Penticton artist using collaborative studio to enhance creativity, unite community

Jenny Long is a painter who has always dreamed of having a space that brings people together.

Last year, she opened an art hub, which has since morphed into Long Gallery + Studios.

Up to eight resident artists can use the space as their own studio and display their works of art.

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“We have a wonderful kind of art school environment where we’re all critiquing each other,” Long said. “I’m always looking for new artists to feature in here. Art that inspires me to show the Penticton community that is a little more contemporary. Edgy stuff that you wouldn’t normal see here.”

In addition to making and selling art, Long also offers plenty of opportunities for budding artists to emerge.

“I teach classes. I do family paint nights and corporate team-building,” Long said. “Just really enhancing creativity in the community.”

Long also puts her skills to the test at live painting shows and competitions, like the Art Battle Regional Finals in Vancouver, where the artist had only 20 minutes to finish a piece of art in front of a live audience.

“You can’t look at a reference photo, which is how I work,” Long said. “You have to use all the same paint as all the other painters, so it’s really challenging because I didn’t have any of my normal professional acrylics that I love. But it’s just like live music: You have to go for it and feed off the energy that’s around you.”

Long believes art has enhanced her life in countless ways.

“It’s given me dreams that come to life. It’s given me opportunities to meet really cool people,” Long said. “And being together on a level that’s so meaningful and authentic.”

No Lines with Jenny Long is a new YouTube channel that the artist recently launched, inspired by Bob Ross, to encourage people to be less fearful about creating imagery.

“People can watch at home and follow along and paint with me because nothing is better than inspiring others to just not be scared to paint,” she said.

Long encourages the community to drop by and try their hand at getting creative.

“If you can find one thing that you’re just stoked to do and make time in your day to do it, everything else in your day is so much better.”

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N.S. woman says she was forced to wheel down busy street due to construction.

Trying to find on-street parking in downtown Halifax can be frustrating at the best of times.

Even more so for one Nova Scotia woman, who says she was discouraged to find accessible spots removed due to a construction project.

“I had already had to drive around for 45 minutes to find parking because of new bus routes along Gottingen,” said April Hubbard. “There’s no more accessible parking and I can’t go a block up the hill or down the hill, because then I can’t get back to my car.”

A major transformation is underway that will significantly impact the way traffic flows through one of Halifax’s main corridors, Gottingen Street.

“The main benefit, of course, is getting people from downtown back to the Macdonald Bridge and over the bridge,” said Nick Ritcey, a senior communication advisor with the city. “We estimate about half of the traffic traveling from downtown across the bridge is by transit. So, getting the transit through that area that much faster is great for everybody travelling.”

Hubbard says she used to rely on accessible parking spots on the southbound side of Gottingen Street, but those are no longer there.

“How is this possible that in a space that’s right next to the community services building, in that block where there are so many people with needs and disabilities that have to go there, you can’t get to a safe parking space without going into the street?” she said.

Ritcey says the accessible parking spots aren’t being done away with, they are just being moved.

“This project just got started pretty recently, so they’re still in the process of relocating some of the spots. I believe two are in place now and two are in the process of being put back into place,” he said.

According to information from the traffic services department, there were four accessible parking spaces on Gottingen Street before construction began and those have all since been moved.

One new accessible parking space is beside the YMCA, another will be on Portland Place and two more spaces are being installed on Buddy Daye.

Meanwhile, Hubbard says she hopes more consideration would be taken into how construction may impact people with mobility issues.

“The sidewalks are closed down on both sides due to construction. So, I had to wheel down the middle of the street on Gottingen to get back to my car,” Hubbard said.

The project is expected to run until the end of November.

 

 

 

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Not lovin’ it: N.S. man tries to buy cop food, ends up arrested

No good deed goes unpunished.

A 42-year-old man is facing charges after he offered to buy a police officer food while he was allegedly impaired.

Nova Scotia RCMP say just after 2 a.m., an RCMP officer was grabbing a late-night meal at a drive-thru on the Bedford Highway when the driver of a vehicle in front of them offered to purchase their meal.

“When the officer got out to explain to the driver that they appreciated the offer but would not accept it, they observed the driver displaying signs of impairment,” police said in a news release Wednesday.

Police determined that the man from Lower Sackville was more than double the legal limit.

The man is facing charges of impaired operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration over 80 mg per cent.

He was also charged under the Motor Vehicle Act for driving while suspended and operating an unregistered vehicle.

He is scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on Dec. 6.

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Privacy Commissioner of Canada launches investigation into StatCan over controversial data project

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada says it’s launching an investigation after Statistics Canada requested the commissioner take a second look at a controversial data project which would see the federal agency gather detailed financial transaction information on hundreds of thousands of Canadians with neither their consent nor notification.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement Wednesday it’s launching the investigation after receiving complaints related to Statistics Canada’s collection of personal banking information.

The announcement comes after Chief statistician Anil Arora defended the agency’s decision to compel the country’s nine largest financial institutions to turn over that data without their consent.

“We know there is going to be a segment of the population that no matter how much or what you ask or anything that you ask will have concerns,” Arora told Global News in an exclusive interview. “We respect those concerns. What we try to do is take every single measure we can to assure them of the fact that we take privacy seriously. We build it and bake it into every single one of our processes and we give them the assurance that at the end of the day, their individual record will not be seen by anybody.”

Global News first reported the details of two separate big data projects, sparking a fierce political battle between Conservatives, who oppose these projects and want them shut down, and the Liberal government, which, in legislation passed last year, gave Statistics Canada the broad new powers it is now using to gather massive amounts of personal information without notice or consent.

“The more precise the information needs are … then we have to be able to account for the fact that some people not responding to a survey or giving us access to records is going to significantly inhibit our ability to give good statistical data that we can stand behind,” Arora said.

The first project reported by Global News is already underway and involves the transfer of 15 years worth of credit history on an unknown number of Canadians from credit bureau TransUnion of Canada Inc. of Burlington, Ont., to Statistics Canada. That transfer took place as recently as January. Neither Statistics Canada nor TransUnion would say how many Canadians would have seen their credit history transferred to Statistics Canada.

The second proposed project is one of the most ambitious ever undertaken by Statistics Canada. The agency will go direct the nine largest financial institutions in the country — banks and major credit card companies — to turn over daily detail financial transaction information for a randomly selected group of 500,000 Canadians. That project is set to begin in January.

The Privacy Commissioner’s office has previously consulted with StatCan on the privacy implications related to data gathering and a summary of those talks was included in the commissioner’s 2017-2018 annual report.

WATCH: Trudeau defends Statistics Canada move to collect banking info of 500,000 Canadians

Arora says that, in every project where personal identifiers are acquired in the data sought by the agency, Statistics Canada strips those identifiers from the database once the data is aggregated, summarized, and processed.

“As soon as it comes into Statistics Canada, we take off your name, take off anything that can identify you,” Arora said.

By law, Statistics Canada is prohibited from sharing any of the personal data it collects with any other organization including other government departments like the Canada Revenue Agency or the RCMP.

Arora argues the project to be launched in January involving harvesting data from credit card companies and banks is crucial for Statistics Canada to provide comprehensive, timely, and accurate data about the social and economic characteristics of the country that policymakers need to provide government services and make decisions about interest rates and taxation levels.

“The way for us to be able to give timely information is we have to go to where Canadians interact today,” Arora said. “Nearly 80 per cent of all our transactions today are done electronically. Our paycheque goes in there, our bills get paid, transfers of money go in there. So how is it that a statistical agency that, on the one hand, has to respond to the needs of Canadians for more timely, more detailed data and on the other hand can’t, then, in a sense go to where Canadians live and operate today which is in a digital world.”

WATCH: Conservatives blast Trudeau government over StatCan collection of personal financial data

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the House of Commons on Tuesday, was standing four-square behind Statistics Canada.

“Statistics Canada is actively engaged with the Privacy Commissioner’s office on this project and is working with it to ensure that Canadians’ banking information remains protected and private,” Trudeau said. “High-quality and timely data are critical to ensuring that government programs remain relevant and effective for Canadians.”

But Conservatives plan to continue to press to shut down any collection of personal information where Canadians have not given consent or been notified.

“The fundamental part of this … is that [Statistics Canada] is not telling Canadians,” Conservative MP Lisa Raitt said Wednesday. “We’re only finding out about because of the great work that journalists are doing in exposing it.

“Canadians don’t agree with it,” Raitt said. “My phone is ringing off the hook and so are the phones of my colleagues. Facebook is on fire. Canadians don’t like this.”

— With files from Andrew Russell

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Animal rights group pushes for safety agreement with Burlington pork plant

Animal rights group Toronto Pig Save has launched a petition calling on a Sofina Foods pork plant in Burlington to sign a safety agreement for vigils.

The group has gathered once a week at the Fearman’s plant on Harvester Road and Appleby Line since 2011.

Protesters observe and — during the summer months — feed water to pigs as they approach the plant on trucks.

Toronto Pig Save claims there are a handful of aggressive truck drivers making the vigils unsafe.

“There was a woman who was standing where the traffic lights are and the truck ran into her and she cracked a rib and went to hospital,” says the group’s co-founder, Anita Krajnc.

Toronto Pig Save claims arrangements have been made with slaughterhouses in Toronto and L.A. to keep the gates closed to the trucks for up to five minutes to allow protesters to approach the pigs safely.

Nearly 1,300 people have signed a petition asking the Burlington plant to do the same.

Krajnc says a letter has also been sent to Michael Latifi, the CEO of Sofina Foods and several politicians including area councillor, Paul Sharman.

He says residents have been contacting him for years about how the vigils have impacted the community.

“I respect people’s rights to protest, but I do not think it’s appropriate to do so in a way that creates safety concerns,” said Sharman.

At a past vigil, he says he witnessed traffic trying to move around a trailer that was crossing multiple lanes because the truck had been stopped by protesters.

The question, now he says, is what’s reasonable when it comes to these vigils.

It’s something he’s hoping a traffic management steering committee comprised of regional, municipal and police representatives will tackle during its next meeting.

Krajnc says she believes protesters should be protected as pedestrians under the Highway Traffic Act because there are traffic lights at Fearmans.

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‘The face of hunger is changing’: New report reveals food bank usage is on the rise in Toronto

A new report is revealing that despite the growth in Toronto‘s prosperity, food bank use continues to spike severely.

The annual “Who’s Hungry” report, released by Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest, took a decade-long snapshot of increasing hunger in the city — reporting an overall 14 per cent increase in food bank visits since the recession of 2008.

The report pointed the finger at a lack of income growth for the steady spike — blaming among other pressures, soaring rents, energy and childcare costs as well as a widening gap between social assistance rates and inflation.

“Housing has increased, rent has increased and it’s just becoming a lot less affordable to live in the city,” said Sarah Kiriliuk, director of communications at the Daily Bread Food Bank. “Add to that, social supports have not kept up with inflation over the years and this leaves less money in a family’s pocket to put food on the table.”

Next week, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government is expected to announce plans to reform the province’s social assistance system. The proposed overhaul has raised questions about what the changes could mean for Toronto’s food banks.

On Wednesday, leaders of the food bank report took their concerns to Queen’s Park with the hope that the report’s findings might be enough to sway decision-makers.

“We are really hoping that by talking about our report today, [they’ll] look at it,” Kiriliuk told Global News. “[They’ll] consider this as input into [their] decision making around social policies and programs and that they’ve done a full assessment of all the things that they need to.”

According to the report, last year alone saw 914,000 people visit food banks in the city, a trend that has been consistent over the years with client visits hovering near the one million mark since 2013.

The report found that the majority of those clients, 37 per cent, are aged 45 or above — a stark difference from a decade ago, when the majority of users were between 19 and 44 years old.

Ryan Noble, executive director of North York Harvest, said that in Toronto “the face of hunger is changing.”

“We’re seeing more seniors turning to us for help,” Noble said in a release. “And while food banks are doing what they can to service those who need them, the fact of the matter is, it’s still hard for those clients to keep up with the rising cost of living.”

It is that “rising cost of living” that Kiriliuk hopes the government will consider.

“Food insecurity is one piece of a large puzzle that includes housing, social assistance, price of foods at grocery stores, labour workforce opportunities and precarious employment,” Kiriliuk said. “There isn’t a silver bullet that will help us see a massive decrease unless all of those things are addressed holistically.”

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Rolling through the night: The St. Louis Ghost Train

Although the train tracks north of the village of St. Louis, Sask., were removed years ago, the community still has a mysterious ghost train lighting the path where the tracks once were.

For local resident, Edward Lussier, the legend of the ghost train was part of growing up in St. Louis.

“There’s certain things that your community is known for. It put us on the map. It made us feel proud,” Lussier said.

He estimates he’s seen the light 50 to 60 times.

“It was something to do in St. Louis. There’s not much else to do in a small town,” Lussier said.

The small village, located 35 kilometres south of Prince Albert, is home to around 450 people.

The village of St. Louis has a population of approximately 450 people.

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Although the tales have taken on different versions throughout the years, one main legend dates back to the 1920s.

It’s said a Canadian National Railway conductor was out examining the train tracks one night, when he was decapitated by a train.

Locals now claim to see a mysterious white light, and sometimes even a light that shines red.

“It was very prominent, the light coming through the bush. It was so obvious what it was. It actually did look like a train. It just was weird. The light would come out, and it would reach the bush line and it would fade away,” Lussier explained.

The railway’s records don’t go back far enough to confirm the event, but even when the tracks were removed years ago, the village’s famous light didn’t stop.

Local residents Les and Betty Rancourt have memories of seeing the ghost light that date back to when they were in high school.

“We did that all the time as teenagers growing up, then as we got older, and got married, then our kids started to do that,” Betty said.

“You’d always see the light coming, always. I don’t think I’ve ever gone, when I haven’t seen the light.”

Like Lussier, the couple estimates they’ve seen the light more than 50 times.

Les moved to St. Louis as a teenager and clearly remembers the first time he saw the light when he was 16 years old.

“We came here and walked down the track and I saw this light, which looked like, pretty much a car light from a distance but interesting thing, it had a little red light that moved around it, up and down,” Les explained.

Les and Betty Rancourt estimate they’ve seen the ghost light more than 50 times.

The site is located across the river, a few kilometres north of St. Louis in the rural municipality of Prince Albert. The land where the railroad once was is now private property, so the village hasn’t been able to promote it as a tourist attraction or put up any landmark.

“A lot of people do come to St. Louis asking where are the ghost lights,” said Marc Caron, the mayor of the village.

“It gets the name of St. Louis out there in a fun way and a mysterious way,” Caron said.

Throughout the years, sceptics have tried to solve the mystery. Some say the light is from vehicle headlights from a nearby road, but for local residents, they’re content leaving the mystery as is.

“It’s there. It’s weird. We have no idea what it is,” Lussier said.

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Travelling to Singapore? You may be drug tested for cannabis, Travel Canada warns

If you’re travelling to Singapore, custom officers can request a drug test when you arrive, even if the drug was consumed before your arrival — which could result in your arrest.

Travel Canada made the warning Wednesday in the wake of cannabis legalization in Canada.

In a tweet, Travel Canada warned, “custom officers can request drug test at the point of entry to #Singapore.”

“If you test positive for drugs, you can be arrested and prosecuted, even if the drugs were consumed prior to your arrival in the country,” the tweet said.

https://twitter.com/TravelGoC/status/1057696250932408320

The tweet comes five days after Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) released a statement on drug use outside the country, and how Singapore citizens or permanent residents can still be prosecuted once in Singapore.

“Any Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident found to have abused controlled drugs overseas will be treated as if he/she had abused drugs in Singapore,” the statement read. “CNB conducts enforcement checks at Singapore’s checkpoints and will take action against those found to have consumed drugs overseas.”

Although the statement specified Singapore citizens or permanent residents, the government of Canada’s travel advisory website says, “Custom officers can request a drug test on any traveller at the point of entry to Singapore.”

Singapore has harsh laws against cannabis. Currently, possession or consumption of cannabis can be met with up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine up to $20,000, according to CNB’s website. Illegal trafficking, import or export of cannabis can also lead to the death penalty.

Countries close to Singapore, however, are softening on cannabis. Thailand has begun moving towards allowing the medical use of cannabis, with a target start date of May 2019, while Malaysia is also considering legalizing cannabis for medical use.

Cannabis can stay in your system for a variable amount of time, depending on the type of test on your amount of use,

According to the Mayo Clinic, cannabis can be detected in urine three days after use for an occasional user (three times a week), 10 to 15 days for a daily user, or more than 30 days for a heavy chronic user (multiple times a day).

For a blood test, it is typically detectable for one to two days, but can increase with more use, and saliva testing it is detectable for one to three days for occasional users. That number rises to 29 days for heavy users, according to Heathline.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to confirm whether Canadian citizens will be screened for prior cannabis use when entering Singapore.

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OSPCA to eliminate cruelty probes on horses, livestock as part of restructuring effort

TORONTO – Ontario’s animal welfare agency plans to pull back from investigating cruelty cases involving livestock and horses as part of a restructure that insiders say may eventually see all its resources go toward shelters and rescue programs.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, whose officers have police powers and can lay both provincial offence and criminal animal cruelty charges, said lack of funding and years of financial losses had led to the decision.

“We’re looking for help and we’re challenging the status quo,” said OSPCA spokeswoman Alison Cross. “Otherwise these challenges will never be addressed. We have to restructure.”

Sources say the OSPCA has been quietly discussing the merits of remaining in the animal cruelty investigation field altogether, citing increasing costs and the collapse of several high-profile cases, such as a probe involving Marineland, which have contributed to poor public perception of the organization.

Last week, the OSPCA called in its animal welfare officers from across the province for a meeting at its headquarters in Stoufville, Ont., north of Toronto. There, CEO Kate MacDonald laid out the organization’s plans for the future.

“During our meeting we felt it was important to begin our discussion on our new focus we’ll be undertaking over the next year,” said OSPCA deputy chief Jennifer Bluhm.

VIDEO: No Hot Pets campaign launched in Peterborough by OPP and Humane Society

Part of the plan MacDonald discussed at the meeting was farming out animal cruelty protection of large farm animals to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

That was news to the Progressive Conservative government, which pays the OSPCA $5.75 million each year under an agreement that stipulates the agency is responsible for running a call centre to respond to animal cruelty tips, a major case team to investigate complex cases, a registry of zoos and aquariums and specialists to investigate those facilities, as well as animal cruelty coverage of First Nations and northern Ontario.

A government spokesman said the OSPCA had not notified the province of its plan. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs assists with inspections and investigations related to farm animals when requested by the OSPCA or police, but it does not have the authority to enforce the provisions of the OSPCA Act, Brent Ross said in an email.

“In the event the OSPCA no longer performs these duties, police services have authority to enforce animal welfare laws,” he said.

The OSPCA said it has for years operated its enforcement arm at a significant financial loss and had to balance the books by pulling from its donor dollars that it uses to fund its other operations, which include shelters and rescue programs. The OSPCA said that will stop by 2019.

The agency brought in $7 million from donations and fundraising last year, according to its 2017 financial report. It took in about $2.4 million in municipal contract fees and $2.1 million in shelter and veterinary revenue. The report states animal care and protection cost nearly $14 million.

The OSPCA said it continues to respond to livestock cruelty concerns, but hopes that the provincial government will take over that role.

However, some of the officers who attended the agency meeting last week said they were left with the impression that the move was imminent.

“We are no longer all things to all animals…We are no longer investing in investigations,” MacDonald said at the meeting, according to two officers who were present but did not want their names used for fear of being fired.

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“It sounds like we’ll become a dog and cat cruelty organization,” one of the officers said. “Those are much easier to deal with.”

When asked about the CEO’s remarks, the OSPCA said it strives to be a leader in animal welfare, but that no single organization can do the work alone.

“As we restructure, the Society will turn to other industry experts to assist in addressing concerns for animal welfare,” Cross, the spokeswoman, said.

There are currently 71 officers who respond to animal cruelty concerns across the entire province, down from about 200 a decade ago.

The OSPCA started as an animal shelter in 1873. In 1919, it entered into an agreement with the provincial government to enforce animal cruelty laws through legislation that created the OSPCA Act. The OSPCA received little government funding until 2012 when then-Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty decided to augment their enforcement abilities and give them more than $5 million annually to carry out those new responsibilities.

A 2016 report titled “Difference Makers: Understanding and Improving the OSPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Network” found that the majority of officers are poorly paid, work in the field alone often facing dangerous circumstances, and are responsible for “extremely large geographic regions.”

One of the authors, Kendra Coulter, the chair of labour studies at Brock University, said funding for the OSPCA is insufficient.

“The idea of using donor dollars to help fund the enforcement of public laws, to me, is very problematic,” she said. “(But) I don’t think abandoning large groups of animals, many of whom are the most vulnerable, is the appropriate response to financial constraints.”

Coulter also criticized the entire set up of a private charity using public money to enforce the law, citing lack of transparency and accountability.

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“It’s an organization with a board and upper management that makes a range of decisions on how to spend public money and the public has few opportunities to better understand how those decisions are made,” she said.

Internal documents show the agency has been struggling financially for years.

In November 2016, it was forced to disband its major case management team, a centralized group of specialized investigators tackling complex cases like dogfighting rings and allegations of cruelty at zoos and aquariums, according to an internal memo.

The agency said the team was struggling to keep up with more than 15 complex cases per year, so it decided to instead deploy specialists throughout the province, a tactic that was more efficient.

Mike Zimmerman, a former manager of animal welfare with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services who was involved in the drafting of the 2012 agreement, said the agency crying poor was a false argument.

“They were doing investigations entirely on their own income when the government said we’d like to help with that and provide money for additional services and strategies,” he said. “And they’d had little government money going back to 1919.”

Zimmerman said under the 2012 agreement, the government was never meant to provide all the funds for enforcement, adding the OSPCA fundraises on the backs of their cruelty investigations.

“They’re operating in a way that ignores their primary reason to be, which is to protect animals in Ontario – all animals,” he said.

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Disability rights advocates occupy Quebec ombudsman’s office, demand meeting with health minister

A group of about a dozen disability rights advocates spent Wednesday morning standing their ground and demanding help from the Quebec government.

They gathered at Phillips Square in downtown Montreal to protest what they call a crisis in the social services sector.

A smaller group of advocates, many in wheelchairs, made their way into a conference room at the Quebec ombudsman’s office on the 10th floor at 1080 Beaver Hall.

“We are 10 individuals under the banner Mouvement PHAS demanding to speak with the Quebec health minister regarding help for people with disabilities,” Sam Kuhn from Coalition Autisme Quebec said.

“We are currently occupying the ombudsman’s office, we asked them to contact the minister of health – this office refused and so we are refusing to move.”

Kuhn, who has two daughters with disabilities, has already made headlines for his fight for psychological assessments and speech therapy services after his daughters failed to get the help they were promised.

He recently filed human rights complaints against two Montreal school boards.

The latest move from PHAS is just the first of a series in what the group calls an “escalating campaign of direct action by people with disabilities.”

The group’s plan is to stay put until Quebec’s new Health Minister Danielle McCann,  agrees to meet with them.

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