Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence




From 1816 on England had a history of ridding itself of surplus population—including children—by shipping them from the streets, workhouses or estates to plantations in the New World and by sending them to penal colonies for misdemeanours. The Industrial Revolution and the Great Famine that swept all of Europe but was particularly severe in Ireland exacerbated matters. Hundreds of thousands flocked to England's industrial centres which were ill-prepared to accommodate them. Slums and their attendant problems grew at a rapid rate.


One government official noted that the problem was "that there were too many children in the streets of London" and elsewhere. In the absence of meaningful intervention by the government of the day to assist the poor, well-intentioned philanthropists in Britain literally exported as many as 100,000 Home Children to Canada between 1869 and the Great Depression to serve as cheap farm labour. Most were between seven and 14; many were younger, some older. Contrary to popular belief they were not all orphans; they were not all "Barnardo Children", nor were they all the children of paupers. To be sure, many were rescued from evil surroundings but not a few were "philanthropically abducted" by zealots who wanted to save them from the wrong religion. Many were put in "homes" abroad simply because they were sick and the homes offered medical care. Others were put in by widowed or sick parents or by families who had fallen on hard times because there was no state social net to assists them. Some (labelled "non-paupers" in the records) were sent over by parents who saw no hope for their offspring in Britain or simply could find no room for them at home. Some homeless street children gave themselves up to the security of the "homes".Children from the "homes"—which were operated by as many as 50 agencies—were generally sent to Canada without the knowledge or permission of their parents, a move made legal by the British Parliament's "Barnardo Act" ca 1890. Boys came as farm labourers, the girls as mother's helpers. While it is true that many were treated well. Home Children were generally denied affection because they were "just hired hands". Studies show that over two-thirds were abused by their patrons in Canada.In the child migration process, Home Children were separated from family and friends and effectively cut out of wills and denied even photographs, family mementos and medical histories as well as legal papers, such as birth certificates. Some were sent to homes where no English was spoken. Few got the schooling promised them and many were even denied the pittance they were to receive for their labour. And when the movement ended and the agencies closed their distribution homes in Canada they took their records back to England and the Home Children were left with no one to champion their cause. Canadian authorities seem not to have been informed or given any responsibility for them; the children simply fell through the cracks of our social system. It is a wonder that so many survived. Yet survive they did and many are still with us today! It has been estimated that Home Children and their descendants make up 11 per cent of Canada's population.


Home Children share one common trait. Traditionally they have not (until recently) talked of their past, even to family, because of the stigma that most felt was attached to them "in the old country" and in Canada. It is sad, but perhaps inevitable, that some Home Children should have perceived themselves as "discards" or "rejects" from the British Isles. It is sadder still that this feeling was seldom erased in Canada; indeed, it was reinforced by proponents of the then-fashionable belief in eugenics. This pseudo-science equated mental, physical and moral deficiencies or aberrations with certain races and occupations, as well as with the lower classes of society (Home Children?) and held that the defects would be passed on through heredity. Scholars only now are revealing that when "do-gooders"—including Charlotte Whitton—urged Canada to pass a law in 1924 to stop the importing of Home Children under age 14, their main motives were not so much to prevent the abuses to which such children had been subjected, but rather to ensure that the children did not further "contaminate good Canadian blood lines".The Child Migration Movement to Canada petered out during the Great Depression. Agencies continued to send children over age 14 until 1939 when the last Distribution Home in Toronto was closed and the children's records were taken back to England. Ironically, that same year, child evacuees started to arrive as British children were placed in the countryside and abroad to escape the anticipated Nazi bombing. It is a paradox that these children were welcomed with open arms.That virtually all of the 100,000 Home Children sent to Canada—alone and separated from others, as they were—should have reacted to their fate the same way, withdrawing into themselves, and remaining silent about their past, is bitter and conclusive proof of the severity of their trauma and proof that the Child Migration Scheme, however well-intentioned, was seriously flawed.Kubler-Ross and other experts have identified thirteen emotional phases through which children suffering "normal" loss or separation might pass. Home Children also had to contend with the phases inflicted by the stigma attached to them, and by the physical, mental and psychological abuse to which so many of them were exposed.It should not surprise that some Home Children should have fallen by the wayside or sought the assistance of social workers in Canada. In the 1970s it was they who brought the story of all Home Children to the attention of Phyllis Harrison, a social worker and author of THE HOME CHILDREN, THEIR PERSONAL STORIES. Yet most Home Children lived the quiet lives of unsung heroes; they triumphed over adversity, raised loving families, and contributed to the stability of their communities. Some became professionals. Many served in two World Wars for their adopted country, and hundreds gave their lives for it. Home Children and their descendants have good reason to be proud.


Child Migration to Canada continued for seven decades. From the beginning the system was criticized. It was found severely wanting by British government official Andrew Doyle who submitted his report to parliament in the early 1870s. Sad to say, the validity of his findings were not recognized until 50 years later.It boggles the mind to know that Child Migration was allowed to continue to Australia and South Africa until 1967 and that in post-war years alone 10,000 records were deliberately falsified. The children were told both parents were dead; the parents were told that the children had been placed in good British Homes.One questions too the validity of the reasons leading to child migration and the way in which it was carried out. And if the rationale seemed legitimate in 1869, surely it was not acceptable in more modern and enlightened times (?) a century later. Nor does the duplicity involved stand scrutiny.One last historical note: The British Government finally closed the loophole that permitted child migration in January 1982. (That is not a typo! The date really is nineteen hundred and eight-two—just 15 short years ago!)

Replacing the stigma with prideOur research and experience have taught us that the stigma imposed on Home Children, however cruel and unjust, can be eliminated today simply by telling the Home Children story. "Tout savoir, c'est tout pardonner." Catharsis begins when one know more and more about the problem. Seeing the child migrant movement against its historical background is important; even more critical is getting personal files and understanding them in the context of the times. It is then that one truly appreciates the grit and inner-strength of character most home children had.Researchers, however, are warned that learning the truth can be painful. Receiving personal records can sometimes be hurtful, but Home Children in Canada in 1996 were unanimous in telling social workers from Barnardos of Britain that they would much rather have the records—and the bad news that might be in them—than not. And they take satisfaction in the fact that someone has cared enough to keep those records all these years.Home Children Canada deemed it necessary to giving the Home Children and their descendants a forum to tell their stories, and so they organized reunions and have moved them about Ontario and Quebec so that Home Children in various centres could attend. They have also urged others—as far west as Alberta—to celebrate Home Children as effective ways of eliminating the stigma.The open letters of recognition we have solicited from Prime Minister Chretien, Deputy Prime Minister/Heritage Minister Copps, Governors General Hynatysyn and Romeo Leblane, Archbishop Gervais of Ottawa and Princess Diana have helped enormously. Now if The Education Ministers in Canada and Canada Post would only do their share we would be happy.It is interesting to note that, at a time when there are lawsuits over what happened to Home Children in Australia, Canadian Home Children and their descendants made a motion at a Reunion in Renfrew which said in effect that:

Whereas we Home Children and descendants are proud to be Canadians, and

Whereas we are glad to be here and love this land dearly,

Therefore be it resolved that we shall never ask for restitution, retribution, damages, or even an apology for any ills that may have befallen us. All we ask is speedier release of information.That motion—the only one ever made at a Home Children Reunion—passed unanimously.


The two teachers who make up Home Children Canada lament the fact that when Canadian history is taught in our schools (if it is taught at all) the texts and teachers tell pupils of the deportation of 5,000 Acadians, but the wholesale exporting of 100,000 children to our shores is overlooked, forgotten, or suppressed even while there are still Home Children alive and in our midst who could be used as first hand witnesses.The above facts and sentiments were catalysts in the formation of Heritage Renfrew's Home Children Canada Committee. Since the 1970s a few books had been written about Home Children but no action seems to have been taken to actually help them find their records, meet others who shared their experiences, or erase the stigma they suffered. We urge you to adopt, as best you can, our aims, goals and objectives:


1. to help Home Children and their descendants to discover their past

2. to tell Home Children story to as many as possible

3. to erase the stigma so unfairly attached to the immigrants and . . .

4. to replace it with justifiable pride.


1. (a) to bring together Home Children, their families, descendants, people with whom they once lived and friends; (b) to inform all about where information about the movement might be found; (c) to advise interested parties where information about specific cases might be found; (d) to offer free assistance (ie advice) to those who wish to trace specific case histories; (a) to inform all about Child Migration in its historical context and, in the process . . . (b) to reveal an important but forgotten, overlooked, or suppressed chapter in our history; (c) to research and expose the factors (eg belief in the pseudo-science of eugenics) that caused people to inflict an unjust stigma on home children; (d) to provide a forum for Home Children themselves to tell their stories; (a) to create a milieu in which the stigma attached to home children can be erased; (b) to create a milieu in which a justifiable pride can be instilled in the accomplishments of Home Children, if only because they survived a very impersonal system and became contributing members of our society—unsung heroes leading quiet lives.4. (a) to enkindle old and new friendships in a unique gathering of people who share a very special bond; (b) to organize or co-host Reunions and, in promoting the positive side of the Child Migration story . . . (c) . . . to rejoice.For a detailed account of the objectives we have achieved, see our website <>or send for a Researcher's Kit. Meanwhile, may we say that, since 1991, we have:

—  replied to almost 4,000 requests for free help;

—  organized, co-hosted reunions, and made presentations in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec provinces to any interested groups, schools, universities etc;

—  solicited the aid of government dignitaries (see Replacing the Stigma with Pride) in recognizing the contribution of Home Children to Canada and giving them more reasons to be proud;

—  erected in Renfrew the first historical plaque in Ontario, and perhaps Canada, to honour Home Children;

—  arranged for the Ontario Heritage Foundation to erect a similar but more prestigious provincial plaque at what was once St George's Distribution Home in Ottawa;

— located the long lost Gibbs Home Index of Church of England Home Boys;

—  solicited Canada Post (unsuccessfully to date) to commemorate the Home Children by issuing stamps. (We suggest you write in your suggestion.)

—  given Elderhostels on the subject;

—  video-taped interviews with Home Children and set aside copies for the National Archives of Canada;

—  arranged for the Latter Day Saints to microfilm and disseminate the Gibbs Index, the Fegan Files, and the Westminster (RC) List;

—  drawn to the attention of our Government that our Canadian flag was sewn by Joan Donovan O'Malley, the daughter of Home Boy Ken Donovan of Ottawa.

—  etc.



  (We suggest you use this check list.)


(1)  When giving NAMES include birth name, mother's maiden name and name by other marriages, the child's adoptive name, nickname, and aliases (if any);

  (2)  include the child's RELIGION at the time of immigration. This is one of the best clues we have because at one fell swoop we can eliminate 30,000 or 70,000 possibilities depending on whether the child is Protestant or Catholic;

  (3)  BIRTHPLACE and DATE are useful in verifying age and also in locating the Poor Law Union records if the child was placed in a home at a young age;

  (4)  the SHIP's name and DATE and PORT OF ARRIVAL;

  (5)  the name or location of the RECEIVING/DISTRIBUTION HOME is also useful, eg "Fiarknowe Home" (Brockville), Marchmont Home (Belleville), Macpherson's Home (Belleville, Stratford, Knowlton), Barnardos (Toronto, Winnipeg, Russell, Peterborough), Rye's Our Western Home (Niagara-on-the-Lake), the Church of England's Gibbs Home (Sherbrooke), the Roman Catholic Church's Orpington Lodge, later called St George's Home (Ottawa), etc.

  (6)  AGE when sent to Canada;

  (7)  name of SPONSORING AGENCY, eg Salvation Army, Middlemore's, Close, Barnardos etc

  (8)  names of places or families of FIRST PLACEMENTS in Canada;

  (9)  names of SIBLINGS or friends who came at the same time, earlier or later;

  (10)  approximate DATE and PLACE the family fell on bad times, ie when the child was put in the home overseas.

  When making inquiries it is common courtesy to

  (11)  include a large SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE and

  (12)  ... two IRC's (International Reply Coupons available at your Post Office).

  (13)  You may wish to send a DONATION at the time of inquiry or when you receive a reply.

  When making inquiries of the agencies abroad


  (15)  Ask for PHOTOS: these are generally only available for Barnardo Children, but occasionally other agencies have photos too. It pays to ask.

  (16)  Though not absolutely necessary, it is useful to make a signed WAIVER witnessed by a Justice of the Peace (no fee for this at your Police Station or Firchall) saying you will not seek damages or hold the agency responsible for any ill that may have befallen the Home Child.

  (17)  Say you have been in touch with Home Children Canada; we have been told it will help.

  (18)  State your relationship to the Home Child.

  (19)  State whether the Home Child is living or deceased.

  (20)  If you are writing on behalf of a Home Child have him or her sign a statement giving the agency permission to divulge information to you. Have a witness sign beside the signature.


B.  If you do NOT KNOW the agency that sent the child over contact Dave Lorente (address on page 1) and give as much of the above information as possible (para A). You will receive FREE ADVICE on how to proceed and where to find information.

C.  If you DO KNOW which organization sent the child over, eg Quarrier's, Fegan's, Rye's, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, Salvation Army, etc, etc, and the address is mentioned in this kit, write to that agency directly: (If you are certain the child was sent over by Barnardos, Sharmans, Middlemore, Macpherson's Marchmont Home, The Children's Aid Society, or the Liverpool Sheltering Home see para D).

  Not all agencies involved in Child Migration are listed in this research kit. If the agency address is not given, write to Dave.

D.  BARNARDOS: BARNARDOS sent over one of every three of the Home Children . . . 30,000 children in all. If you are certain the child was sent over by Barnardos write directly to Barnardos After Care.

  You should first request a copy of the Special Barnardo BACKGROUND QUESTIONNAIRE, and a CONSENT TO DISCLOSE INFORMATION form for a home child, or—if the home child is deceased—for a survivor from Dave. These will facilitate the gathering of essential information and speed up turn-around time.

  (Note: Some children whose records are with Barnardos may have come through another agency whose records Barnardos has taken over, eg Annie Macpherson had homes in Knowlton PQ, Belleville and Stratford and in the mid 1920s these—and the records—were turned over to the Barnardo organization. Barnardos also has the records of several other agencies (see the list opposite the Barnardo address). When writing to Barnardos in such cases PROCEED AS IN PARA 'B' and include the special forms.

E.  BARNARDO PHOTOS: Only Barnardos, of all the agencies, can generally supply photos BUT THEY MAY DO SO ONLY ON REQUEST. There is no charge, but you should make a donation. Consider asking other agencies about photos, but don't expect a positive reply.


  1.  Just as all colas are not Cokes, so too, ALL HOME CHILDREN ARE NOT BARNARDO'S. Thomas Barnardo was so successful in promoting his work and having it endorsed by parliamentarians and royalty alike, that some people—even some Home Children—mistakenly call all Home Children and themselves Barnardo Children. Not to detract from his excellent work, it should be noted that Barnardo sent 30,000 children to Canada, but so did the Roman Catholic Church. And the other 40,000 children were sent by as many as 50 other agencies who often used each other's facilities.

  2.  Barnardos can ill afford to spend time and 150 Pounds Sterling on sterile searches. That is why it is wise to check your information with Home Children Canada first.

  3.  Do not expect a quick reply. Requests are prioritized. Home Children get first priority. (Mrs Bradford, Head of After Care at Barnardos has cut 12 months off the normal turn-around time at our request.) Photos and essential information will normally arrive within two months; more detailed information IF REQUESTED will follow in the "normal" time frame. There are occasions, however, when, for example, the BBC does a program on Barnardos work and then the place is flooded with thousands of requests in a few weeks. This happened two years ago and will happen again in the summer of 1997. When that happens the turn-around time is lengthened considerably.


  Until recent years many documents about Child Migration and those involved were subject to secrecy law restrictions. As a result, books written before the mid 1970s are often full of pious piffle and seldom address the negative aspects of child migration. Accordingly, and with only once exception, only later more objective writings are included here. If a book is out of print, order it through Interlibrary Loan. Emphasis is on books of interest to Canadians.

  BAGNELL, Kenneth: THE LITTLE IMMIGRANTS, Toronto, Macmillan, 1980

  BEAN, Philip: LOST CHILDREN OF THE EMPIRE, London, Unwin-Hyman, 1989

  BIRT, Lillian M: THE CHILDREN'S HOME-FINDER, Nisbet, Edinburgh, 1913

  CORBETT, Gail H: BARNARDO CHILDREN IN CANADA, Peterborough, Woodland Pub. 1981 (available from the author in Peterborough)

  HARRISON, Phyllis: THE HOME CHILDREN, Winnipeg, Watson and Dwyer, 1979

  MAGNUSSON, Anna: THE VILLAGE HISTORY OF QUARRIER'S, Bridge of Weir (of interest to Scottish Home Children)

  PARR, Joy: THE HOME CHILDREN : BRITISH JUVENILE IMMIGRATION TO CANADA 1868-1924, Ann Harbor: London University Microfilms, 1982: Thesis, Ph.D. Yale, 1977


  WAGNER, Gillian: BARNARDO, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979

  WAGNER, Gillian: CHILDREN OF THE EMPIRE, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1982

  PRICE, Wm R: CELTIC ODYSSEY, Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, 1970. Bill Price's autobiography of a Barnardo Boy in the Ottawa Valley

  ROSE, June: FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN (Inside Barnardos), Futura, London 1989 (ISBN 0 7088 4245 3)

  EUGENICS & CHANGING IDEAS ABOUT CHILDREN: These are but two books that give background information that is important in understanding the Home Child story

  McLAREN, Angus: OUR OWN MASTER RACE—EUGENICS IN CANADA, 1885-1945, McClelland and Stewart Inc., Toronto, 1990

  SUTHERLAND, Neil: CHILDREN IN ENGLISH CANADIAN SOCIETY, U of T Press, 1976 and 1978 (ISBN 0-8020 and 0-6345-4 pa)


  For all arrivals before 1919 you must do the research yourself. The National Archives on Wellington Street in Ottawa has microfilms of all ship manifests for most of the period of child migration (1865-1919). These microfilms are available at the Archives and anywhere in Canada through Interlibrary Loan if your library has a microfilm reader. Some Provincial Archives also have copies. Unless you have lots of time we suggest you NOT attempt this type of research until you know the home child's year and port of entry. It can be a terribly time consuming process. Dave or the National Archives can advise which microfilms you should order if you have port of entry and year.

I.  SHIP LIST SEARCHES AFTER 1919: The national Archives have no microfilms of Ship Manifests for the years after early 1919. So, if the home child entered Canada after 1919 you MUST contact THE QUERY RESPONSE CENTRE, EMPLOYMENT AND IMMIGRATION CANADA. Make your request through the nearest Canada Immigration Centre. If you live outside Canada contact the nearest Canadian Consular Office. QUERY RESPONSE will search for an individual for the (current) fee of $30.00—more for a family.

J.  THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES SOUNDEX LIST may be helpful in locating names of Home Children, especially Barnardo Children. It is not complete. Expect to find one in two names. The list identifies ship and date of arrival. Mary Munk of The National Archives of Canada has advised that the Archives will search the Soundex Records for you. Simply send full name, date of birth, (even if approximate), place of origin, where they ended up, religious denomination etc. Address is: The National Archives of Canada, Genealogical Branch, 3rd Floor, Wellington Street, Ottawa ON, K1A 0N3, Tel (613) 996-7458.


  N.B. When writing abroad for Home Children information it is useful to know that agencies sometimes kept two sets of books, one in Canada and one in the UK and that these may or may not have contained the same information. What we are suggesting is that there may be more than one repository for an agency's records.

  On the other hand, the various newly-formed Dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church never did act as a cohesive unit and so records, to the extent that they exist at all, might only be on cardex and could be scattered in convents, archives and parishes all over the UK.

  These agencies (listed alphabetically) are but a few of the many who sent children to Canada.

  Those marked ** are groups that were formed later which are interested in helping you in your search. In these latter cases write to ascertain fees.

* * * *

  BARNARDOS After Care Section, c/o Mrs Collette Bradford or Marjorie Stoner, Tanners Lane, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, England, IG6 1QG, Tel. 01-551-8822 Tel. 01-44-181-550-8822, Fax 011- 44-181-551-6870 (Barnardos has 50,000 records including those of The CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY, MACPHERSON HOMES e.g. MARCHMONT, LIVERPOOL SHELTERING HOME, MIDDLEMORE HOME, SHARMANS and some early QUARRIER'S Children).

  **THE CATHOLIC FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY (RC), c/o Mrs Marbara M. Murray, General Secretary, 2 Winscombe Crescent, Ealing, London, England W5 1AZ. Overseas membership £8.

  **THE CHILD MIGRANT TRUST, 8 Kingston Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, UK, NG2 7AQ. This organization is most interested in Australian Home Children. Donations accepted.


  THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND'S THE CHILDREN'S SOCIETY (formerly WAIFS AND STRAYS), c/o Mr Ian Wakeling, Edward Rudolf House, Margery Street, London, WC1X 0JL, Tel 0171-837 4299; Fax 0171-837 0211. (Thanks to the descendants of Home Children Home Children Canada now has a copy of the long lost Index to Boys sent to Gibbs Home in Sherbrooke, PQ.

  There are conflicting rumours about Church of England records. Some have it that the records which had been kept in Canada (as opposed to those that were kept in England) were put on cardex in the late 1960s and then destroyed in the 1960s and the cardex were lost in the 1980s: others believe the records still exist.)

  FEGAN'S HOMES, c/o Mr Doug Fry, 503 King George, Brantford ON, N3T 5L8, Canada, Tel (519) 756-2169. Doug has the 4,500 personal files as well as eight volumes of indices for Fegan Boys sent to Canada. He can provide, names, dates of birth and entry into Canada, rates of pay and first placements. He has given Dave a copy of each Index. When requesting copies of Doug's records we suggest you send at least $10 to cover the cost of searching, handling and postage. (As a matter of interest, Fegan often sent Irish lads from MISS CARR's in Dublin. He also brought Armenian boys to Canada.)


  MACPHERSON'S HOMES (in Knowlton PQ, Belleville ON, Stratford ON)—(see Barnardos)

  MIDDLEMORE'S HOMES (see Barnardos)

  NATIONAL CHILDREN'S HOME, (The Rev Dr Thomas Bowman Stephenson's), Highbury Park, London N5 1UD Tel. 01-26-2033.

  QUARRIER'S HOMES, Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Scotland, PA11 3SA (of special interest to Scots). Some early Quarrier's Children were sent through Annie Macpherson's agency and so their Canadian records are with Barnardos.

  Most Roman Catholics, from 1895 to 1904, were distributed from New Orpington Lodge in Hintonburgh, Ottawa. Before that there was at least one distribution Home in Montreal. Orpington became St George's Home in 1904 and was the sole distribution Home in Canada for RC's until it closed in 1934. Files were returned to England then and most, sad to say, were reduced to card index and burned in the mid 1950's. Some few original files remain for the years around 1920. (Dave has a list of these names, a list of all 2,060 children sent from Westminster Diocese, and names of some of the 326 sent from Southwark Diocese before 1898 and a list of children sent to Saskatchewan, and a 1992 Church Directory which sometimes provides a clue as to Diocese. Major contacts are listed below in random order. See Dave re others.

  (a)  Catholic Child Welfare Council, c/o Mary Gandy, General Secretary, 120 West Heath Road, London, NW3 7TY, Phone and fax 0131-731-8028

  (b)  Catholic Children's Society, Westminster Diocese, c/o Jim Richards, 73 St Charles Square, London W10 6EJ

  (c)  Father Hudson Society Archives, Birmingham Diocese, Coventry Road, Coleshill, Birmingham B46 3ED

  (d)  Arundel, Brighton, Portsmouth, Southwark Diocese, c/o Mr Mike Lyons, 49 Russell Hill Road, Purley, Surrey CR8 2XB, England

  (e)  Mrs Pat McEvoy, The Nugent Care Society Head Office, 150 Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L3 5RF, England

  SALVATION ARMY HERITAGE CENTRE, 2130 Bayview, Toronto, ON M4N 3K6 (Tel (416) 481-4444)

  SHARMANS (see Barnardos)


* * * * * * * *


  L.  MAILING LIST: Your name will be on our Mailing List only if you have personally contacted Dave Lorente. Because of the large number (now almost 4,000) and the cost of printing and mailing you will receive our annual newsletter and notice re the next Annual Reunion only if you are a member of Heritage.

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