe’ve found social media to be a great way to communicate and connect with others in the legal, legal tech, public legal education and access to justice communities. Hashtags are primarily associated with social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, but in recent years, other platforms like Facebook have also joined in.

In honour of Social Media Day (or #SMDay), we compiled a quick Database of BC/Canadian Legal hashtags, so that someone who isn’t familiar with these communities can see where conversations are happening.

Did we miss any?

We’d like to keep this list up-to-date and growing (we haven’t come across any other legal hashtag databases in Canada – though we did come across this interesting piece on using social media for legal research on SLAW), so if we missed any, let us know! Leave a comment here or email us.

Congratulations!

We’d also like to congratulate the BC Provincial Court for being recognized on Twitter Canada’s official blog here. For our recap of the #AskChiefJudge Twitter Town Hall, click here.

Stay informed:

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Clicklaw at the first Canadian Twitter Town Hall with #AskChiefJudge

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Chief Judge Crabtree taking a selfie by request at the Twitter Town Hall. Also pictured: Karen St. Aubin from the CBA BC Branch, Audrey Jun from Courthouse Libraries BC (Clicklaw)

The BC Provincial Court — a Clicklaw contributor — made history last Thursday as the first court in Canada to hold a Twitter Town Hall.

Everyone was invited to participate by tweeting questions to the Provincial Court’s Chief Judge Crabtree using the hashtag #AskChiefJudge or by sending an email prior to the event. The Chief Judge tweeted 100 direct replies in response between 1-3pm on April 14th, BC Law Day.

As the Provincial Court eNews notes, the event was promoted by “[t]he communications team of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch…as part of BC Law Week. They, and the BC Law Society, Trial Lawyers Association, Courthouse Libraries BC, Clicklaw, Justice Education Society, Legal Services Society, Mediate BC, Access Pro Bono, Access to Justice BC, and Nidus joined the conversation, adding helpful information.”  Thank you as well to all Clicklaw contributor organizations and Clicklaw visitors and users for participating!

News of the event made waves online:

Following the Town Hall, reflections on the event’s success:

Continue reading

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Tweet the Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court

logo_provctWhen: April 14, 2016, 1-3 pm

What: A live Twitter Town Hall Q&A with Chief Judge Crabtree

Topics: Access to justice, the future of the justice system, problem-solving courts and First Nations courts, and related issues. Read more about the topics here.

In a few weeks, you will have an unprecedented opportunity to chat with the Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court, Thomas Crabtree, who will be hosting a live Twitter Town Hall.

We’ll be live to answer any questions about Clicklaw and any of our contributor organizations’ resources–some may be participating directly as well! Don’t miss out.

How to Participate

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Follow @BCProvCourt

Tweet using the hashtag, #AskChiefJudge – you can post questions any time before April 14th if you aren’t available then.

Don’t have Twitter? Email questions to: TwitterTownHall@provincialcourt.bc.ca before April 14th.

Note

The Chief Judge cannot comment on individual cases, and may not be able to answer all questions during the Town Hall, but efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions on the Court’s website after the event.

Stay informed with the Provincial Court:

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An Introduction to BC Provincial Court Family Orders

This doesn’t need to be you.

In Provincial Court, you can get orders for: guardianship, parenting arrangements, child/spousal support, protection, and more.

See this page for general information and more resources on the BC Provincial Family Court process.

What is a court order?

An order is a statement of the court’s decision. It sets out what you and the other party (for example, you and your ex-spouse) must do.

Court orders must be prepared and filed, or “entered” into the Provincial Court Registry (click for locations).

Read the Legal Services Society (LSS) resource, “All about court orders” for more information about what kinds of court orders you can get, as well as options to pursue before the court makes a final order, to try and resolve as much of your case as possible without a formal court hearing.

Can I get a court order without a lawyer?

Yes.

If you and the other party agree about what you want the court to order, you can apply for what’s called a “consent order” and may be able to get it without attending court.

  1. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will have the order typed and submit it to the Court. If you don’t have a lawyer, the other party’s lawyer will do this, but you should see a lawyer yourself to review the proposed order before you sign a document showing you consent to the order.
    • Click here to see where to find free or low cost legal advice on family law matters.
  2. Family Justice Counsellors can also help you with family orders.
    Family Justice Counsellors can help you with consent orders.
  3. If you don’t have a lawyer, another direct way to get a consent order is to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor (FJC) who can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court. FJCs work at Family Justice Centres located across BC; they provide free services for people of modest means. FJCs are specially trained to support families to reach agreement on issues of guardianship, parenting arrangements (including parental responsibilities and parenting time), contact and support. They can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court; including preparing the consent order and submitting it to the Court for you. They can also provide information and referrals, short-term counselling, mediation, help with various court forms, and more. In some communities, couples who separate must meet with a FJC before they are given a date to appear in court.
  4. As a last resort, if you cannot meet with a Family Justice Counsellor or get help from a lawyer, it is possible to prepare a consent order yourself. This LSS Resource with Tips on how to draft a consent order contains links to the BC Provincial Court’s website, where you can access a “Picklist” WORDdoc including standard Family Law Act (FLA) terms to help you draft the order. (To “draft” an order means to choose the wording and type it. See also: What does the FLA deal with?) However, both parties should talk to a lawyer to make sure they understand what they’re agreeing to before signing their consent.
    • “How to get a final family order in Provincial Court” explains what to do once you draft a consent order. If a judge approves your order, you won’t have to appear in a court room. However, if there are problems in the wording you choose or the information you provide, you may have to attend court to give the judge more information. This is why it’s so helpful to have a FJC or lawyer prepare and submit a consent order for you.

If, however, you and the other party ultimately don’t agree, you’ll go to court and the judge will make an order:

When?

  • If both parties agree by the time you get to court you can ask the judge to make a consent order on the day of your first court appearance.
  • When you go to court, you can ask for a case conference where you and the other party will meet with a judge to discuss the issues. If you agree during the case conference, the judge can make a consent order there.
  • Your matter can be set for a hearing or trial or an interim application. The judge will make an order after considering evidence and submissions.

Who does the drafting in this case?

  • This does not mean that the judge types up the order that is filed at the registry. The Rules require the successful party’s lawyer to do that.
    • However, if you are successful and do not have a lawyer, the court clerk (registry staff) prepares the order unless the judge orders otherwise. For example, if the unsuccessful party has a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to draft the order.
    • If the other party’s lawyer will be preparing an order, ask the judge to permit you to approve its wording before the lawyer sends it to the Court.
  • Whether an order is submitted by a lawyer or prepared by the court registry, it will be checked by court staff and/or the judge to ensure it reflects what the judge said in court.

How should the court order be drafted, and why?

The order should clearly and precisely reflect the court’s decision. It should state who does what, to whom, when, and in some cases where or for how long.

It should be understandable even by someone who is unfamiliar with the case. This is because the court’s orders may need to be enforced by people who were not involved in the case.

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Use the Picklists provided by the BC Provincial Court to draft better family orders.

Poor Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay child support of $800 a month.

  • There would be problems enforcing this order if John did not pay. It doesn’t say who he must pay or when, among other details missing.

Better Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay to Jane Smith the sum of $800 per month for the support of the children, May Smith born June 1, 2011 and Lee Smith born July 3, 2012, commencing on October 1st 2015 and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter, for as long as the children are eligible for support under the Family Law Act or until further Court order.

  • This wording from the “Picklist” on the Provincial Court website makes it clear who does what to whom, when, when the obligation starts, and when it ends. Use the standard wording of Family Law Act terms provided in the BC Provincial Court Picklists whenever possible; this also helps with faster processing at the Registry: Click here for the Picklist Word Doc.

If a lawyer is involved, they will use their notes of what the judge said to draft the order. If the judge gives written reasons for judgment after trial, the order will be prepared based on these written reasons – you can also order clerk’s notes or a transcript of the proceeding, although this can take some time and is expensive.

The order can be in the following forms (Click here to access forms):

  • Form 20 for consent orders (see what else you need to file – special requirements for applications of guardianship of children and child support),
  • Form 25 for protection orders;
  • Form 25.1 for restraining orders; and
  • Form 26 for all other orders.

Click for links to all the resources

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Going to BC Provincial Court? New Resources For You.

Handouts contain short bit.ly URLs that forward to the Common Question page where the resources are accessible and the handout is available as a shareable PDF download

You may be familiar with Clicklaw’s Common Questions. While you can use Clicklaw’s search and navigation to narrow down resources, sometimes it’s easier to get help picking a few to start with. This is where the Common Questions come in.

We have been working with Judge Ann Rounthwaite of the BC Provincial Court and the Clicklaw Editorial Committee to come up with 3 new special Common Question pages to help you get started with different matters in Provincial Court:

The lists are not exhaustive of all the resources available on these topics. If we included everything possibly out there, it would be much longer than a handy one-pager. We aimed for a mix of helpful basics but also resources that included practical tips for the courtroom.

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Check out new resources from the BCPC

The handouts also include some great new resources from the BC Provincial Court. For example, “Preparing for a Family Court Trial in Provincial Court” provides helpful information on Evidence at a Family Court Trial, and what facts can be relevant for your trial depending on what type of Application you are making. See more here.

Everyone is welcome to download, print and share these handouts: judges, court staff, advocates, settlement workers, librarians, and even lawyers who would like to help their clients better understand the court process now have an easy starting point to direct to. If you are a Self-Represented Litigant, this is a good place to begin. Check it out!

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