Category Archives: Canada

Dave Considers Becoming A Dog Walker

We began our second day here in beautiful Canmore with a long walk in the chilly morning air. When you are staying in a household with two dogs getting them outdoors for some exercise is the top priority. After breakfast, we hit the trails gorgeous with autumn colours to take Archer and Josie the two dogs that belong to our niece and her fiancé for a walk.

Dave decided to try his hand at walking the dogs, first with Archer the puppy and then with Josie the older dog as well.

The dogs really responded well to him and he managed to keep them on course even though both have a tendency to want to venture off the path to chase squirrels and rabbits and birds and could get a little excited when we met other dogs.

Even when we spotted a herd of elk on a neighbourhood soccer field Dave kept the dogs in hand.

Our niece told Dave dogwalkers typically make twenty dollars an hour. Since Dave lost his job as a driver for a car dealership during the pandemic, he has been thinking about trying a different sort of part-time employment. He may have found it.

Other posts………

Coop the Great- A Book That Isn’t Just For Dog Lovers

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

Ten Thoughts About the Movie Call of the Wild

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Filed under Canada, Retirement, Western Canada Travels

Welcome to Canmore

Going for an autumn walk in Canmore Alberta

We arrived in Canmore yesterday afternoon. We are staying at the home of our niece Olivia and her fiancé Miche.

Olivia and Miche share their home with two dogs Archer and Josie

The view from their home is spectacular and they took us for a walk near sunset to explore some of the trails that begin just at the end of their street.

By the Bow River in Canmore Alberta

We hiked along the Bow River which begins in the Rocky Mountains, winds through Alberta, joins the Oldman River, then the South Saskatchewan River, then the Nelson River, and eventually flows into Hudson Bay. Quite a journey!

In the distance behind Dave, you can see The Three Sisters

On our walk, we could see The Three Sisters, a trio of mountains initially dubbed The Three Nuns in 1883 by someone who saw the three mountains capped with snow and thought they resembled nuns in white veils.

George Dawson, a Canadian geologist, and surveyor renamed them The Three Sisters in 1886. They are individually known as Big Sister (2,936 meters), Middle Sister (2,769 meters), and Little Sister (2,694 meters). Dawson also referred to them as Faith, Hope, and Charitya Biblical reference about the three most important things in life found in 1 Corinthians 13.

The people of the Stoney Nakoda call the peaks The Three Sisters in their language but that name comes from a story about an old man who would promise three sisters in marriage whenever he was in trouble.

We walked by this old railway bridge. Coal mining began in Canmore in 1887 and by the time of World War I the mines in the area were producing 5 million tons of coal annually. Gradually the industry waned and the last local coal mine closed in 1979. There are still ongoing efforts to repair the environmental damage the mines caused to the area.

The railroad bridge was built in the 1890s to link the Canmore mining area to the main Canadian Pacific line.

Our walk worked up our appetites for the delicious lasagna supper Olivia had made. Tomorrow night we hear Miche is cooking. Our niece and her fiancé are both professional chefs. How lucky can we be to have them as our hosts in Canmore?

Other posts………

The Rehearsal Dinner- A Culinary Masterpiece

The Amazing Race Driedger Style

My Dad Was A Train Porter in the 1950s

I Love Autumn

A Wedding That Was Too Exciting

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Filed under Canada, Family, Travel

My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day

We arrived in Saskatoon on September 30th the day Canada celebrated its first National Reconciliation Day. It’s a new federal statutory holiday honoring Indigenous children who were part of the residential school system.

We are staying with our children and grandchildren in Saskatoon and my grandsons told me all about the way the new holiday was marked at their school.

They had a whole school assembly on the playground. Their music teacher sang O Canada in Cree to start the assembly and then a grade three class told the story of Phyllis Webstad who is from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation.

Phyllis Webstad has shared her story in two children’s picture books. She also has told it many times in person to different groups. You can learn more on the Orange Shirt website.

In 1973 six-year-old Phyllis was excited about her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, B.C. Her grandmother had bought her a new, bright orange shirt for the occasion. But when she arrived at the school, the staff cut her hair and she was forced to change into different clothes. Her new shirt was taken away, and she never got it back.

I must admit I had never heard Phyllis’ story before and didn’t realize that’s why orange shirts are worn to commemorate what happened to Indigenous children at residential schools. My nine-year-old grandson did an excellent job of relaying the story to me and then told me that after they heard the story in their assembly the whole school sang a song in Cree that their music teacher had taught to every class.

Each child in the school was given a stone to paint. My older grandson said he painted a feather on his stone and printed the words Every Child Matters. My younger grandson who is just five and in kindergarten said he made a big red heart on his stone. The stones were placed under the school’s friendship bench.

The Friendship Bench Project is a Canadian initiative. You learn more about it on their website.

I hadn’t heard of friendship benches but my grandsons explained it is a special bench on their school playground where kids can go if they are feeling lonely or sad. They sit on the bench and then other kids will come over to talk or invite them to play.

Stolen Words is written by Melanie Florence and has gorgeous illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard

My younger grandson told me after the school assembly his kindergarten teacher read them a special book called Stolen Words. My grandson related the entire story to me in great detail. It is about a little girl who helps her grandfather reclaim the Cree words he lost at residential school when he wasn’t allowed to speak his own language. Later I found nearly a dozen read-aloud versions of the book on YouTube. I had never heard the story before but want to buy my own copy of the book now.

Hiking the Meewasin Trail near Saskatoon with our grandchildren. Meewasin means ‘beautiful’ in Cree.

I didn’t learn anything about Indigenous culture or history, or the need for reconciliation when I was in elementary school. I am glad my grandchildren are having a very different experience. I think it is wonderful they are passing on their knowledge to those of us in the older generation who need to learn the same lessons but didn’t have the opportunity to do so as children.

Other posts……….

10 Things About Kent Monkman’s The Scream

The First Thing I Love About Canada’s New Governor-General

Two Breathtakingly Beautiful Books

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Filed under Canada, Education

Mom’s First Day of School in 1931

My mother Dorothy Schmidt is to the left in this photo

Today is the first day of school for many children in Canada and it reminds me of this photo of my mother and her sister Viola on the first day of school in 1931. Mom was six years old. Someone has penciled on the back of the photo Dorothy’s first day of school.

I love looking at all the details in the photo. My Mom has a book under her arm which I think might be her Book 1 Canadian reader. Mom told me that for each grade in school they had a different reading book with poetry and fiction and stories about nature and history.

Check out the rather battered black lunch kit my mother’s sister is carrying. My grandmother always sewed her daughters’ dresses and from the material sticking out of both the girl’s sleeves I’m guessing the dresses were matching.

I just love the girl’s wool hats and woolen stockings. I think their grandmother made them.

My great grandmother Marie Jantz

My mother’s grandmother lived with her family till Mom was sixteen and her grandmother died. There were few nursing homes for the elderly in the 1930s. Mom said her grandmother was constantly knitting things for her family.

This is the one-room school near Drake Saskatchewan that my mother attended in 1931. Check out the kids coming to school by horse and buggy.
When it was very cold in winter my Mom said her Dad might take them to school in a horse-drawn caboose. Here the caboose is outside their farmhouse ready to leave. The kids would have hot bricks their Mom heated on the wood stove under their feet to keep warm.
The Kansas School in Drake Saskatchewan

The Kansas School had grades 1-8 and Mom thought up to 50 kids attended at a time. It was called the Kansas School because most of the children who attended it were from families who had immigrated to Canada from Kansas or other mid-western American states at the turn of the century.

My Mom with her grade one class. Mom is third from the right.

Mom’s teacher in grade one was Miss Agnes Regier and Mom really liked her. At the end of her first school year her class put on a little musical on the porch of Miss Regier’s house and all their parents came to watch. Mom also remembers how they used to chant their spelling words out loud together letter by letter. 

At recess, they liked to skip in pairs and they had skipping rhymes to chant as they did so. Mom said they also played lots of cricket using the tree stumps on the schoolyard as wickets. In winter they made a slide on the schoolyard with boxes and boards. Their stockings would be soaked when they came in and they had to take turns standing by the register to dry them.

The children at the Kansas School in the 1930s with their teacher Hans Dyck. My Mom is in the second row just to the right of Mr. Dyck’s shoulder.

In grades 3-8 Mom had a teacher at the Kansas School named Hans Dyck. He was quite strict but an excellent musician who taught his students to sing in four-part harmony and entered them in music festivals where they always took first place.

Mr. Dyck introduced them to world geography and they learned the names of the countries of the world and their capitals and even made topography maps from paste and plaster. They did science experiments and learned about masterpieces by famous artists. Mom’s favorite time of day was right after lunch when Mr. Dyck read aloud to them.

Today many parents will be snapping photos of their children as they set off to begin a new school year, just like my grandparents did in 1931 when their daughters headed off to class.

Other posts……….

They Wore Masks Too

My Father-in-Law Was Born in a School for the Deaf

Don’t Speak German

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Filed under Canada, Education, Family, History

Disappointed in the Liberal Party

Disappointed would be the word I’d use to describe my feelings about Canada’s Liberal Party as we approach the federal election.  

I am disappointed the Prime Minister would call an election in the middle of a pandemic when key initiatives he proposed during the first two years of his current mandate hadn’t run into major Parliamentary roadblocks. Most legislation the Liberals tabled to provide support to Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis passed in the House of Commons with cooperation from other political parties. Why call an election in hopes of getting a majority government when your minority government is advancing your agenda fairly smoothly?

I am also disappointed Justin Trudeau has broken so many promises he made.  I was excited in 2015 when he assured us this would be the last first past the post-election. A new system would help make every Canadian feel their vote counted. Trudeau has abandoned that promise. 

Elders from the Lhoosk’uz Dené community tasting water from their new water treatment system (Photo source)

 In 2015 the Liberal government promised to end all long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations by March 2021.  That date has come and gone and there are still long-term advisories in thirty-two First Nations. I realize solutions to this problem are beset by challenges but also know in some communities, innovative scientists and engineers have pushed through roadblocks by working in partnership with Indigenous citizens. 

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 calls to action in 2015 Justin Trudeau promised an immediate and unreserved commitment to their implementation. Six years later only 14 calls to action have been completed and 23 are in observable progress. That means two-thirds of the tasks remain undone.  Not a great track record. 

Justin Trudeau made headlines by appointing the first Canadian cabinet that had gender equityPhoto from The Guardian

I was excited when Justin Trudeau was first elected and created a cabinet with gender equity. His commitment hasn’t wavered. His current cabinet contains 18 women and 19 men.  I am disappointed however Mr. Trudeau couldn’t find a way to work things out with two of his most powerful and competent female ministers Jody Wilson- Raybould and Jane Philpott who were both removed from the Liberal caucus in 2019 over their differences with the prime minister. 

A woman covers her face as she walks past a child care center that’s closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on April 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

I will be incredibly disappointed if the decision to have an election, results in the new childcare legislation the Liberals just introduced being shelved because the Conservatives win. This already happened in 2006 when the Liberals had an ambitious childcare initiative underway that Stephen Harper kiboshed when elected.  The current Conservatives have a plan to help families with childcare, but it doesn’t include measures to improve the quality and number of daycare spaces rendering it almost useless to parents strapped to find spots for their kids. Justin Trudeau’s election call is putting this vital program in jeopardy. 

 I am not saying the Liberals haven’t done good things during their recent years in office. The vaccines they procured have made it possible for 67 % of our total population to be fully vaccinated, one of the best records in the world. As vaccines for children become available, hopefully before Christmas, that admirable percentage will continue to rise. The Liberals also unmuzzled the scientists Stephen Harper had silenced, returned the Old Age Security benefit eligibility to 65, reinstated the important long-form census, signed the Paris Accord on climate, and took steps to reform the Senate. 

But in the last few years, their ethical missteps among other things have left me disappointed.  

Leading up to the election I am writing about each of the major three political parties in my newspaper columns and assigning a word to each one. My previous column was about the Conservatives and how they arouse suspicion. In my next column, I will look at the New Democratic Party. 

Other posts………

The Conservative Party Makes Me Suspicious

Clean Water

Universal Childcare- A Wise Investment For Canada

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Filed under Canada, Politics

Shin Pads and Toilet Paper

Yesterday a friend discovered this 1976 Eaton’s catalog in the Winnipeg Thrift Store where we both work as volunteers. 1976 was the last year Eaton’s published a catalog. They published the first one in 1884.

My Mom and her sisters with their dolls from the Eaton’s catalogue in the late 1920s.

I remember my Mom telling me how in the 1920s she and her sisters combed through the Eatons catalogue picking out dolls they hoped to receive. Especially coveted was the Eaton’s Beauty Doll.

My sister and I with our dolls from the Eaton’s Christmas catalogue

My sister and I did the same thing in the 1950s looking through the Eatons catalogue for dolls and other toys we wanted for Christmas.

My mother always sewed my dresses but for my first day of school in 1958 she let me order a dress from the catalogue.

My husband in the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto

Once when we were touring the Eatons Centre in Toronto a guide told us that decades ago Canadians had used the Eatons Catalogue for three purposes besides finding things they would like to order.

Hockey on the pond by Richard Brodeur

Apparently when kids couldn’t afford shin pads for playing hockey they used catalogues instead strapped to their legs with canning jar rings.

In this painting done by William Kurelek in 1976, we see the Eaton’s catalogue hanging on the wall of the outhouse

Old catalogues were also used instead of toilet paper in outhouses before bathrooms were common in homes.

Page of bathing suits in the 1949 Eatons catalogue

And before the advent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or Playboy magazine, the lingerie or swimsuit section of the Eatons catalogue was popular alternate viewing. 

Other posts………

Rubbing Mr Eaton’s Foot

Happy Halloween

I Live in a Piece of Winnipeg History

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Filed under Canada

The Conservative Party- Suspicious

In my newspaper columns leading up to the Canadian election on September 20, I am going to assign a word to each of the three major political parties in the race and explain why I have chosen that word. My column this week looks at The Conservative Party.

The cover of the Conservative Party’s 160-page plan for Canada

I spent a long time perusing the detailed Conservative Party Platform made public just a day after the federal election was called.   The plan Erin O’ Toole’s party has crafted for citizens to consider during the campaign sounds ambitious and addresses many areas of concern to me. But the Conservative pitch to voters also leaves me feeling somewhat suspicious. 

I did a search for the words, climate change in the Conservative campaign plan, and they are mentioned twenty-five times. The Tory plan includes an eight-page section on climate change in which Mr. O’ Toole clearly states that climate change is real, the Conservatives are committed to fighting it and will provide resources to mitigate its effects. 

As this chart of an Angus Reid Poll from Macleans shows the majority of Conservatives don’t see climate change as a serious threat.

Yet at the Conservative Party’s most recent policy convention, they could not rally a majority of their party members to vote in favor of a motion stating climate change is real. This makes me a little suspicious of the potential success of Mr. O’ Toole’s proposed strategy for fighting climate change. Will he have the support he needs from his party to carry it out?

The Conservative campaign plan states clearly that if Conservatives form the next government, they will not support any legislation that would regulate abortion.  That’s reassuring for someone like me who believes a woman has the right to control her own body. 

Conservative Party Candidates endorsed by Campaign for Life (note that Derek Sloan is no longer a member of the party)

But what makes me just a little suspicious is that forty-four members of the current Conservative caucus have been endorsed by the Campaign for Life organization as supporters of anti-abortion efforts and Mr. O’ Toole has continued to allow his caucus to introduce private member’s bills to regulate abortion. 

Although the Conservative campaign plan promises to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ citizens being persecuted in other countries and facilitate their immigration to Canada, no specific mention is made in the Conservative playbook of supporting our country’s own LGBTQ population.  

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole voted to ban conversion therapy in Canada but many in his caucus did not

I admit I get suspicious of whether a Conservative government would support and protect LGBTQ Canadians when sixty-two Conservative members of Parliament voted against criminalizing conversion therapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a practice that medical professionals condemn as extremely harmful and highly ineffective. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One thing the Conservative government has been clear about in their election plan is that they will not fund the ambitious childcare program the current federal government has already brokered agreements for with eight provinces, including Manitoba. The Liberals have a plan to increase the number of childcare spaces, improve wages for childcare workers and make $10 a day childcare a reality for parents.

Erin O’ Toole plans to funnel childcare money to families instead, based on their income, so he can reward parents who decide to stay home with their children, and help parents who he claims can least afford childcare.  While the Conservative’s plan will put more money to pay for childcare in the hands of parents, how will it help to improve working conditions and wages for childcare workers or create the additional childcare spaces needed?   

Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

I’ve talked with the parents of young children looking for daycare spaces about the long waiting lists they face. Money can’t buy a daycare space that doesn’t exist. I am suspicious about whether Canada can establish a universal quality childcare system unless a Conservative government would agree to invest in childcare infrastructure, rather than just handing out cash to parents. 

If I had to sum up my feelings about the Conservative Party in this election in one word it would probably be suspicious.            

Note: Of course there are many other issues that are important to me in the upcoming election- reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, the need to improve conditions in personal care homes, the pandemic, poverty and homelessness.

Other posts……….

Universal Childcare A Wise Investment For Canada

Does a Female Finance Minister Make A Difference?

Sex-Selective Abortion

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness, Hope

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Filed under Canada, Politics

The Second Thing I Love About Our New Governor-General

Yesterday I wrote about the first thing I love about Canada’s new Governor-General Mary Simon. Here is the second thing I LOVE about her. She was a founding board member and is now a board member emeritus of Oceans North! A couple of years ago I gave a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to a group of Oceans North scientists who were meeting in the city. That was my introduction to their important work.

Oceans North is evaluating how ship traffic impacts the walrus populations that northern communities depend on for food- Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

In partnership and consultation with local Indigenous communities, the Oceans North scientists are trying to preserve marine and other animal life in Canada’s Arctic. Spend a little time on their website and you will discover how they are helping local lobster boat operators find more sustainable sources of bait, evaluating how ship traffic impacts the walrus populations that many northern communities still rely on for food, and creating music videos with northern school kids to celebrate a government decision to protect cold-water corals.

Testing water for plastics content- Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

They are teaching communities how to test the ocean for plastic content, studying how whale-watching boats impact beluga populations, figuring out how increased ocean traffic impacts the way narwhals communicate, helping local communities conduct the caribou hunt in a way that preserves the herd, and examining the environmental implications of deep-sea mining.

Photo of Mary Simon from the Board Member page of Oceans North

Mary Simon our new governor-general was instrumental in establishing Oceans North because she felt it was vital to recognize the important role local northern communities play in the conservation of marine animal habitats in the Arctic and to understand how the health, wellness, and prosperity of those communities effects environmental stewardship. Governor-General Simon says that Arctic conservation is inexplicably tied to building and maintaining healthy communities. Protection projects must consider how they can accommodate and support an indigenous vision of a landscape that works for them.

I am sure as she continues her term in office there will be other things I will come to admire about our new Governor-General but I already appreciate her recognition of her heritage in the way she chose to dress for her installation and the way she is supporting the communities of the north as they partner with scientists who are trying to preserve the unique environment of Canada’s north.

The fact that she helped to found Oceans North is the second thing I love about our new Governor-General.

Other posts………..

Seal River Crossing

So Tiny

What’s an Amauti?

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Filed under Canada, Nature

The First Thing I Love About Canada’s New Governor-General

Mary Simon the Governor-General of Canada- photo by Blair Gable- Canadian Press

I LOVED the dress our new Canadian Governor General wore when she was sworn into office on July 26th.

Victoria Okpik to the right of Mary Simon designed her dress and Julie Grenier to her left created the beading on her dress. – photo from Julie Grenier

The navy dress was designed by Victoria Okpik, originally from Quaqtaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec. Victoria was the first Inuk graduate in fashion design from Montreal’s LaSalle College and has more than twenty years of experience as both a seamstress and designer. When Mary Simon requested that Victoria make her dress for the swearing-in she had just twenty days to complete the task. Lots of e-mails with measurements, designs, and colors flew back and forth between Mary and Victoria as the dress took shape.

Beadwork on Mary’s dress done by Julie Grenier- photo by Julie Grenier

The beading on the dress was done by Julie Grenier who comes from the same small community as Mary Simon. She created a motif with flowers she used to pick as a child and colors that reminded her of Mary’s character and personality.

Julie and Victoria said it was a great honor to work on the dress. Since they had such a short time to make it both women put in long hours to get the dress ready on time. Julie and Victoria represent a long tradition of Inuk fashion creators.

A photo I took at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2016

Inuit fashion is not something new as I learned when I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and we had an exhibit called Our Land which featured all kinds of remarkable fashion items made by Inuk women. Everything from unique jewelry to stylish headgear to gorgeous parkas also called amautis.

Kamik by Inez Shiwak and Jane Shiwak

During another exhibit in 2018 called SakKijâjuk, I was privileged to listen to a talk by some of the Inuk women who were preserving the art of making kamik. Check out the use of floral beading on the kamik like the beading on Mary Simon’s dress.

Mary Simon paid tribute to a long tradition of fashion in her culture when she invited two Inuk designers to create the dress for her swearing-in ceremony as Governor-General.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of the Canadian Press

The dress she had designed for her investiture into office as Governor-General is the first thing I love about Mary Simon. Check out my blog post tomorrow to find out what the second thing is that I love about Mary Simon.

Other posts……….

What is an Amauti?

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Inuit Fashion Show

Stitching A Story

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Filed under Canada, winnipeg art gallery

Clean Water

Elders from the Lhoosk’uz Dené community tasting water from their new water treatment system (Photo source)

I was excited to read recently about a small Lhoosk’uz Dené community in northern British Columbia which finally has a steady supply of clean tap water. Village leaders approached the University of British Columbia to help them develop a water treatment system that uses a combination of ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection to ensure the water in the community is safe enough to drink.

The innovative system is simple to operate and can be maintained and repaired without having to call in specialists from other places or pay for expensive parts. The community partnered with a team of scientists and engineers that use a collaborative, community-driven approach to develop practical drinking water solutions for rural Canadian communities. The new water system in the Lhoosk’uz Dené village ends a 14-year boil water advisory.

The good news story reminded me of an installation I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario a few years ago by Ruth Cuthand. It was called Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink.  The blue tarp on the table is the kind used for hastily constructed shacks people on one reserve had to move into when black mold was discovered in the drywall in their homes.

The glasses of water on the table contain plastic and beaded representations of the different kinds of bacteria and parasites found in the water on northern Canadian reserves that have boil water advisories. 

baby bottles boil water Don't Breathe Don't Drink

The artist put some of the bacteria-filled water into baby bottles to remind us that children may be drinking this contaminated water too. 

I am glad those kinds of problems are over for at least one Indigenous community. According to a government of Canada website as of today, there are still 32 communities in Canada with boil water advisories in effect. Let’s hope that innovative solutions like the one found for the Lhoosk’uz Dené community can be created for those 32 communities as well.

Other posts………

She Is Gripped By Terror

Blackwater- A Book That Connected With Me

Locked Away

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Filed under Canada, Health