An Introduction to the Borders and Boundaries of the Canadian North (2023)

Editor’s Note: This is the introductory post in the Northern Borders and Boundaries series. You can read other posts in this serieshere.

Throughout the North American Arctic, rapid environmental change is transforming relationships between human communities, non-human nature, and the borders and boundaries that delineate and assign meaning to northern spaces. Across Inuit Nunangat, for example, the dramatic loss of sea ice is simultaneously disrupting the ability of Inuit to travel to winter hunting grounds and creating new sea lanes that facilitate the intensification of international shipping and resource exploration. The increasing rapidity of these and related socio-environmental changes has led to a widespread recognition that the Arctic is deeply entangled with political, economic, and ecological developments occurring beyond the boundaries of the region.[1] As global forces alter northern environments, they have also reshaped how northern borders are governed. All too often, however, the entanglement of northern environmental change and arctic borders and boundaries is framed as a contemporary issue. Although the current “collision of global warming and global investment” has led to dramatic changes throughout the circumpolar world, “New North” narratives, argues historian Andrew Stuhl, are neither new nor innocent.[2] Throughout the twentieth century, appeals to the idea of the “New North” have obscured the colonial and capitalist roots of ongoing and emergent issues in the Arctic, and marginalized those northerners whose lives and communities have been circumscribed by the demarcation and enforcement of political borders and colonial boundaries.

We are excited to introduce this series which examines the vast conceptualization of borders and boundaries as they apply to the northern regions of North America. This is the first series emerging from the Northern Borders Project following a virtual workshop on the histories of animals and borders in the North American Arctic. The idea for the project emerged from an ongoing conversation between ourselves and our colleague Glenn Iceton concerning the historical and geographical relationships among dynamic northern environments and those political borders and conceptual boundaries that mark the limits of authority, territory, and sovereignty in the region. As a group of northern environmental historians, we believe that there has been greater academic interest in borders, boundaries, and borderlands in the more populated, southerly regions of North America. But despite distinct socio-ecological contexts, we suggest that an engagement with northern borders brings into relief the historical and geographical contours of border and boundary-making processes. Our collaboration began with a focus on border- and boundary-crossing animals as a way to expand our analytical frame beyond anthropocentric conceptualizations of border-work and boundary making. While we are still very much interested in how animal studies intersects with northern and borders studies, we feel there remains a wider range of border issues beyond animal studies that have yet been unexplored in scholarly writing. Building on the workshop, we solicited contributions that explore the diverse and dynamic histories and geographies of borders and boundary-making processes in the North American Arctic.

In recent years there has been a flourishing of innovative borderlands and trans-boundary research among the disciplines of environmental history and historical geography.[3] The broad historiography of border studies in North America has focused primarily on borderlands or border zones along the US-Mexican border or the 49th parallel between Canada and the US and the Great Lakes region.[4] Much of this literature has tended to focus on the idea of the frontier, or frontier zones – an idea which has also been used to discuss the North. Though these studies have ranged broadly in scope and have provided us significant insights into bioregionalism, gender, race, settler colonialism and coloniality, policing and social control, and modernity and technopolitics, the North has been scantily included, by comparison, in this growing scholarship.

Of course, many northern scholars have explored these concepts, though not always in an explicit border studies way.[5] There is a strong body of scholarship on Northern and Arctic exploration for example, which engages with cultural, racial, and gender boundaries. Literature on early exploration also alerts us to the ways in which exploration brought culturally diverse human groups into contact with each other and with “new” land.[6] The work of Morris Zaslow, foundational to the field of Northern history, deals with the ways that southern economies and institutions transplanted into the North, blurring regional boundaries of cores and peripheries.[7] There is a growing body of literature among northern scholarship that explores the onset of resource development and extractivism across the North as it further drew the region into capitalist relations and created environmental change. Historians and historical geographies have examined mining, hydroelectricity, and oil within the context of the North and many have focused on environmental hardships created in the region as a result of resource extraction and the effects this has had on Indigenous-settler relations.[8]

Arctic sovereignty has also been a popular topic in Northern history since the 1980s, with Shelagh Grant and Bill Morrison publishing on the topic, but more recently scholars have given increased attention to Indigenous sovereignty in the North.[9] Much of this new focus on Indigenous sovereignty in the North can be traced back to more local or regional community histories coming from the North, in both academic and local publications. In works like Julie Cruikshank’s Life Lived Like a Story, the idea of borders and boundaries in both direct and abstract ways is addressed by the three Athapaskan and Tlingit women Cruikshank collaborated with. Since her work in the 1990s though, there has been an outpouring of community histories from the Yukon, the NWT, and Nunavut themselves that discuss aspects of their historical cultures of importance to them and demonstrate a continuing connection between the past and contemporary problems in the Arctic and Subarctic.[10]

(Video) NiCHE Conversations 1.19: Jonathan Luedee

Having worked with First Nations in the North throughout our doctoral and postdoctoral studies, Northern Borders Project collaborators noticed there are significant aspects to the lived experience of the North (such as outside-imposed borders, and restrictive cultural, social, and ideological boundaries) that haven’t yet been thoroughly explored within academic history but have been directly addressed in these local and community histories. Learning about the lived experience of northern residents over time helps us understand the relationality and multiplicity of borders. We remember that borders and border studies are not only bi-national, but international, intranational, and, often, grounded in place. These community or regional histories also highlight the importance of considering less obvious borders, beyond the geopolitical, such as those emerging from land claims. In widening the scope of border studies beyond the political administration or state level, it becomes clear that bordered or bounded spaces are also contested sites of knowledge production.

We are also reminded that the contemporary North is faced with many cross-boundary issues, as we’ve recently witnessed with the conflict around oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. While there is a substantial body of scholarship examining wildlife and conservation in the North, these works have largely been confined to individual political jurisdictions and there remains a significant scholarly gap calling for future work on animal studies and borders in the North – especially examining the ways in which animals transcend borders. In this region, the role of animal migration and conservation is particularly important both historically and presently. For example, Indigenous hunting and trapping activities have been affected by the imposition of political boundaries, southern bureaucracies, and the respective colonial conservation regimes. Since the late twentieth century, attempts at establishing wildlife co-management boards have led to ongoing conflict between Indigenous peoples and federal or Territorial governments.[11]

In comparing southern border studies with the above-mentioned scholarship on the North, it is clear that the Northern region of North America has its own set of challenges, and its own relationship, with borderlands, border crossings, and boundaries more widely. Examining the range of northern scholarship, it is evident that borders and boundaries have historically played out differently in the North than they have in the south and that the North is a region uniquely situated to explore themes which are not as applicable in the south. For instance, northern borders have largely existed outside of southern administrative, infrastructural, and technological capacities. While the ideological component of border enforcement, reconfiguration of space, and social control existed (and translated into policy), the reality of administering a region perceived as “remote” made these things more difficult to accomplish. Northern borders acted simultaneously as tools of the colonial state and as sites of resistance. Surveillance of this region was incomplete, allowing for unmonitored and frequent border crossings, a reality that heightened colonial anxieties, and enabled northern residents to challenge colonial anthropocentric ideas of borders and boundaries rooted in southern perceptions of the remoteness of the region.

Geared with these ideas in mind, we ask: how does an orientation to the North transform the ways in which scholars in the environmental humanities might conceptualize the role that borders and boundaries have played, and continue to play, in shaping the history of the North? And, how does a Northern perspective offer new perspectives on border studies? In this series, we bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from various career stages who engage the histories and geographies of northern borders and boundary-making processes through diverse methodological approaches. The authors explore the historical roots of current thinking about the North by situating the political, environmental, and cultural capacities of borders and boundaries within local realities. Over the next eight weeks, we will publish papers that offer new insights into settler colonialism and transnational northern discard studies; transboundary animal migration, wildlife management, and political advocacy; Indigenous rights and environmental justice; spiritual borderlands and Christian anthropology; cartographic narration and cultural encounters; transient wildfire smoke and environmental justice in the circumpolar north; cultural boundaries and tourism; and the connections among agricultural experimentation, northern science, and race.

Individually and collectively, the upcoming papers in this series demonstrate the significance of a northern orientation to studies about borders and boundaries. We hope that this series will generate discussion and demonstrate possible approaches to linking new scholarship on environmental crises in a changing North to both academic and public historical work that continues to assess the colonial and imperial roots of contemporary change.

(Video) CANADA- Provinces + Territories explained (Geography Now!)

Feature Image: “Open water lead above Canada, Arctic Ocean” by NASA Goddard Photo and Video. CC BY 2.0.

Notes

[1] Scott Stephenson, “Confronting borders in the Arctic,” Journal of Borderland Studies 33,1 (2018): 183-190; Klaus Dodds, “Global Arctic,” Journal of Borderlands Studies 33, 2 (2018): 191-194.
[2] Andrew Stuhl, “The politics of the “New North”: putting history and geography at stake in Arctic futures,” The Polar Journal, 3, 1 (2013): 94-119.
[3]Some of this literature includes Daniel Macfarlane, Fixing Niagara Falls: Environment, Energy and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2021); Nancy Langston, Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing World ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017); Ted Binnema, “Transborder Approaches to Canadian-American Environmental History” in Douglas Sackman, ed. A Companion to American Environmental History (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2010), 615-634; Sterling Evans, ed. The Borderlands of the American and Canadian Wests: Essays on Regional History of the 49th Parallel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 17-41.
[4] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (United States: Aunt Lute Books, 1987);Elizabeth Jameson and Shelia McManus eds, One Step Over the Line: Toward a History of Women in the North American Wests (Edmonton: Athabaska University Press, 2008); Andrew Graybill, Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1985-1910 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007). Several of the chapters in Settler City Limits examine colonial experiences of boundaries and borderlands between the Canadian and U.S. West. Heather Dorries, Robert Henry, David Hugill, Tyler McCreary, and Julie Tomiak, Eds. Settler City Limits: Indigenous Resurgence and Colonial Violence in the Urban Prairie West (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2019).
[5]A recent exception is the 2019 collection edited by Dwayne Ryan Menezes and Heather N. Nicol, The North American Arctic: Themes in Regional Security (London: UCL Press, 2019), which deals explicitly with borders in the North American Arctic and suggests this may be a new direction in the historiography of the North.
[6] For example, see Karen Routledge, Do You See Ice? Inuit and Americans at Home and Away (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).
[7] Morris Zaslow, Northward Expansion of Canada 1914-1967 (Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1988).
[8] A few of these works include Arn Keeling and John Sandlos, eds. Mining and Communities in Northern Canada: History, Politics, and Memory (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2015); Hans Carlson, Home is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and Their Land (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008); and Dorothy Eber, When the Whalers Were up North: Inuit Memories from the Eastern Arctic (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1989).
[9] Shelagh Grant, Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010); Paul Nadasdy, Sovereignty’s Entailments: First Nation State Formation in the Yukon (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017); Emilie Cameron, Far Off Metal River: Inuit Lands, Settler Stories, and the Making of the Contemporary Arctic (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016); Robert McPherson, Robert, New Owners in Their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003).
[10] Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Kwanlin Dün: Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur – Our Story in Our Words (Vancouver: Figure 1 Publishing, 2020); Leslie McCartney and Gwich’in Tribal Council, Our Whole Gwich’in Way of Life Has Changed / Gwich’in K’yuu Gwiidandài’ Tthak Ejuk Gòonlih: Stories from the People of the Land (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2020); Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Shirley Smith, People of the Lakes: Stories of our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2009); Helene Dobrowolsky, Hammerstones: A History of the Tr’ondëK Hwëch’in (Dawson City, YT: Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, 2003); Nancy Wachowich in collaboration with Apphia Agalakti Awa, Rhoda Kaukjak Katsak, and Sandra Pikujak Katsak, Saqiyuq: Stories from the Lives of Three Inuit Women (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001); Julie Cruikshank, Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1990).
[11] John Sandlos, Hunters at the Margin: Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007); Paul Nadasdy, Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Aboriginal-State Relations in the Southwest Yukon (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003).

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An Introduction to the Borders and Boundaries of the Canadian North (1)

Heather Green and Jonathan Luedee

Heather Green and Jonathan Luedee are both collaborators on the Northern Borders Project. Heather is an assistant professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, and Jonathan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

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FAQs

What latitude forms boundary between Canada USA? ›

The treaty established the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Georgia as the boundary between the United States and British Canada.

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Political boundaries are just one type of artificial, or man-made, boundary. Other boundaries created by people include linguistic, economic, and social boundaries. Linguistic boundaries form between areas where people speak different languages. Often, these boundaries match political boundaries.

What are the boundaries of politics? ›

A political boundary is an imaginary line separating one political unit, such as a country or state, from another. Sometimes these align with a natural geographic feature like a river to form a border or barrier between nations. Occasionally, two countries may contest where a particular border is drawn.

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At all levels, however, political boundaries not only demarcate political control, but determine distribution of resources, from international protection to other, more local benefits, demarcate areas of military control, divide economic markets, and create areas of legal rule.

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There are 13 states that border Canada. Words in bold are English words you may not know. You can learn these words in the Word List .

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About Canada

The country is bordered by Alaska (USA) in west, and by 12 US states of the continental United States in south, Canada shares maritime borders with Greenland (an autonomous territory of Denmark) and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, an island which belongs to France.

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Movement in narrow zones along plate boundaries causes most earthquakes. Most seismic activity occurs at three types of plate boundaries—divergent, convergent, and transform. As the plates move past each other, they sometimes get caught and pressure builds up.

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Provided by TherapistAid.com. Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.

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Types of political boundaries include relic, superimposed, subsequent, antecedent, geometric, and consequent boundaries.

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Borders and boundaries, commonly defined as the lines dividing distinct political, social, or legal territories, are arguably the most ubiquitous features within the field of political geography.

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Benefits of Setting Boundaries
  • Build greater self-esteem.
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25 Oct 2021

What is the difference between borders and boundaries? ›

Specifically, many authors use border to designate the formal political division line between territorial units, such as states, and boundary to signify the cultural and social group difference that may or may not be marked on the ground by division lines.

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The most popular of these crossings are Warroad Sprague, Baudette Rainy River, International Falls Fort Frances, and Grand Portage Pigeon River. The other border crossings are Lancaster Tolstoi, Pinecreek Piney, Roseau South Junction, and Angle Inlet.

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The border between Canada and the United States is the longest international border in the world. The terrestrial boundary (including boundaries in the Great Lakes, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts) is 8,891 km (5,525 mi) long.

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In addition to sharing the world's largest land border with the United States—spanning 8,891 km (5,525 mi)—Canada shares a land border with Greenland (and hence the Kingdom of Denmark) to the northeast on Hans Island and a maritime boundary with France's overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon to the ...

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The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.” In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer Jacques Cartier about the route to kanata; they were actually referring to the village of Stadacona, the site of the present-day City of Québec.

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Prior to 1870, it was known as the North-Western Territory. The name has always been a description of the location of the territory.

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7 Types of Boundaries You May Need
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13 Apr 2022

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A plate boundary is a three-dimensional surface or zone across which there is a significant change in the velocity (speed or direction) of motion of one lithospheric plate relative to the adjacent lithospheric plate.

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Earthquakes are usually caused when underground rock suddenly breaks and there is rapid motion along a fault. This sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake.

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The grinding action between the plates at a transform plate boundary results in shallow earthquakes, large lateral displacement of rock, and a broad zone of crustal deformation.

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There are seven major plates: African, Antarctic, Eurasian, Indo-Australian, North American, Pacific and South American.

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The concept of boundary conditions applies to both ordinary and partial differential equations. There are five types of boundary conditions: Dirichlet, Neumann, Robin, Mixed, and Cauchy, within which Dirichlet and Neumann are predominant.

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Boundaries can be emotional, physical or even digital. Some examples of personal boundaries might be: I'm cool with following each other on social media, but not with sharing passwords. I'm comfortable kissing and holding hands, but not in public.

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India shares its border with seven countries- Afghanistan and Pakistan to the North-West, China, Bhutan and Nepal to the north, Myanmar to the far East and Bangladesh to the east. Sri Lanka (from the south-east) and Maldives (from the south-west) are two countries with water borders.

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The Importance Of Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries create trust and build healthy relationships. Even when some people don't like what you do, they will likely still respect you for standing up for what you believe in. Boundaries also generate safety in relationships.

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3 Sept 2020

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Natural boundaries are based on physical features, like rivers, mountains, and coastlines. For example, the border of Arkansas is formed along the Mississippi River. Geometric boundaries are straight lines drawn by people. Think back to the Berlin Conference when Africa was carved up.

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Social boundaries are objectified forms of social differences manifested in un- equal access to and unequal distribution of resources (material and nonmaterial) and social opportunities. They are also revealed in stable behavioral patterns of association, as manifested in connubiality and commensality.

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A political boundary is an imaginary line separating one political unit, such as a country or state, from another. Sometimes these align with a natural geographic feature like a river to form a border or barrier between nations.

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Thus, borders are central to a spatial approach to international politics, by setting out the location and arrangement of states, and their distances from one another. Borders both facilitate and constrain human interaction in conflict and trade, in war and in peace.

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Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition

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Integrated Check Posts (ICP)
  • India–Bangladesh border.
  • India–Bhutan border.
  • India–Myanmar border.
  • India–Nepal border.
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  • India–Bangladesh border.
  • India–Pakistan border.

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2 Jun 2021

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Boundaries are a way to take care of ourselves. When we set boundaries, we're less angry and resentful because our needs are getting met. Boundaries make our expectations clear, so others know what to expect from us and how we want to be treated. Boundaries are the foundation for happy, healthy relationships.

Is the 49th parallel the border between US & Canada? ›

The U.S. negotiates with Britain to end a Canadian border dispute. Tribes are not consulted as the 49th Parallel becomes the boundary.

How the boundary between the USA and Canada was drawn? ›

On October 20, 1818 a British-American convention clarified the western border between Canada and the United States "as a line from the farthest northwest part of Lake of the Woods to the 49th parallel and thence west to the Rocky Mountains.

Is 49th parallel a true story? ›

The depiction of U-37 in this movie is fictional. U-37 has no known sailings around Canada, or what was then still a Crown Colony, Newfoundland.

What does it mean to cross the 49th parallel? ›

The 49th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 49° north of Earth's equator. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean. 49°

How many border crossings are there between the US and Canada? ›

The Canada-United States border is the longest international border in the World at 5,525 miles. There are more than 100 land border crossings between Canada and the USA, although not all of these are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week year round.

What is special about the border between Canada and US? ›

The border between Canada and the United States is the longest international border in the world. The terrestrial boundary (including boundaries in the Great Lakes, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts) is 8,891 km (5,525 mi) long.

How did the boundaries change between the United States and Canada as a result of the Convention of 1818 and the relationship with Britain? ›

The Convention of 1818 was a treaty between the United States and Britain that set the 49th parallel of latitude as the boundary between British North America and the US across the West. This remains the boundary today between the two nations.

What is unique about the border between the United States and Canada? ›

The United States and Canada share the world's longest international border, 5,525 miles with 120 land ports-of-entry, and our bilateral relationship is one of the closest and most extensive.

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