Annex A: Underrepresented Populations in the Retention Strategy

Understanding and addressing not only the dissatisfiers of underrepresented populations, but also the inter­sectional nature of those dissatisfiers, is a key aspect of ensuring that retention efforts are inclusive and incorpor­ate the voices of all CAF members. Furthermore, under­standing and addressing dissatisfiers of underrepresented populations is an essential part of how the Retention Strategy contributes towards and supports a diverse and inclusive work environment in the CAF. A noted area of concern is that information on underrepresented popu­lations within the Retention and Exit Surveys’ data is comparably limited; however, there is research focusing on these groups and the obstacles they face which may affect retention. Retention is related to all aspects of employment and is an outcome of effective HR manage­ment. The Strategy focuses on addressing dissatisfiers that apply across the CAF and informing the organization in order to develop better measures, introduce intersectional analysisFootnote 26 to the extent possible, and develop subsequent targeted action plans. The subsections below highlight some key issues that each underrepresented group may face both within their professional and personal lives. By taking these insights into consideration when developing retention efforts, we can provide better services and con­tribute to positive change in order to better support our members who wish to continue to serve. 

Women in the CAF

Women make up an estimated 50.3% of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada, 2020h) and 47.4% of the labour force (Statistics Canada, 2021b), but only 16.3% of the Reg F and Res F P Res. While there is a push to recruit more women into the CAF to reach the goal of 25.1% representation, that is only half of the battle. We must also ensure that retention efforts address the concerns of women because about half of the number of recruited women release in the same timeframe; we cannot “fill the bucket” with a hole in the side.

There is some evidence that certain dissatisfiers associated with voluntary release may be more prevalent amongst women than men (i.e., lack of fit with military lifestyle, dissatisfaction with advancement/promotion/PER, train­ing and development, and workload demands). The LOEs within the Strategy are directed at addressing these con­cerns broadly, but tangible impacts will be driven through the implementation of Action Plans, and particularly by ensuring that more effective and varied methods of analy­sis (i.e., interviews and focus groups) are conducted in order to better inform targeted retention efforts. 

Women in Canada already face a number of issues in the workplace and for instance, women are 60% less likely than men to move from middle management to executive ranks (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2017). Other research shows that 34% of women report a lack of female role models as a contributing factor to the lack of female leadership (Randstad Canada, 2019). Further, when faced with questions as to why women aren’t occupying more leadership roles, 27% of men (Randstad Canada, 2019) felt it was because of a lack of qualified and skilled can­didates, yet women earn the majority of post-secondary diplomas at about 58% (Statistics Canada, 2016); indi­cating a bias in the perception of the qualifications of women for leadership positions. In addition, other issues that women face at work include non-inclusive spaces – wherein underrepresented populations are made to feel like “others” because of their differences, lack of accom­modations and flexible work arrangements. Some inter­sectional analysis from studying perceptions on harassment and racism revealed that racism often was experienced differently based on the intersection of gender, religion, and/or race. For example, it was found that racial dis­crimination was more prevalent towards racialized indi­viduals who also were women, and these mirror recent findings in reports on missing and murdered Indigenous women (Waruszynski, MacEachern, & Giroux-Lalond, 2019). The latter issues and examples described above, if addressed, could be particularly beneficial for retention when considering that women tend to be primary care­givers most often, and the various issues described dem­onstrate gender bias. All these factors can negatively affect access to opportunities for leadership roles, career advance­ment, and the preponderance of women as role models or mentors to aspiring leaders within the CAF. 

DGMPRA identifies challenges and barriers for women which, if unmitigated, risk perpetuating and/or increasing those dissatisfiers identified in the Retention and Exit Surveys. For example, while women report general satis­faction with early career training, they are more likely to report a lack of detail, transparency, and accuracy in the information received regarding training (such as fitness requirements) and CAF occupations. Other data suggests that more women than men believe they were treated unfairly (e.g., lack of respect) or that there were disadvan­taged (e.g., due to maternity leave) with respect to training and development in that these would have been delayed or overlooked due to their maternity leave. As is the case in other Canadian workplaces, there is under-representation of women at senior ranks which contributes to the lack of mentors and role models to help guide women in their career progression. In addition, representation of women is not uniform across occupations – the majority of women serve in the Logistics and Health Services Branches. 

The CAF has engaged in a number of initiatives to address the concerns discussed above such as the Integrated Women’s Mentorship Network, the Women in Force Program, the CAF Anthropometric Program, the develop­ment of microaggression training and toolkits, as well as changes to maternity and parental leave. 

Survivors of Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct can occur to any person in any place however, such harms disproportionately victimize women and other minority individuals. In Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men report having experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public, while in the workplace 18% of women and 13% of men report having experienced harassment in the past year. Those in health-related occupations, and particularly women, were most likely to report having been harassed. In terms of perpetrators of sexual misconduct, both men and women primarily identified their aggressor to be a client or customer. The next most common source of harassment was their supervisor or manager at 39% and 32% for men and women respectively, followed by a col­league or peer at 35% and 34% for men and women respectively (Statistics Canada, 2018b). 

The harmful impacts of misconduct should not come as a surprise as these events are known to be injurious to individuals and organizational culture. Workplace harass­ment results in lower self-rated physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of reported stress. Workplace harass­ment and misconduct also contributes to reports of job dissatisfaction, and a weakened sense of belonging to the organization. Even more concerning is that sexual assault and misconduct tend to be one of the most underreported crimes, with only 4% being reported to police (Statistics Canada, 2019c).

Sexual misconduct is a serious problem in the CAF, and similar instances of misconduct or gender based violence are of concern, particularly because the majority of victims tend to be women or other gender minorities. In 2018, it was found that women were much more likely to experi­ence some form of sexual assault, and that about half of all victims stated that a peer was the perpetrator (Statistics Canada, 2019b). As of 2019-20, 16.7% of CAF members identified as victims of harassment. Data from the SMRC reveals that 688 members contacted their office in 2019-20. While this statistic also includes members looking for advice on how to address issues or requesting support tools (i.e., Chain of Command and/or friends of victims) 70.7% of the cases were related to sexual assault or inappropriate behaviour.

A number of studies and reviews have been published which highlight areas of concern, and provide recommen­dations to the CAF on how to address and eradicate sexual misconduct. In response, the CAF has implemented the SMRC, and The CAF Sexual Misconduct Response Strategy titled: The Path to Dignity and Respect. While some progress has been made, more work is needed as affected members still struggle with seeking workplace support and because the behaviours which harm others are still occurring. Recent allegations of sexual misconduct and investigations into the CAF culture demonstrate the continued need to address a violent and sexualized CAF culture. The DND/CAF has established a new level one organization titled Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture which is focused squarely on improving the CAF culture so that behavioural problems in the CAF are eradi­cated. Each of the efforts listed above are aimed towards making necessary improvements in the CAF culture sur­rounding sexual misconduct, so that all members are safe and supported in their work environment. 

Indigenous Peoples in the CAF

An estimated 4.9% of Canadians self-identified as Indigenous on the 2016 census, compared to the 2.8% of CAF members who self-identified as such in 2020-21. Work still remains to reach the representation goal of 3.5% and this cannot be done solely through recruitment. Indigenous individuals continue to face barriers that impact their health and participation in the labour force, as well as having to overcome poorer health and education outcomes arising from historical and generational harms, resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Residential School Syndrome for example (Bombay, Matheson, & Anisman, 2014). Historical trauma from assimilation policies, systematic abuses, and neglect creates intergener­ational harm, evidenced by the stark increase in risk of suicide correlated with a parent or grandparent who attended an “Indian Residential School”.Footnote 27 Negative out­comes relating to poverty, traumatic experiences, access to healthcare and education facilities include poor mental and physical health, as well as increased risk of abuse, which further perpetuates poor outcomes facing already marginalized groups such as young people of Indigenous origin (Felitti, Anda, Nordenberg, Williamson, Spitz, Edwards, Koss, & Marks, 1998). Indigenous people with First Nations Status are generally younger than the non-Indigenous population, and Indigenous populations are growing at a rate much faster than non-Indigenous populations (Statistics Canada, 2021f). Better awareness of risk factors, barriers to employment, and risk of poor health outcomes should be considered deliberately when thinking about and addressing the diverse needs of Indigenous CAF members and providing opportunities for the younger generation of Indigenous Canadians.

Generally speaking, level of education and access to infor­mation and internet services are factors associated with achieving better employment opportunities and better health outcomes. While the rate of educational attainment is higher for those living closer to cities, a large portion of the Indigenous population lives in predominantly rural remote regions including reserves. Both health and edu­cation outcomes are affected when there are limited resources and accessibility challenges. For example, edu­cation outcomes saw marked improvement for people both living on and living off of reserves over the 2006 to 2016 time period however, the rate of improvement is less for Indigenous Peoples living on Reserves and the rate of those on Reserve who have obtained a high school dip­loma is less than half that of a non-Indigenous individual (Statistics Canada, 2021f ).

Racism exists in both overt and more subtle forms. For example, overt incidents include increased hate crimes against Indigenous Peoples, the staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people,Footnote 28 racist slurs or derogatory language, and increased reports of violence and discrimination during the COVID- 19 pandemic. In more subtle forms, racism can be observed through structural or embedded processes as systemic discrimination (i.e., hiring practices, ignorance or failure to account and consider diverse users, etc.), tokenism, accepting or perpetuating stereotypes, and com­ments which are based on ignorance or a lack of sensitivity to others’ experiences.

DGMPRA interview analysis has found that microaggres­sions and subtle racism were still common within the DND/CAF. Even more concerning is the finding that the reported rate of harassment of Indigenous members is twice the rate of reported harassment for a non-visible minority or non-Indigenous member (Leblanc & Coulthard, 2015). Participants reported facing a number of harmful stereo­types that could affect perceptions of their credibility (i.e., uneducated, propensity to drink and gamble, etc.), a sense of “otherness” in treatment because they are Indigenous, a lack of awareness about aspects of cultural importance (i.e., hairstyle, use of terms and practices such as powwow and smudging), and inappropriate questions about “look­ing Indigenous” (Waruszymksi, MacEachern, & Giroux- Lalonde, 2019). While some participants noted that leaders had been accommodating or acted as advocates, others still found superiors to be racist, unsupportive, and lacking awareness and training. The 2017 Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group report revealed much harsher criticisms, noting that racism and discrimination continue to be a systemic issue through all environments within the CAF. Incidents ranged from microaggressions to full abuse of authority in which members were overtly threatened with reprisal if an incident was formally reported, and repeated incidents demonstrated that abuse of authority was toler­ated and protected within the Chain of Command, or was prevalent amongst senior members towards Indigenous subordinates (Burke, 2016).

The discrimination of Indigenous members is pervasive and systemic, affecting the members’ sense of belonging, their ability to present their authentic self in the work­place, and their ability to progress their careers within the CAF. In order to combat discrimination and ensure that Indigenous Peoples within the CAF are supported, the CAF must establish a more inclusive culture that promotes diversity, educates in the face of ignorance, and condemns racist and discriminatory behaviours. Some ways in which we can better support Indigenous members include build­ing a better understanding within the DND/CAF of Indigenous history and culture (e.g., considering the dif­ferences in the importance and concept of family), pro­viding inclusive and focused training to bring better awareness to issues facing Indigenous members), and improving the availability of support. Improving strategic awareness within the DND/CAF of barriers, unmet needs, and repressed aspects of Indigenous culture will allow the organization to address dissatisfiers for Indigenous CAF members while also creating space for more respectful participation within the Defence Team. In turn, an improved culture and increased representation of Indigenous members will bring a greater breadth of per­spectives to policy-design and decision-making. As more Indigenous members see the CAF as a supportive and healthy workplace through these cultural changes, the DND/CAF will capture better data and information from those we retain so that we better understand how to sup­port the health, dignity, and desire to serve in the CAF of our Indigenous members.

The CAF has been working to improve the diversity of the organization and provide better support for our members; as demonstrated by existing efforts such as the Diversity Strategy and its subsequent action plans, the development of the Employment Equity Plan, the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year program, as well as implementing Cultural/Spiritual Accommodations and the construction of lodges. A renewed focus on misconduct within the CAF has highlighted the need to take a stronger stance on harm­ful behaviours, to support an improved and more inclusive culture for all who serve. Looking ahead, some efforts to propel the CAF towards a more inclusive culture include the DND/CAF Indigenous Strategic Framework, the CAF HR Strategy, the Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination, and changes mandated by the recently amended Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (Bill C-65).

Visible Minorities in the CAF

Recruitment of visible minority CAF members con­sistently outpaces the rate of releases over the same period, growing representation within the CAF population (9.6% in 2020-21) and nearing its representation target of 11%. Despite progress towards increasing representation rates and perceptions of better integration within the CAF, research demonstrates that further work remains to better support the CAF members who form part of a visible minority. Acknowledging, studying, and addressing racism, xenophobia, and issues with a disparate effect on visible minority members allow the DND/CAF to miti­gate and ultimately eliminate the negative barriers to renewed and empowering service to Canada so that all members can serve to their fullest potential.

Interview and focus-group research revealed that self-identified visible minority individuals generally had posi­tive perceptions towards the CAF fostering a more diverse and inclusive membership however, racist conduct and racist attitudes continue to persist, the effects of which greatly erode the perceived gains in supporting visible minority CAF members. Perceptions of acceptance and belonging were noted as an outcome of ongoing culture change efforts from recent years. Further, Op HONOUR was seen as a key contributor to improved interactions and awareness of issues affecting visible minority mem­bers. Despite Op HONOUR not being focused on issues of racism and visible minority groups, improved awareness of treatment and language in the workplace led some focus-group participants to report their belief that a sim­ilarly focused operation targeted towards diversity, inclu­sion, and respect could further improve the treatment of visible minorities and address racism in the CAF.

Despite general improvements concerning the treatment of the CAF’s diverse membership, racism and racist con­duct remain a problem, and most of the visible minority members canvassed recounted harassment and discrimin­ation on the basis of race or ethnicity. As retention is an outcome of all aspects of an individual’s experience in a workplace, racism and other harmful behaviours or culture jeopardize not only the individual safety and dignity of some members, but such actions also jeopardize oper­ational effectiveness of the CAF and the credibility required to attract and retain all who wish to serve. Members who identified as a visible minority described having been targeted by a broad range of inappropriate comments including overtly racist slurs, stereotypes, inappropriate humour, and otherwise derogatory com­ments. In some focus groups, the participants suggested that some CAF members associate with white-nationalist groups, espousing racist, xenophobic, and undemocratic values which would be incompatible with the CAF Ethos, values, and ethics in the Defence Ethics Programme. Such concerns within the CAF have also been validated in recent years through internal investigations and media reporting (Department of National Defence, DND/CAF Ombudsman, 2019).

In the United States, race and ethnicity-based extremism are identified as the greatest threat to Homeland Security (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2020; C-SPAN 2021). As the United States is Canada’s closest and most integrated ally, CAF members often train and deploy alongside members of the American military, and thus there are many cultural and thematic similarities in the obstacles each country faces with respect to Defence. In the United States military, more than 1 in 3 people reported being eyewitness to white nationalism and ideo­logically motivated racism while serving; the incident rate increased to more than 1 in 2 when the respondent was identified as a visible minority (Bender, 2021). Such a disparity between reported incident rates could be due to the higher prevalence of racist conduct towards visible minorities. It might equally be possible that bias and cul­ture make non-visible minority individuals less likely to report the conduct of another non-visible minority indi­vidual, reflecting less-overt racism. Knowing that white-nationalist groups tend to target members of visible minority groups, it is critical that the CAF credibly con­sider how best to address extremism while protecting and supporting visible minorities who might be targeted or disparately impacted.

LGBTQ2+ in the CAF

LGB members represent about 3.3% of the population (Statistics Canada, 2021e), and while information on transgender people is not yet collected, Statistics Canada has put in place measures to collect this information in the future (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2019; Statistics Canada, 2020f ).

LGBTQ2+ is not identified as a designated group in the Employment Equity Act (EEA) and there is comparably less information on the needs of these individuals com­pared to information available on women, Indigenous Peoples, PWD, and visible minorities. Despite not being legally included in the EEA mandate, the needs of LGBTQ2+ individuals should be recognized and supported because members who are a part of LGBTQ2+ communities disproportionately face discrimination and hardships. These hardships are both outside and within the workplace, which impacts their well-being and ultim­ately their desire to remain in the CAF. The majority of LGBTQ2+ individuals experience bullying and microag­gressions, and many have reported experiencing some form of discrimination. An estimated 53% of LBGTQ2+ members conceal their sexual orientation, including 35% who do not share, or lie about, their personal lives at work; it should be clearly noted however that concealing one’s sexual orientation or gender reflects the unsafe environ­ment for those individuals and not a problem with the individual. Many LGBTQ2+ employees continue to work despite toxic language, behaviour, jokes, and in fear of repercussion to working relationships if they were to report their treatment. Working in the context of dis­crimination and stigma contributes to poor mental health, and feeling the need to conceal one’s gender or sexual orientation adds toxic stress and harms the mental health of those members.

The CAF has a history of mistreatment of LGBTQ2+ members, including a ban on LGBTQ2+ members which was not fully removed until 1992, and not acknowledging the rights of transgender people until 1998. While this ban has since been abolished and progress has been made, we must still ensure that LGBTQ2+ members feel safe and thrive within the CAF. Data on the impact of dis­crimination and harassment of members is limited how­ever the research we have indicates that LGBTQ2+ members are more likely to be victims of discrimination and harassment. While some efforts such as Op HONOUR have contributed to some progress in how LGBTQ2+ members are treated, there remains work to be done across the CAF. Although there has been limited focus specifically on LGBTQ2+ members, especially in comparison to CAF designated EE groups, there is directed support provided through the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) which engages in policy and procedure engagement, supports the Positive Space Program, and promotes Government of Canada training involving Diversity. More broadly, there are exist­ing and developing actions, initiatives, and strategies focused on making cultural change to best support under­represented populations, including LGBTQ2+ members (e.g., the Diversity Strategy, the Employment Equity Plan, initiatives in line with the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (Bill C-65), Canadian Army Order 11-82 Hateful Conduct, and the Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.

Persons With Disabilities in the CAF

The term PWD means:

Persons who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment and who

  • consider themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment, or
  • believe that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment, and includes persons whose functional limitation owing to their impairment have been accommodated in their current job or workplace. (Employment Equity Act, 1995, p. 2)

Many Canadians live with disabilities, in that approximately 22% of the Canadian population aged 15 years or older (6.2 million) declared one or more disability (Statistics Canada, 2018a). Although Canada has made several advancements towards the equitable treatment of PWD such as prohibiting the discrimination of employment on the basis of disability through the Canadian Human Rights Act, numerous Canadians with disabilities report difficulty finding and maintaining employment. Studies report that Canadian PWD face lower employment rates, with approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities being employed compared to the 80% employment rate for those without disabilities (Statistics Canada, 2014). In education, PWD face additional barriers in that they face difficulties accessing special educational services and training, and are less likely to hold a post-secondary degree (Kohen, Uppal, Khan, & Visentin, 2010). As a result, PWD are confronted with barriers that limit their access to employment and education and are at a higher risk of experiencing poverty. In light of these obstacles, it is important to incorporate a disability lens when considering important policies and initiatives that can potentially empower PWD in the Canadian workforce.

Historically, PWD have faced discrimination, unfair treatment, or disadvantages that have unfairly affected their work and personal lives due to negative stigmas and stereotypes associated with disabilities. A 2014 Canadian Public Service Employee Survey found that the prevalence of workplace harassment and discrimination was higher for employees with disabilities than those without (Jones, Finkelstein, & Koehoorn, 2018). This harassment can include inappropriate behaviour, acts that demeaned or caused personal harm, and acts of intimidation. To protect themselves from the unfair and harmful treatment or discrimination, PWD might decide to not share or to avoid disclosing their disability or disability status for fear of negative stigmatization or barriers to employment and promotion. This lack of disclosure can cause PWD to work and live with hidden disabilities and hinder their access to services and any workplace accommodations they might need. This can also result in the denial of one’s disability or a reluctance to seek medical resources, which can negatively affect the integration of members with disabilities into the CAF or their retention in the long term (Arrabito & Leung, 2014).

Data on dissatisfiers related to retention for PWD in the CAF is limited as their response rate within the Retention and Exit Surveys is low, rendering it difficult to draw appropriate conclusions while maintaining anonymity. PWD are a designated group in the Employment Equity Act which acknowledges that there are existing social, political, and environmental barriers that may prevent their full participation in society. Barriers facing PWD need to be studied and addressed to better allow those who wish to serve to continue their service in the CAF.

In Summary

Whether or not an employee (i.e. CAF member) remains with their organization (is retained) is the result of the interactions they experience. The impact of these inter­actions can be cumulative, or the impact of a single event may be so severe that it causes a person to leave the CAF. Retention can be increased with both specific retention efforts while also addressing broader issues embedded within the culture of the organization.

Leadership was consistently noted as an effective lever to improving or harming perceptions of racism and harass­ment in the CAF and respondents generally felt positively about the attitudes and messaging on diversity and inclu­sion within the CAF. Despite much progress to achieve these positive perceptions, racist and discriminatory con­duct remains a persistent concern and ineffective leadership is still commonly cited as a dissatisfier. Both the aggregate retention data and results from interview and focus-group research show that leaders within the CAF can have a very strong impact on the perceptions of support in the work­place and the desire to remain in the CAF. Therefore, care­ful management of leaders and leadership training can have positive retention effects for underrepresented populations by having leaders who will act appropriately, and intervene in support of the needs of all CAF members.

A key challenge to understanding disparate impacts and the magnitude of dissatisfiers facing members of under­represented populations is the limited data available within the CAF to perform disaggregated intersectional analysis. Barriers to effective intersectional analysis can be addressed through other methods of sampling or investi­gating other forms of data collection to overcome data or information gaps.

The Strategy uses the Retention and Exit Surveys to iden­tify broad categories of dissatisfaction, which include dissatisfiers specific to underrepresented populations, in order to develop improvements. Acknowledging that there is a lack of data specific to these groups and in particular in relation to the Retention and Exit Surveys’ data, the Strategy recommends an action plan which focuses on collecting this information. To ensure that efforts derived from the Strategy are effective, a GBA+ process must be performed for each effort or change relating to the CAF Retention Strategy. Moreover, the RPO must incorporate information from key groups of stakeholders such as DAGs, the SMRC, and the CFMWS. In addition to the analysis needed to gain greater insights into the dissatisfiers specific to these underrepresented populations, and how to best address them, there is a need to delve deeper into the individual factors affecting different outcomes, by performing intersectional analysis. The dissatisfiers and subsequent resolutions may differ greatly depending on a member’s identity and the different intersecting points of discrimination. For example, a cisgender woman in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) who is a single parent of two small children will have different needs, and access to supports, compared with that of a transgender man in the Army. It is therefore imperative that all actions and initiatives deriving from this Strategy undergo rigorous GBA+, and that future data analytics support inter­sectional analysis to the extent possible in order to obtain sufficient information for the CAF to provide the best possible support for all its members.

The CAF has recognized the importance of workplace flexibility, family support, and health resources for dis­proportionally impacted groups within the CAF, including women, visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2+ individuals, and PWD. There are several initiatives and strategies in place committed to modernizing the CAF health system and removing existing barriers and stigmas associated with getting help as well as identifying and providing the necessary care and training for those in need (Department of National Defence, 2017a). More broadly, the CAF actively promotes awareness, education, and training through various programs in order to foster last­ing cultural change and reduce negative stigmas and work­place harassment (e.g., the Diversity Strategy, the Employment Equity Plan, Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (Bill C-65). With proper implementation and consideration of all players in the retention space, the Retention Strategy can contribute to making the CAF an inclusive institution in which all of our members can thrive in a dignified, equitable, and respectful manner.

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