The Canadian Crown and the Canadian Forces

The Canadian Crown and the Canadian Forces

The Canadian Crown is the controlling authority of the Canadian Forces, evidenced in the command structure, symbols and history of the armed forces of Canada. The monarch is the supreme commander of the forces, though she, her Canadian viceroys, and other members of the Canadian Royal Family, play a more ceremonial role in relation to the armed forces, many of the latter serving as Colonels-in-Chief of various , a number of which have received a "royal" prefix.

The monarch of Canada is also the Honorary Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. [ [ Land Forces: H.M. Elizabeth II Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland] ]

Role in command

The role of the Crown in the Canadian Forces is established through both constitutional and statutory law. [ [ T-1809-06 IN THE MATTER OF ARALT MAC GIOLLA CHAINNIGH v. THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF CANADA; January 21, 2008] ] Command-in-Chief of the forces is vested in the monarch, presently Elizabeth II, through section III.15 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which states: "The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue to be vested in the Queen." [ [ "The Constitution Act, 1867" (The British North America Act, 1867); 30 & 31 Victoria, c. 3] ] Since 1904, however, the functions of the position have been delegated to, and the title "Commander-in-Chief" has been granted to, the monarch's vice-regal representative, [ [ Governor General of Canada: Commander in Chief of the Canadian Forces] ] the Governor General, presently Michaëlle Jean. Three members of the Royal Family have held that title: John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll (1871-1883), Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1911-1916), and Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone (1940-1946).

Thus, all authority related to and/or within the forces stems from the Crown. For example, all declarations of war, which fall under the Royal Prerogative, must be signed by the Governor General or monarch; the Queen charges officers between the rank of Second Lieutenant and General, or, in the Maritime Command, Acting Sub-Lieutenant and Admiral, with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position via letters patent, known as the "Queen's Commission"; naval vessels bear the prefix "Her Majesty's Canadian Ship" (HMCS; subsequently "His Majesty's Canadian Ship" during the reign of a king); navy dockyards are known as "Her Majesty's Canadian Dockyards", overseen by the Queen's Harbourmaster; [DND; p. 314] the primary document of military law and regulations in Canada is known as the "Queen's Regulations and Orders"; and an Oath of Allegiance to the sovereign must be taken by all new recruits. By the National Defence Act, the utterance of disloyal words towards the king or queen is considered "disgraceful conduct," treasonous, and disloyal. Such offences may be punishable by up to seven years imprisonment. [ Department of Justice: National Defence Act] ]

Still, via constitutional convention, the monarch and Governor General almost always only exercise their executive powers on the advice of his or her Cabinet, putting "de facto" control of the military with that body's sphere.


Colonies & Confederation

Prior to European colonization, some First Nations were organized as kingdoms, [ [ Kehoe, Alice Beck; "First Nations History"; October, 2001] ] with warriors under the command of the hereditary chieftain. However, though the seat of power may have been the chief, they were not necessarily free to mobilize troops without the consent of a council of elders, similar to the situation in a modern constitutional monarchy; for example, in the Cherokee nation, the consent of the council of women was necessary before war could be declared.

After colonial settlement, but before Confederation, colonists loyal to the Crown would serve as regular members of local militia groups, under command of the either French or British governor, who exercised the authority of the relevant monarch. Before the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French and British militias would fight each other, while the First Nations' chieftains would enter into alliances with either of the European monarchs, via their delegates, in order to wage war on their enemies. After 1763 the French surrender of their Canadian territories, members of the Royal Family served in the military in the colonies; from 1786 through to 1787 Prince William (later King William IV) ventured to Canada's east coast as part of a naval contingent and captain of HMS "Pegasus". [ Toffoli, Gary; Canadian Royal Heritage Trust: The Royal Family and the Armed Forces] ] Later, between 1791 and 1798, and then also from 1799 to 1800, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (eventual father of Queen Victoria), was posted with the British Army to Halifax as Commander-in-Chief, North America. During this period at the end of the 18th into the beginning of the 19th centuries, the local militia were called upon to augment the British sovereign's forces in defending the colonies against attacks – such as those in 1775, and 1812 – from the United States, which viewed the nearby British presence as a threat to its republican ideologies. The King's Canadian garrisons also quashed the attempt by William Lyon Mackenzie to create a Canadian republic during the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, and later took down the provisional government of Mackenzie's short-lived Republic of Canada on Navy Island.

Following the formation of the Canadian federation in 1867 a proper military was formed for the new country. Three years later, Prince Arthur became the first royal to fight in the new Canadian militia when they engaged the Fenians as they attempted to invade Canada, earning himself the Canadian General Service Medal with the "Fenian Raid 1870" bar. Though the monarch was Commander-in-Chief through the Canadian constitution, the Canadian militia remained a subset of the British Army, ultimately taking their orders from the King of the United Kingdom on the advice of his British Cabinet. The organization thus, and for reasons of loyalty to the mother country, was formed on the British model, and adopted many of the royal symbols of the British military, though sometimes tweaked with distinctly Canadian elements. The Royal Military College was founded in 1874, with Queen Victoria's consent for "royal" designation four years later; by 1911 the Royal Canadian Navy was established, with King George V's permission to use the "royal" prefix, and in which young Prince Albert (the future George VI) served in 1913 as a midshipman; followed by the Canadian Air Force in 1918, renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force by King Edward VII six years later.

The World Wars and between

From that era onwards, members of the Royal Family adopted a more ceremonial role in relation to the Canadian forces, as the notion of true constitutional monarchy – as opposed to a colonial status of government – began to gel in Canada. These changes apparently proved difficult for some royal viceroys to come to terms with; though well intended, upon the outbreak of World War I, then Governor General Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, immediately donned his Field Marshal's uniform and went, without advice or guidance from his ministers, to training grounds and barracks to address the troops, and seeing them off before their voyage to Europe, much to the chagrin of then Prime Minister Robert Borden, who saw the Prince as overstepping constitutional conventions. [Hubbard, R.H.; Rideau Hall; McGill-Queen’s University Press; Montreal and London; 1977] Though the Prime Minister placed blame on the military secretary, Edward Stanton, he also opined that the Prince "laboured under the handicap of his position as a member of the Royal Family and never realized his limitations as Governor General."Borden; "Memoires", 1: 601-2.] During the war, Prince Arthur's wife, Princess Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught, formed volunteer groups to make supplies for Canadian soldiers fighting overseas; for Christmas, 1915, she sent a card and a box of maple sugar to every Canadian serving overseas, and also had a knitting machine installed at Rideau Hall, on which she made thousands of pairs of socks for soldiers. The Connaught's daughter, Princess Patricia became so active with the Canadian military that Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was named in her honour in 1914, and the Princess personally chose the infantry's colours and designed its badge; she was appointed as the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief at the cessation of fighting in 1918.

Still, royals retained a combat role in war; Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) served with the Canadian Expeditionary Corps on the Western Front; [ [ Senate of Canada: Canada, a Constitutional Monarchy: Edward VIII] ] his participation in the fighting with the troops made him popular with veterans during his latter tours of Canada as Prince of Wales. Sixteen years following the end of the First World War, and five years after the enactment of the Statute of Westminster, Edward returned to ceremonial military tasks, and became the first Canadian sovereign to do so solely on behalf of Canada, when he dedicated the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. [ [ Department of Canadian Heritage: Getting to know the Prince of Wales] ] Following Edward's abdication as King in 1936, his brother acceded to the throne as George VI and was coronated the following year, for which the Canadian Coronation Contingent was formed and sent to London. Two year later, the King dedicated the National War Memorial in Ottawa, and, by September of that year, had declared war on Nazi Germany as King of Canada, a week after he had done so as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

To train troops and officers, the Royal Roads Military College was established in British Columbia, just outside Vancouver, in the house that had been purchased as a wartime residence for the King, Queen, and their daughters. Though the family remained in London, they were still active in relation to Canada's troops; Queen Elizabeth inspected the 1st Battalion of the Saskatoon Light Infantry in April, 1940, and, the following year the Queen presented the unit with gifts of socks, mittens, caps, pullovers, scarves and helmets, as well as the unit's colours in October. [ [ Saskatoon Light Infantry)] ] Her daughter, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), along with her parents, visited Canadian service personnel stationed in the United Kingdom. She also undertook solo duties, such as reviewing a parade of Canadian airwomen in 1945. Two years following, the Princess was appointed by her father as Colonel-in-Chief of "Le Régiment de la Chaudière" and the 48th Highlanders of Canada, her first appointments in the Canadian Forces. [ The Canadian Royal Heritage Trust: Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada] ] At the same time, in Canada, the King's first cousin once removed, and then viceregal consort, Princess Alice, became Honorary Commandant of a number of women's military services.

A new queen and new forces

In a time of austerity following the Second World War, the Coronation Contingent was again mounted to participate in the coronation of Canada's new sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953 (a similar contingent was sent to London for the coronation of her father George VI of the United Kingdom in 1936). Not only did the forces have a new Commander-in-Chief, but the post-war period saw major shifts in the structure of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force, and, by 1968, the unification of all three into the Canadian Forces took effect at the recommendation of then Defence Minister, Paul Hellyer. This took place over the protests of many senior generals, admirals and air marshalls. [cite web | title = Integration and Unification of the Canadian Forces | url= | accessdate = 2008-02-20 | year = 2008 ] Also, though the National Defence Act, which unified the services, said " [t] he Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada," the "royal" prefix was not bestowed upon the new unified militia. A number of royally designated corps were lost into newly designated "services" and "branches"; for example, the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and the Royal Canadian Dental Corps became the Canadian Forces Medical Service and Canadian Forces Dental Service respectively, the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps amalgamated with the supply and transport services of Royal Canadian Army Service Corps to become the Logistics Branch, and the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers became Land Ordnance Engineering. All the forces' links with the Crown, however, were not lost; many of the regiments did retained their "royal" prefix, members of the Royal family as their Colonel-in-Chief, and crowns on their badges and other insignia. Only a few years after the unification, Prince Charles, like other Princes of Wales before him, trained with Canadian Forces at CFB Gagetown in the 1970s.

The ensuing years were relatively peaceful, as Canada did not engage in any large-scale conflicts and adopted a predominantly peacekeeping role. The military role of the monarch, Royal Family, and viceroys thus turned more to one of observation than of morale boosting and support. These individuals, as Colonels-in-Chief, would visit with forces regiments either in Canada or abroad and undertake various duties on behalf of the organization (see below), as well as dedicating armed conflict and military memorials, such as when Queen Elizabeth dedicated the Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, in 1996. With Canada's participation in the invasion of Afghanistan, and a number of casualties of that conflict, however, the forces came more into the public eye. Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson won praise for spending Christmasses and New Years with the forces personnel in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, boosting Canadians' pride in the armed forces, earning her a special tribute from the Canadian Forces upon her retirement from Governor Generalcy in 2005. [ [ CTV News: "Canadian Forces to pay tribute to Clarkson"; September 18, 2005] ] This was the same year that saw the 60th anniversary of D-Day commemorated at Juno Beach in the presence of the Queen and Clarkson.

In April, 2007, the Queen marked another major military anniversary when she re-dedicated the Canadian Vimy Memorial on the 90th anniversary of the battle, following in the footsteps of her uncle King Edward VIII. Her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied her, dressed in the uniform of the Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Canadian Regiment; the regiment fought at Vimy Ridge, and six members of the regiment had died the previous day during combat operations in Afghanistan. Later the same year the Queen attended the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, in Belgium. [ [ "Royal Insight": The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in Belgium; July 12, 2007] ] Just after this event, on May 17, 2007, an online petition, sponsored by Member of Parliament Laurie Hawn, [ [ Correspondence with Laurie Hawn, CD, MP] ] was issued seeking grassroots support for the Maritime Command and Air Command to be renamed as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, respectively, for the navy's 100th anniversary in 2010. [ [ Petition to restore the Royal designation to the Canadian navy and Canadian air force] ] Since usage of the "royal" designation was executed by Royal Proclamations which have never been revoked, if the terms "Canadian Navy" and "Canadian Air Force" are ever again used in an official capacity then they would also have the word "royal" preceding them. And, again in 2007, the "Collège militaire royal" (CMR) in St-Jean Sur Richelieu (first opened in 1952 as a bilingual educational institution under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and then closed in 1995 due to cuts to the Department of National Defence's operating budget) was reopened to handle an influx of new recruits.

By June of that year it was reported that Prince Henry, then third in line to the Canadian throne, had arrived in Alberta to train, along with other soldiers of the Canadian and British armies, at CFB Suffield, near Medicine Hat, Alberta, for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. [ [ Canadian Press; CTV News: "Prince Harry may be training in Alberta: reports"; June 2, 2007] ] [ [ Kennedy, Sarah; Fernandez, Pablo; Gilchrist, Emma; Sun Media: "Prince Harry training in Alberta"; June 2, 2007] ] At the same time, another member of the Canadian Royal Family, Harry's aunt, the Princess Royal, was in Saskatchewan undertaking duties as Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Regina Rifles, marking their centennial, as well as to open the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre. [ [ CTV News: "Princess Anne helps mark regimental centennial"; June 2, 2007] ]


Members of the Royal Family are appointed by the monarch as Colonel-in-Chief of Canadian regiments. When the first regiments of the Canadian army were formed many received a royal patron who would act as the ceremonial commander of the unit, or its "Colonel-in-Chief". Amongst other reasons for this patronage, the foremost was the desire to reinforce within the regiment a loyalty to the Crown via a personal relationship with a member of the Royal Family. [ [ Hagey, Thomas; "Cambridge Now!": Prince Andrew's Visit To Cambridge A Royal Delight] ] Today a number of regiments in the Canadian Forces have a royal Colonel-in-Chief, including: "le Régiment de la Chaudière"; the 48th Highlanders of Canada; "Royal 22e Régiment"; the Governor General's Foot Guards; the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa; the Royal Newfoundland Regiment; and the Calgary Highlanders, amongst many others. Though the monarch is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, he or she may also serve as the Colonel-in-Chief of various regiments. For example, Elizabeth II is Colonel-in-Chief of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Governor General's Horse Guards, and the Governor General's Foot Guards, amongst others.

The holders of these positions carry out a number of associated duties such as participating in regimental dinners, presenting new colours, trooping the colour, and field training exercises. For example, the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, as Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, visited with her troops on forty-five occasions, at Canadian Forces bases and detachments from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, as well as to see soldiers training in Resolute, Nunavut, and battalions serving on overseas operations in Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. [ [ Ward, Bruce; "Ottawa Citizen": 'Lady P' bids her regiment goodbye; March 15, 2007] ] Also, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex visited with the Saskatchewan Dragoons, of which he is Colonel-in-Chief, in Belgium, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York met with Canadian troops from the Princess Louise Fusiliers and the Queen's York Rangers, of which he is Colonel-in-Chief, at Kandahar Airbase in Afghanistan. [ [ "Royal Insight Magazine": Out and About: The Duke of York visits troops in Afghanistan, 7 and 8 June 2008] ] Attendance and participation in these events may be at the direction of the government, or the regiment itself.

Though non-royals have been appointed as Colonels-in-Chief, the practice is rare, and the placement of former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry caused some controversy as a break with tradition. [ [ Boileau, John; "Metronews Halifax": A royal should head Princess Patricia's; May 5, 2007] ] :"Further information: "

ymbolism and traditions

The Canadian Forces have derived many of their monarchical traditions and symbols from the military, navy and air force of the United Kingdom. Today, many flags and banners associated with the forces will bear symbols of the Canadian monarchy, and complex protocols surround the interaction between the sovereign, Royal Family members, or viceroys.

Ceremonies and honours

Ceremonies form a key part of the forces, many of which have a royal connection. For example, the Canadian Forces will traditionally mount what is known as the Queen's Guard (or King's Guard during the reign of a male monarch), contingents of infantry and cavalry soldiers charged with guarding the official royal residences in London. Canada has mounted the King/Queen's Guard eight times since 1916, including Coronation Contingents for King George VI in May, 1937, and for Queen Elizabeth II in May, 1953.::"See also: Commonwealth Units to have mounted the King's/Queen's Guard"

Other military ceremonies will have a member of the Royal Family present, such as at Trooping the Colours, inspections of the troops, and anniversaries of key battles. Whenever the sovereign or a member of her family is in Ottawa, they will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, which itself was dedicated in 1939 by King George VI.

Buildings, works and geographical features related to the Canadian Forces or Department of National Defence can only be named for living or deceased members of the Canadian Royal Family, living or deceased former Governors General, and deceased distinguished persons. [DND; p. 435]


A number of flags and banners are used within the Canadian Forces to identify loyalty, nationality, offices, or specific events. For instance, the Royal Union Flag, an official Canadian flag, must be flown by Canadian naval ship while in Canadian waters, should arrangements allow, to show allegiance to the Crown, [DND; p. 315] and the Queen's Harbourmaster, in charge of Canadian navy ship yards, is accorded a flag to identify him or herself, consisting of a national flag defaced in the centre with a crown and the acronym "QHM/CPSM", for "Queen's Harbour Master/capitaine du port de Sa Majesté". [DND; p. 317]

The Queen's Colours, banners now predominantly for ceremonial use, include the national flag and the regiment's insignia or monarch's cipher in the centre, reflecting the custom established for infantry line regiments in the mid 18th century, when the Sovereign's Colour was based on the national flag. Rules stipulated by the Canadian Department of National Defence state that the First Colours, or Senior Colours, symbolises the unit's loyalty to the Crown; authorization to possess a Queen's Colour may only be granted, and the colour presented, by the Queen or her vice-regal representative. [ [ Department of National Defence; "Cadet Instructors Cadre"; pg. 33] ] The Queen's Colour of the Canadian Forces Maritime Command is a variation of the Canadian Naval Jack; it is white with the Canadian flag in the canton, the Royal Cipher in the centre, and the symbol of the navy in the lower fly. The Queen's Colour of the Canadian Forces Air Command is similar to the Queen's Colour of infantry regiments; it is a silk national flag of Canada with a red circlet on the maple leaf inscribed with the name of the command, surrounding the Royal Cipher, and ensigned with the Royal Crown. The colours must be dipped in the presence of the monarch or other members of the Royal Family. Also, Royal Banners are special flags presented to commemorate specific services rendered, as marks of "royal favour". Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) received a Royal Banner from King Edward VII for their combat in South Africa; The Queen Mother presented the Canadian Forces Medical Service with a Royal Banner in 1985. [DND; p. 333]

The finial capping the tip of a flag pole carrying the Queen's Canadian standard, Governor General's standard, Queen's Colours, or other royal banners must be in the form of the crest of the Royal Arms of Canada. [ Department of National Defence: The Honours, Flags and Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces; p. 281] ]


Canadian naval ships are designated with the prefix "Her Majesty's Canadian Ship" ("His Majesty's Canadian Ship") in the reign of a king), or "HMCS". These ships must "dress" – be decorated with signal flags – for specific royal occasions, including the anniversary of the monarch's accession (February 6), the actual birthday of the monarch (presently April 21), the official birthday of the monarch (May 24), and the birthday of the Royal Consort (June 10). [DND; p. 309]

Crests and badges

Chief Warrant Officers, bearing the Royal Arms of Canada.] As the Crown is the source of authority in Canada, and thus for the armed forces, many Canadian Forces badges include a crown in their design. Originally designed by the British King of Arms, since 1968 they have been created by the Department of National Defence and then the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Each primary badge of a branch, formation or unit must be approved by the Governor General as Commander-in-Chief; the monarch designated approval of new badges to the Governor General in the mid-1980s, though permission for use of royal titles and personal symbols such as the Crown, must be personally approved by the sovereign. [DND; p. 385] The Queen's Canadian Arms and her Royal Cypher are also displayed throughout the forces, including on banners, badges and military band instruments.


Ceremonies and rank structures within the forces rely on an order of precedence for organising participants and according respect and honours. The Canadian monarch tops the order of precedence, which is the only one used in relation to the military. The sovereign is followed by the Governor General, and then other members of the Canadian Royal Family. The provincial viceroys fall in at sixteenth on the list, behind the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. [DND; p. 27]

The Royal Anthem of Canada, "God Save the Queen," must be played after the giving of the Loyal Toast, which is required at all formal messes, and toasts the health of the monarch. The Toast is: "Gentlemen, The Queen of Canada," or "Mr. Vice, The Queen of Canada, our Captain-General," where appropriate. [DND; p. 450] Members and officers are required to stand during the toast, and salute for the Royal Anthem. The latter requirement was challenged by Captain Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh (formerly Harold Kenny), an officer of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and a physics professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, calling the policy "degrading." Channigh was ultimately unsuccessful, being rebuked by the Canadian Forces Grievance Board, General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Federal Court of Canada.

Royal designations

Many regiments of the Canadian Forces Land Force Command have been granted the use of the prefix "royal" in the regiment's name, while others bear the name of a member of the Royal Family. Some are as follows:

; Regiments with a royal prefix:; Armoured
* Royal Canadian Dragoons
* Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)
* Royal Canadian Hussars (Montreal); Infantry
* The Royal Canadian Regiment
* "Royal 22e Régiment"
* Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
* Royal Regiment of Canada
* Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment)
* Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada
* Royal New Brunswick Regiment
* Royal Winnipeg Rifles
* Royal Regina Rifles
* Royal Westminster Regiment
* Royal Montreal Regiment
* Royal Newfoundland Regiment; Artillery
* Royal Canadian Horse Artillery ; Regiments named for members of the Royal Family; Armoured
* 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's)
* King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC); Infantry
* Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
* Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
* Princess of Wales' Own Regiment
* Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
* Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment)
* Princess Louise Fusiliers
* Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
* Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's Own)

ee also

* Monarchy of Canada
* Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces


External links

* [ "Cambridge Now!": Prince Andrew's Visit To Cambridge A Royal Delight] ; Prince Andrew, Duke of York at a military ceremony in Cambridge, Ontario.

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