June 4, 1954

CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Argue:

I am sure there is no move on foot by the C.C.F. to have the Ontario Liberal party join the national C.C.F. I am sure of that. We do not want the kiss of death now or at any other time.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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?

An hon. Member:

You have had it.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Argue:

After President Eisenhower had called on congress to lower the voting age to 18, the matter was discussed in the United States senate. The proposition that the voting age should be reduced to 18 was passed in the United States senate by a vote of 34 to 24. In other words, the senators in the United States, by a substantial majority, are in favour of a reduction in the voting age to 18. That vote cannot result in the enactment of the necessary constitutional amendment because, in order to have such a constitutional amendment such a proposition must have a two-thirds majority. In this particular vote, the majority came close to but did not quite reach the necessary two-thirds.

I think the President of the United States is proposing something that is reasonable, sensible and progressive and something that the United States will adopt in time. Certainly the vote in the United States senate shows that a substantial part of congress is in favour of reducing the voting age. I hope that our government here will consider a reduction in the voting age and will bring in-if not during this present session, at least before the next general election-the necessary legislation to bring about this result. I naturally hope that the bill I am presenting will get the support of the majority of hon. members. However, if that support should not be forthcoming I am hoping that the government itself, before the next general election, will bring in legislation to provide for a reduction of the voting age to 18.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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LIB

René Jutras

Liberal

Mr. Rene N. Jutras (Provencher):

Mr. Speaker, I just wish to say a few words on this bill. It is not the first time that this bill or a similar one has come before the house, but I did not avail myself of addressing the house on previous occasions. Before going further I naturally want to state that I agree fully with the first part of what the hon. member had to say. I am sure we all agree that universal suffrage is the goal today, in theory and in practice, of most governments throughout the world at the present time. However, even though that is the situation, we must all recognize the fact that there are certain inhabitants of states that cannot be given the right to vote. In this country and in most other democracies the only ones excluded are the insane and the minors.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

And judges.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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LIB

René Jutras

Liberal

Mr. Juiras:

In considering this bill the questions arise as to who is a minor and when a person ceases to be a minor. I realize that the tendency in this country-and indeed in many others-is to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. The age varies a great deal, even right in Canada. Various provinces have taken various ages, all the way from 18 to 21, but I believe there are several countries in the world where the age is still 25. This great hurry to get the people to vote no doubt flows from what I often think is our great hurry to get our children educated in this country. I sometimes wonder whether we are not nowadays trying to rush our education a little bit too much. In days gone by children would start to school at the age of 7; then they started to go to school at 6. Now they start at the age of 5, and even at the age of 4. There is a tendency to try to rush them through as soon as possible and to get them out into life as soon as possible.

I am quite satisfied that the average young man and the average young woman at the age of 17 in this country is quite responsible enough to exercise, and quite capable of exercising, his or her franchise in this country. However, the point that comes to my mind is this: Are we wise or are we fair in imposing upon them the responsibility of being obliged to cast a vote at that age? It is true that it is a great privilege to exercise the franchise in a country. But something more than a privilege is involved. Great responsibility is entailed in the exercise of this right of the franchise.

For one thing it would seem to me that to lower the age at the federal level would be premature in Canada at this stage. I must say quite frankly that I think the hon. member would have a hard time justifying 18

more than 19 or 19 more than 18 or even 17 more than 18. I admit it is very hard to draw the line, and the line has to be drawn more or less in an arbitrary way. Up until now the line has been drawn at age 21.

I do not think there are any very great reasons to justify lowering that age by even one year. I might at some time agree that there might be some justification for lowering it by one year or two years, but I frankly wonder whether it would be a service, as the hon. member has just said, to this class. Here again I do not know why he classes those from 18 to 21 in a special group. I wonder whether it would really be a favour to them to impose the responsibility on them of casting their vote.

Surely there does not seem to be any very keen desire on their part to exercise their responsibility at the present time. Taking the results of the last election, if they were to follow the example set by their elders, that would seem to be an indication that there is not a very keen desire on the part of any particular group to go to the polls on voting day. According to the results of the last election, even the older people did not go to the polls in the numbers that they should have. There is no doubt that even in the group from 18 to 21 the same attitude probably prevails. That is just incidental, but I thought I would mention it.

Even today when our children go to school at an early age and are rushed through as quickly as possible it is my experience that the average person at age 18, if he is going to take up a profession, is still in the process of getting his professional education, and he has not yet taken over the actual responsibilities of life or become interested in the intricacies and application of government. I think it is also true of the average high school student who, as the hon. member has said, may attend meetings, will still have fresh in his memory the knowledge of what government is and how it is constituted. They have the theory of government fresh in their minds but they have not yet had to deal with the application of the theory.

Mind you, there are a certain number who by the age of 18 are already established in life, but they would be a minority. The greater number of those from 18 to 21 are quite busy at that stage in deciding on their future. They have a very great decision to make. They have to decide how they will grapple with life in the years to come. For the most part their minds are quite preoccupied and they have little time for the actual application of politics in the country.

Canada Elections Act

I would question whether there is actually a long gap, as the hon. member said, from the time they leave school and become established in life and the time they actually cast their first vote. I would think in most cases the gap might be a year or two or three years at the most.

The point I should like to come back to is that these people will have plenty of opportunity to discharge the responsibility of voting in the years to come. I think it is not a bad principle to give them a chance to establish themselves and to become accustomed to their environment after assuming the full responsibilities of citizenship and all that goes with it. Then they are automatically and, generally speaking, naturally ready to assume the responsibility of the franchise.

Whether there is any great merit in having them break in gradually, so to speak, so far as voting is concerned is a very debatable question and one that could be debated for a long time. Inasmuch as some provinces have a lower voting age it would seem to me that the first step would be to give this group the vote first at the lower levels of government. I do not think it would be logical to have students or young people voting in federal elections when they did not have the right to vote in provincial or municipal elections. It seems to me they should be given the privilege first at the lower level. Once they have been granted the responsibility of the franchise at a lower age at the provincial level generally throughout the country, then in my opinion that would be the time to consider giving them the same responsibility on the federal level.

But it seems to me it would not be quite logical for them to start to vote in federal elections before they could vote at the lower levels. As far as I can ascertain at the moment, there is no great desire on the part of this group to cast their votes at that early age. I remember reading an article a few weeks ago in one of the local papers at home. In passing, I might say that it is a progressive and well illustrated weekly. I refer to the Carillon News. From time to time that paper makes it a practice to take a crosssection of public opinion and question people generally on various questions that arise.

A few weeks ago they questioned a crosssection of the high school students at the college and asked them if they were in favour of voting at the age of 19. I suppose they picked the age of 19 because the last provincial government that dealt with the question set that as the age. However, the response from the high school students was

Canada Elections Act

very much divided. A great many held that they would rather wait a few more years until they were established. Some thought that they were quite qualified and quite ready to assume the responsibility. A week later the newspaper asked the same question of a group of senior citizens, and again opinion was very much divided. No clear-cut pattern was apparent in the minds of these two classes of citizens. Therefore I say that there is no great demand for such a move at the present time. If the age is to be lowered I would, as I say, much prefer to see it done first at the lower levels of government before it is done at the federal level.

I am not questioning whether the young people are responsible or qualified at that age. I am quite convinced that they are fully qualified and capable of casting an intelligent vote at that age. The question that I have in mind is whether these heavy responsibilities should be placed on their shoulders at that early age. Why not give them a little break until the age of 21 when they would have an even better working knowledge of the intricacies of life and the intricacies of the various levels of government.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. G. H. Casileden (Yorklon):

This bill, when it is passed, will make it possible for Canadian voters to exercise their franchise in federal elections when they reach the age of 18 years. At this time I wish to compliment the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) for sponsoring this bill and for the interest he is taking in the youth of this country. I believe that he is an example of what the young people of Canada can do when they get an early start and are interested in public affairs. At the age of 24 he was sitting as a member of this house, and is an example of what can be done by the youth of this country. He became interested in public affairs at an early age in the university parliament in the University of Saskatchewan. His interest in the future citizens of Canada and his faith in the ability of the young people of this country I am sure to a large extent have motivated him in sponsoring this bill and urging the young people to take a greater part in the affairs of Canada.

Some members in this house have opposed this bill on the grounds that young Canadians are too immature; that they are not interested in the affairs of state. If that is so, I feel it is a sad commentary on the educational standards of this country. One of the contributing causes of that lack of interest, if there is that lack, may lie in the very fact that they are not permitted to participate in these activities. They feel excluded. Do

hon. members realize that in spite of the fact the qualifying age of voters is now 21 the young people of Canada who reached their 21st birthday on August 10 last will not exercise their franchise in the ordinary course of events until they are 24 or 25 years of age. If this bill were passed and the minimum age were set at 18, still the average age of a Canadian casting his first vote would be about 20. I maintain that at that age young Canadians are capable of exercising their franchise in a very real way.

If any precedent is necessary I would refer the members of this house to the record of the first provincial government in Canada to grant the right to vote to those who are 18. That province has taken the lead in social legislation, and improving within its own jurisdiction the conditions of the people. It is now one of the most progressive provinces in the whole Dominion of Canada. I can remember sitting in this house when a young man from that province sat here as the member for Weyburn. He was elected when about 31, and at the age of 41 he became the premier of Saskatchewan. He is now making a signal contribution to Canadian history in the form of progressive legislation. That government is really working for the people, in the interests of the people and is in truth governed by the people.

In that province we urge the young people to participate and to feel that they are a part of this Canada. We urge them that part of their responsibilities as citizens of Canada is to take part in the elections of that province. It has been my privilege to live in that province for over 50 years. I have watched the youth grow. I know something about them and their attitude towards public affairs today. They are capable and they are responsible. When Canada finds herself in the position when she must defend her shores and the democratic rights of government, there are no members in this house who say the young people lack ability; that they lack skill or that they are not responsible or mature. The records indicate that the youths of 18, 19 and 20 take on the responsibilities of men much senior to that, and exercise a judgment and skill that has placed Canada high in the records of those who fight for democratic rights.

Surely those rights should be granted in time of peace to these same people when they reach that age. If they are fit to go out and die for their country, surely they are fit to vote for the policies for that country. It is a well established fact that we learn by doing. How could we do better than to encourage the young people at the age when they learn easily to take part in government? This will

urge people to learn more about their government, learn more about the policies of government and learn more about the effect of government upon the history of their own nation. Surely that could be only for the good of any country. Surely the knowledge of the masses is the one thing that democracy needs. Only those who are the enemies of democracy would deny or talk against knowledge for the masses. The passage of this bill will be a move to encourage the youth of Canada to take an active part in the democratic processes by an early exercise of their right to vote. They will be ready to study the problems of the country and the means of solving them. Youth, when it is urged by proper motives, can achieve miracles.

I watched a young man who could not find his place in the classroom of an ordinary high school. He left high school and entered the air force. Suddenly he became imbued with the idea that he wanted to have the wings of the Royal Air Force pinned upon his chest. He could overcome almost any obstacle. He could study and master the necessary sciences. He passed and stood there proudly as the wing commander placed these wings upon his breast. This made a man of him. He did not know what he could do, his parents did not know his abilities, until he became inspired by a desire to achieve something. Let us support this bill as a measure which will inspire the youth of this country to make Canada the greatest contributor to human progress in the world.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I am

going to make a very sort contribution to this debate, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps I may be excused for making it rather personal. I have just been trying, as well as I can, to look back on my own life and try to assess myself as a voter between the years of 18 and 21. The result is not satisfactory.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

Has it been any more satisfactory since you were 21?

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell:

There is a very obvious answer to that, I know, and anyone who wishes to make it can make it. I can only speak for myself.

I want to come to another point that has been referred to already, and that is the disappointing sense of responsibility that is shown even by those who have the vote, as judged by the performance at the last election.

The point I want to make is this. I have been reading an interesting book on the progress of civilization. It does not make one feel too happy because the whole purport of it is to show how civilization is becoming more and more a mass affair in which it is

Canada Elections Act

harder and harder to preserve individuality, and those qualities which I think civilization had more obviously fifty years ago than it has today. The same writer points out that on this continent progress toward mass civilization is growing faster than anywhere else. Partly for reasons given by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras), I find myself with the feeling that what we need is not to add to the mass; what we need to do is to try to give people more time. Just as my hon. friend across the floor said, we should try to give the young people more time to prepare themselves for responsibilities which should be taken seriously, and which are not now taken seriously.

I suggest that to spread the vote out that much more will not produce the results which have been suggested by the hon. member who preceded me. It will not produce those results, except among a very few, and will make the vote something which is cast before people before they have any interest in it, and before they are likely to have any desire to take it seriously. And for that reason I hope this measure will not pass.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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LIB

George James McIlraith

Liberal

Mr. G. J. Mcllraifh (Ottawa West):

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry this measure has come up in the way it has. When I say that I am referring particularly to the attitude of the sponsor of the bill when he seeks to make it a party measure, and has introduced for its support a line of provincial politics which has nothing to do with the issue or the subject matter. And he seemed to be supported rather strongly in that by the hon. member for Yorkton (Mr. Castleden).

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Castleden:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that there was nothing in my address which would lead to that conclusion, at all.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Castleden:

I merely pointed out an example of where it was being used.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

George James McIlraith

Liberal

Mr. Mcllraith:

In support of what I have said I would refer to the hon. member's remarks about the premier of one of our provinces, and the government of that province. This is a subject which has been of great interest to me for many years, and I had hoped that it would not be treated as the hon. member has treated it. With due deference, provincial governments have their own responsibilities and tasks and I, for one, object to having them dragged in here, and their merits or demerits constantly talked about. I regret that the hon. member saw fit to take this opportunity to drag it in, in a left-handed way, and then lay on the praise

Canada Elections Act

for their operations. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss their merits or demerits, but it seems to me this is not the proper place to do it. The hon. member for Yorkton, of course, may have his views in the matter.

There is one other point that should be pointed out concerning the hon. member's speech. He made some comments about members of the armed forces that would have the support of all of us, but at no time in his speech did he admit that the armed forces already have the vote. On the other hand the sponsor of the bill was very clear on the point, and did make it clear in his remarks. The hon. member for Yorkton did not.

If one wanted to go into the background of this subject he would find that the party on this side of the house is the one that has carried the historic battle for the extension of the franchise. But, be that as it may, the situation in which we now find ourselves is one which I believe the whole population in Canada has pretty well accepted and agreed to the proposition that we should have the widest possible base among our citizens for eligibility to vote. I believe that is common ground among all parties.

The problem confronting those who concern themselves with the age limit in the elections act is that of deciding when a person has assumed the responsibilities of citizenship. And that is a difficult problem. It is not simply a matter of saying that at this age or at that age they assume those responsibilities. The law in most of its aspects gives them full responsibility at the age of 21. Generally speaking, the armed forces take them in at the age of 18 and, in some branches I believe, at 17J. In some parts of the services it may be younger than that. Where it is clear that citizens as members of the armed forces have assumed the responsibilities of citizenship in the highest way, immediately they are given the vote.

What we have to determine here is at what point a citizen not in the armed forces assumes full responsibility. Where is the line? About all one can do in the elections act is to choose an arbitrary age, and no matter what that age is, whether it be 21, 19, 18, 17 or at some other point, it is going to be possible to argue, and with real weight and authority, that there are some under that age who have assumed a very high degree of responsibility in the community. On the other hand it will also be possible to argue that there are some above the age who have not yet come to the full responsibilities of citizenship.

The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) has referred to teen-agers attending election meetings. I would tell him that last summer I saw a great number of teenagers under the age of 18 years who attended open-air election meetings. Following the hon. member's argument, those persons should have the right to vote. Let me say seriously that the training the young people have under our school system is indeed extraordinary in this respect. They have good information and a considerable amount of knowledge about public affairs. I mention this only to show that it cannot be argued that simply because a person under 21 years attends an election meeting he should be allowed to vote.

This question has been discussed at parliamentary committees which in the past have studied the elections act. The suggested change has been turned down. I, for one, have felt that while in the circumstances what was done was wholly proper, the treatment given the subject in those committees was scarcely adequate. To treat this subject adequately it seems that one would have to examine the whole question. One would have to look into our legislation which gives added income tax exemption for educational purposes in respect of those over 16 years. Deduction allowances for children for income tax purposes normally stop at the age of 16.

We have what I regard, and I believe is also regarded by members of all parties, as a very fine provision permitting the extension of that exemption beyond the age of 16 when they are continuing their education. I do not want at this late date in the session when there is an attempt to amend the elections act in an arbitrary fashion to do something which would be quoted against me later when we come to extend some of the educational provisions about which I am rather partial. When I refer to that subject I am, of course, also including the subject of scholarships. I am not going to digress into that educational field, but I think we have made good progress in the last few years, and I hope we can go further in developing provisions for the education of the young people.

A nice question arises when one has to decide at just what age a young person who is wholly maintained by his parents should receive the right to vote. Certainly he is not in the same position as his fellow classmate who enlisted in the armed services and is on active service. It is that type of question I would like to see examined and discussed more fully.

As I said in opening my remarks, this is a subject that has absorbed my attention to

a considerable degree in the past. It is something that should be examined into pretty thoroughly, but I should like it to come up in another way so that we could really look at these things. I should like to get some more statistical information on one or two aspects of it. The hon. member who is sponsoring the bill-I am not critical of him-is naturally enthusiastic about it. He said that if we do not get it now we shall get it later. That is not the issue to be determined here. The issue before the house is an amendment to the elections act. Incidentally, I think there is a technical mistake in the bill about the armed forces. Be that as it may, that is the issue before the house. I do not think that issue should be determined in that way at all now.

It may be that the age should be reduced. I am certainly openminded, and rather inclined to think that probably it should be reduced; but I am not prepared to amend the elections act at this time on a few speeches to reduce the age from 21 to 18 without further consideration and without a full examination of what I consider to be the real facets that must be considered before a decision is taken. I realize that that may not be acceptable to the hon. member proposing the bill, but I think it is the right way to go about it. I for one do not wish to see something done here in a rush to amend the elections act that is going to hamper things that I hope we can do in the next few years by way of extending the opportunity for education through scholarships and educational grants. I do not want anything done here rashly that is going to interfere with that. I should like therefore to have this matter considered in what-if I may use the term and not be misunderstood-I believe to be a more mature way. I am in favour of the idea behind the suggestion, but I think this method of dealing with the subject is at least premature.

Hon. George A. Drew (Leader of the

Opposition): Mr. Speaker, I do want to deal with one statement, because sometimes these repeated statements made in a certain recurring confusion of the mind become embedded in the minds of others. In the friendliest way may I refer to the comment of the hon. member who has just spoken in regard to the fact that his party has been the party which has always extended the franchise.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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LIB

George James McIlraith

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

I limited that historically;

I was quite careful to limit it.

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

To what?

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

George James McIlraith

Liberal

Mr. Mcllraiih:

I was careful to limit that in my reference to the hon. member who sponsored the bill and the other hon. member

Canada Elections Act

of that party. I was very careful to point out that if one was dealing with the historical aspects of it probably the best case could be made out for this party.

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Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

How about dealing with the idea?

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I do want to deal with this very briefly because we so constantly hear statements about the great achievements of the party opposite in every field-

Topic:   CANADA ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REDUCE VOTING AGE
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June 4, 1954