The Power of a Youthquake: Engaging youth could transform Canada

As youth gather in Ottawa this week at the first-ever Canada Youth Summit, a report released today highlights the top priorities for Canadian youth and opportunities to strengthen civic engagement.

‘Another Youthquake? Exploring the concerns, priorities, and political engagement of Canadian youth aged 15 to 30.’, released by Abacus Data, and commissioned by a coalition of National Youth Serving Agencies, indicates that young people care most about the rising cost of housing, climate change, mental health, and child and family poverty. Over 60% of youth surveyed said these are very serious or extremely serious issues.

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Raising all our children: reflections from the Arctic

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As a little girl, my parents taught me a simple lesson that has been an anchor for my soul and a driving force behind my efforts to be a champion for children.

It goes like this: Children don’t choose the circumstances they are born into, but we all have a role to play in raising them and helping every child succeed. They taught me this lesson not through their words, but through their actions. They modelled what it looks like to be the village.

Whether it was opening our home to a family of refugees following the Sea Sweep operation in 1979, spending Christmas Eve delivering Toronto Star gift boxes to inner city kids, or showing up at the local soup kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, they taught me the profound lesson that we all play a role in keeping kids safe and giving them a healthy start in life. Perhaps even more importantly, they taught me that these weren’t acts of charity, but social justice. As members of the human race, we are all bound to one another and our wellbeing is intertwined; we have a sacred duty to care for one another’s children. 

That lesson is weighing on my mind today as I set foot for the first time in Northern Canada. I am honoured to be spending the next few days in Nunavut, taking part in the Arctic Conference on Maternal and Paediatric Challenges. Frontline professionals from across the North are gathering in Iqualuit to discuss the latest research on the health and wellbeing of mothers and kids, and to explore opportunities to strengthen our capacity to serve them more effectively through evidence based public policy making and advocating for their rights.

Through no fault of their own, children in the North simply don’t get the same shot at life as their peers in other parts of Canada due to structural and systemic barriers. The Raising Canada report on the health and wellbeing of Canada’s children published by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary, revealed shocking statistics for kids from coast to coast to coast, but the results for children in the North were particularly unsettling.

It begins in the early days of life, when maternal health is compromised due to inadequate nutrition and prenatal care. Overall, Canada has one of the worst infant mortality rates amongst OECD countries, but in Nunavut the rates are three times higher than the national average. Child poverty rates are also higher, with more than 20 percent of Inuit children growing up in low income households and experiencing food insecurity and inadequate housing. 

Children in Northern Canada also face steeply higher rates of mental health concerns. The rate of suicide among the four Inuit regions ranges from 5 to 25 times the national rate, and in the period between 2004–2008, children and teenagers in Inuit Nunangat were more than 30 times as likely to die from suicide as were those in the rest of Canada (Source: Breaking point: The suicide crisis in Indigenous Communities. A Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs). 

Children and youth in the North also grapple with the impacts of intergenerational trauma as a result of the legacy of residential schools, in which children experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, along with the separation from their families. 

As a mother, as an advocate for children, and as a Canadian citizen, I find it deeply disturbing that there are such vast inequities for kids in our country. It is a moral issue, and it also has stark economic costs. Not only do these children experience the daily impacts to their quality of life, their ability to grow up and live healthy productive lives is also in jeopardy.

It was through the Raising Canada research that the idea emerged that it takes more than a village to raise a child; it takes a nation to raise a nation. Canada is far from being a world-leading country for kids; we rank 25th amongst 41 OECD countries for the wellbeing of children according to UNICEF. If we truly want to become a great place to raise a child, we need to act individually and collectively to make that possible. 

Children grow up in families and communities, and they are the very bedrock of our society. So much of the care and support that they require to survive and thrive depends on the ability of their family to provide those resources, and families need support to be able to fulfill that sacred duty. Whether it is access to adequate housing, food security, clean water or good quality health care and education, the social determinants of health that are necessary for kids to get a healthy start in life depend on support from our municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments. We need evidence based public policies and adequate financial resources that truly put children first.  

Through my role as Founder and CEO of Children First Canada, I am proud to be a part of a national movement to make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up. Today, I’m also proud to stand alongside my peers who are working on the frontlines of caring for mothers and kids across the Arctic. I am eager to learn firsthand the challenges that they face in providing equitable care, and to work together to stand up for these children. Together, we can make sure that every child not only gets the chance to survive, but also thrive.

To learn more about the health and wellbeing of Canada’s children and how you can play a role in Raising Canada, please visit: www.childrenfirstcanada.com 

A Promising Start: We're in the Hill Times!

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A Promising Start: Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Canadian Children and Youth

Published April 15, 2019 in The Hill Times

C-441 marks a promising start in the effort to make Canada a world-leading country for kids. A private member’s bill tabled on April 9 by Anne Minh-Thu Quach, NDP MP for Salaberry-Suroit, aims to move the needle for Canada’s children through the establishment of a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth. Members of Children’s Healthcare Canada and many champions of Children First Canada support this initiative.  This bill responds to the numerous recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the Canadian government to establish an independent children’s commissioner.

Children's Commissioners are a non-partisan and evidenced based approach to improve child wellbeing, including children’s health and safety, and reducing child poverty.  Children’s Commissioners have been established in more than 60 countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It’s a proven strategy to improve results for children; in the UK, the Children’s Commissioner helped improve their international rankings for child wellbeing by 5 points. That’s measurable change for children.

Children have unique rights. The establishment of an independent Commissioner would go a long way towards ensuring that their best interests are protected and that they receive the support required to survive and thrive.

In establishing the Office of Federal Commissioner of Children and Youth, Children First Canada and Children’s Healthcare Canada recognize that it is essential to work nation-to-nation, respecting and including the self-governance rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

While many Canadians believe Canada is one of the best places to raise a child, the evidence paints a much different picture. Canada lags far behind most wealthy nations when it comes to the well-being of children, ranking only 25th out of 41 wealthy countries according to UNICEF

The Canadian Income Survey confirms that 12.1% (LIMAT) of our young people live in poverty. According to the Raising Canada report, 1 in 5 Canadian children experience mental illness, including considering suicide. 1 in 3 children has experienced some form of child abuse and even more staggering, one child dies every nine hours from a preventable injury.

With a mandate to promote, investigate, advise on legislation and policies impacting children and youth, and defend the rights of children and youth across federal jurisdictions and ministries, a Federal Commissioner would have the authority and autonomy to influence significant and positive changes with respect to child health outcomes in Canada.

While many provinces and territories have established independent offices for child and youth advocates, they vary significantly in terms of their mandates and the services offered, and most focus primarily on matters of child welfare.   

Now is the time to put the interests of children first and take much needed action to advance Canada’s international standing with respect to child health and wellbeing.

Authored by:

Sara L. Austin, Founder & Chair of Children First Canada

Emily Gruenwoldt, President and CEO of Children's Healthcare Canada

About Children First Canada:

Children First Canada has a bold and ambitious vision that together we can make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up. We are working to improve children's wellbeing by building greater awareness amongst Canadians about the urgent needs of kids in our country, and mobilizing government, lawmakers and influencers to change the status quo.

About Children’s Healthcare Canada:

For Canadian leaders in children’s healthcare, we are the only national association that enables local improvements and contributes to system-wide change by building communities across the full continuum of care. Our members deliver health services to children and youth, and include regional health authorities, children’s tertiary/quaternary and rehabilitation hospitals, community hospitals, children’s treatment centres and home/respite care providers.


A Promising Start: Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Canadian Children and Youth

Today marks a promising start in the effort to make Canada a world-leading country for kids. A private member’s bill tabled by Anne Minh-Thu Quach, NDP MP for Salaberry-Suroit, aims to move the needle for Canada’s children through the establishment of a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth. Members of Children’s Healthcare Canada and many champions of Children First Canada support this initiative.  This bill responds to the numerous recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the Canadian government to establish an independent children’s commissioner. 

“Children's Commissioners are a non-partisan and evidenced based approach to improve child wellbeing, including children’s health and safety, and reducing child poverty” comments Emily Gruenwoldt, CEO of Children’s Healthcare Canada.  Children’s Commissioners have been established in more than 60 countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It’s a proven strategy to improve results for children; in the UK, the Children’s Commissioner helped improve their international rankings for child wellbeing by 5 points. That’s measurable change for children.

“Children have unique rights. The establishment of an independent Commissioner would go a long way towards ensuring that their best interests are protected and that they receive the support required to survive and thrive”, says Sara Austin, Children First Canada CEO.  

In establishing the Office of Federal Commissioner of Children and Youth, Children First Canada and Children’s Healthcare Canada recognize that it is essential to work nation-to-nation, respecting and including the self-governance rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

While many Canadians believe Canada is one of the best places to raise a child, the evidence paints a much different picture. Canada lags far behind most wealthy nations when it comes to the well-being of children, ranking only 25th out of 41 wealthy countries according to UNICEF

The Canadian Income Survey confirms that 12.1% (LIMAT) of our young people live in poverty. According to the Raising Canada report, 1 in 5 Canadian children experience mental illness, including considering suicide. 1 in 3 children has experienced some form of child abuse and even more staggering, one child dies every nine hours from a preventable injury.

With a mandate to promote, investigate, advise on legislation and policies impacting children and youth, and defend the rights of children and youth across federal jurisdictions and ministries, a Federal Commissioner would have the authority and autonomy to influence significant and positive changes with respect to child health outcomes in Canada.

While many provinces and territories have established independent offices for child and youth advocates, they vary significantly in terms of their mandates and the services offered, and most focus primarily on matters of child welfare.   

Now is the time to put the interests of children first and take much needed action to advance Canada’s international standing with respect to child health and wellbeing.

About Children First Canada:

Children First Canada has a bold and ambitious vision that together we can make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up. We are working to improve children's wellbeing by building greater awareness amongst Canadians about the urgent needs of kids in our country, and mobilizing government, lawmakers and influencers to change the status quo.

About Children’s Healthcare Canada:

For Canadian leaders in children’s healthcare, we are the only national association that enables local improvements and contributes to system-wide change by building communities across the full continuum of care. Our members deliver health services to children and youth, and include regional health authorities, children’s tertiary/quaternary and rehabilitation hospitals, community hospitals, children’s treatment centres and home/respite care providers.

Co-authors:

Sara L. Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada

Emily Gruenwoldt, President and CEO of Children's Healthcare Canada

Co-signatories:

Dr. Kevin Chan. Chair and Clinical Chief, Department of Pediatrics Faculty of Medicine, Department of Children’s Health, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Council of Champions Children First Canada  

Matthew Chater, CEO, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Canada and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Dr. Bob Connelly, President, Paediatric Chairs of Canada

Helene Flageole MD, Chair, Pediatric Surgical Chiefs of Canada

Christine Hampson, President and CEO, The Sandbox Project and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Julia Hanigsberg, CEO, Holland Bloorview, Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Krista Jangaard MD, CEO, IWK Health Centre and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Dr Andrew Lynk, Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University

Dr Bruno Piedboeuf, President of the expert group in Maternal and children health for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec

Aven Poynter, President, BC Pediatric Society

Dr. Michael Shevell MD, CM, FRCP, FCHAS, Chair of Pediatrics, McGill University, Pediatrician-in-Chief at The Montreal Children’s Hospital, and Council of Champions Children First Canada  

Dr. Michael Ungar, Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience, Director, Resilience Research Centre, Scientific Director, Child and Youth Refugee Research Coalition, Dalhousie University, and Council of Champions Children First Canada   

Scott Wilson, Co-Chair, Canadian Family Advisory Network


Un début prometteur : Améliorer la santé et le bien-être des enfants et des jeunes du Canada

Aujourd’hui marque un début prometteur en vue de faire du Canada un chef de file mondial pour les enfants. Un projet de loi d’initiative parlementaire présenté par Anne Minh‑Thu Quach, députée néo‑démocrate de Salaberry‑Suroît, vise à faire une grande différence pour les enfants du Canada grâce à la création d’un poste de commissaire fédéral pour les enfants et les jeunes. Les membres de Santé des enfants Canada et de nombreux défenseurs de Les enfants d’abord Canada appuient cette initiative. Le projet de loi répond aux nombreuses recommandations du Comité des droits de l’enfant des Nations Unies afin que le gouvernement canadien établisse un poste indépendant de commissaire à l’enfance.

« Les commissariats à l’enfance constituent une approche objective scientifiquement fondée pour améliorer le bien-être des enfants, notamment la santé et la sécurité des enfants, et réduire la pauvreté infantile », explique Emily Gruenwoldt, présidente‑directrice générale de Santé des enfants Canada. Des commissariats à l’enfance ont été établis dans plus de 60 pays, dont la Suède, le Royaume‑Uni et la Nouvelle‑Zélande. Il s’agit d’une stratégie qui a fait ses preuves afin d’améliorer les résultats pour les enfants; au Royaume‑Uni, le poste de commissaire à l’enfance a contribué à améliorer le classement international du pays, en matière de bien‑être des enfants, de 5 points. Voilà des changements significatifs pour les enfants. 

« Les enfants ont des droits particuliers. La création d’un poste de commissaire indépendant contribuerait grandement à veiller à ce que l’intérêt supérieur des enfants soit protégé et à ce qu’ils bénéficient du soutien nécessaire pour survivre et se développer », déclare Sara Austin, présidente-directrice générale de Les enfants d’abord Canada. 

En établissant le Bureau fédéral du commissaire à l’enfance et à l’adolescence, Les enfants d’abord Canada et Santé des enfants Canada reconnaissent qu’il est essentiel de collaborer entre nations, en respectant et en prenant en compte les droits à l’autonomie des Premières Nations, des Inuits, et des Métis. 

Bien que de nombreux Canadiens croient que le Canada est l’un des meilleurs endroits pour élever un enfant, les données tendent à brosser un tableau bien différent. Le Canada accuse un retard important par rapport à la plupart des pays riches en ce qui concerne le bien-être des enfants, se classant au 25e rang sur 41 pays riches selon l’UNICEF.

L’Enquête canadienne sur le revenu confirme que 12,1 % (MFR) des enfants vivent dans la pauvreté. Selon le rapport Raising Canada (en anglais seulement), un enfant canadien sur cinq connaîtra un problème de santé mentale, notamment envisager le suicide. Un enfant sur trois a été victime d’une forme quelconque de violence faite aux enfants et, encore plus stupéfiant, un enfant meurt toutes les neuf heures d’une blessure évitable.

Disposant d’un mandat pour promouvoir et examiner des mesures législatives et des politiques ayant des répercussions sur les enfants et les jeunes, et émettre des avis sur celles‑ci, ainsi que pour défendre les droits des enfants et des jeunes dans l’ensemble de l’administration fédérale et des ministères, un commissaire fédéral aurait le pouvoir et l’autonomie pour tenter d’amener des changements importants et positifs en matière de santé des enfants au Canada. 

Bien que de nombreux territoires et provinces aient créé des bureaux indépendants pour les défenseurs des enfants et des jeunes, ces bureaux varient considérablement en fonction de leur mandat et des services qu’ils offrent, et la plupart se préoccupent surtout des enjeux liés à la protection de l’enfance.

Il est maintenant temps de faire passer les intérêts des enfants en premier et de prendre les mesures nécessaires pour rehausser la réputation internationale du Canada en matière de santé et de bien-être des enfants.

À propos de Les enfants d’abord Canada :

Les enfants d’abord Canada a une vision audacieuse et ambitieuse qu’ensemble, nous pouvons faire du Canada le meilleur endroit où grandir dans le monde. Nous travaillons de manière à améliorer le bien-être des enfants en sensibilisant davantage les Canadiens aux besoins urgents des enfants dans notre pays, et en mobilisant le gouvernement, les législateurs et les influenceurs pour modifier le statu quo. 

À propos de Santé des enfants Canada :

Pour les chefs de file canadiens des soins de santé pour les enfants, Santé des enfants Canada est la seule association nationale qui permet des améliorations locales et contribue au changement global du système par le développement des collectivités dans tout le continuum des soins. Nos membres offrent des services de santé aux enfants et aux jeunes, et englobent les régies régionales de la santé, les hôpitaux de soins tertiaires et quaternaires ainsi que les hôpitaux de réadaptation pour enfants, les hôpitaux communautaires, les centres de traitement pour enfants et les fournisseurs de soins à domicile ou de soins de répit.

Coauteures :
Sara L. Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada

Emily Gruenwoldt, President and CEO of Children's Healthcare Canada

Cosignataires :

Dr. Kevin Chan. Chair and Clinical Chief, Department of Pediatrics Faculty of Medicine, Department of Children’s Health, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Council of Champions Children First Canada  

Matthew Chater, CEO, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Canada and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Dr. Bob Connelly, President, Paediatric Chairs of Canada

Helene Flageole MD, Chair, Pediatric Surgical Chiefs of Canada

Christine Hampson, President and CEO, The Sandbox Project and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Julia Hanigsberg, CEO, Holland Bloorview, Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Krista Jangaard MD, CEO, IWK Health Centre and Council of Champions Children First Canada 

Dr Andrew Lynk, Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University

Dr Bruno Piedboeuf, President of the expert group in Maternal and children health for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec

Aven Poynter, President, BC Pediatric Society

Dr. Michael Shevell MD, CM, FRCP, FCHAS, Chair of Pediatrics, McGill University, Pediatrician-in-Chief at The Montreal Children’s Hospital, and Council of Champions Children First Canada  

Dr. Michael Ungar, Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience, Director, Resilience Research Centre, Scientific Director, Child and Youth Refugee Research Coalition, Dalhousie University, and Council of Champions Children First Canada   

Scott Wilson, Co-Chair, Canadian Family Advisory Network

#RaiseYourHand4Kids

Every child deserves a champion!

Every child deserves a champion, and that’s why the Government of Canada needs to keep its promise to establish a federal Commission for Children and Youth. The role of the Commission would be to promote the best interests of children, hold the government accountable, and speak with or on behalf of children. Children’s Commissioners have been established in more than 60 countries including Sweden, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It’s a proven strategy to improve results for children.

#RaiseYourHand4Kids and ask the Government of Canada to keep its promise to kids and appoint a Commission for Children and Youth:

  • Send a letter to the Prime Minister and your MP, asking them to #RaiseYourHand4Kids and appoint a Commission for Children and Youth. 
  • Share a photo of your handprint with your name and age on social media with the hashtag #RaiseYourHand4Kids and tag @JustinTrudeau.  
  • Post on your social media accounts using the #RaiseYourHand4Kids hashtag. 
  • Download the #RaiseYourHand4Kids toolkit for more information.

Canadian Children Need Protection from Our Government

Huffington Post

December 12, 2017

By Hannah Ruuth and Pamela Lovelace

Oh Canada, we deserve a better and stronger future. Listen to our call to action and hear our voices by reading and acting on the recommendations in the Canadian Children's Charter. While we are thankful Canada signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada's inaction for the last quarter century is demoralizing. Canada lags far behind the most wealthy nations when it comes to the well-being of children, due to Canada's promises made to the most vulnerable in our society but never kept.

Read the full article here...

 

National Children’s Commissioner Could Make Canadian Kids More Resilient

Research tells us that when we change the world around our children, resilience follows, regardless of their individual capacity to cope with adversity.

Each year on Nov. 20, Canada recognizes National Child Day, a day to celebrate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991. Yet, it was only five years ago that a private member's bill put forth by MP Marc Garneau was defeated in the House of Commons to install a national children's commissioner. The Act called for an independent office to oversee government decisions that impacted the lives of Canadian children. Still today, the voices of Canada's children are not heard or considered in policies that have direct implications for their lives. Most industrialized countries have an independent federal advocate for children.

Our research at the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax shows that the resilience of each of us as individuals depends more on the resilience of our family, school, workplace, economy and political system than it does on any individual thought or behaviour. It even depends on the quality of the natural environment in which we live. It's for this reason that a national commissioner for children could provide a much-needed layer of oversight to ensure social, economic and environmental policies are designed to make children's lives better. Research tells us that when we change the world around our children, resilience follows, regardless of a child's individual capacity to cope with adversity.

While we have laws that protect children, at a federal level, we don't have the means to vet all social policies through a child-focused lens. It's one thing to talk about the impact on an entire community of a pipeline or a change to tax laws for small businesses. It's quite another to consider children's unique experiences of the fallout from these social policies. Through our research, we have many examples, which explain our support for including a children's rights lens in policy development.

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HUFFINGTON POST, NOVEMBER 20, 2017

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sara-austin2/national-children-s-commissioner-could-make-canadian-kids-more-resilient_a_23276021/

Calgary teen tapped to help develop Canadian Children's Charter

Toney Bedell with CBC's Rob Brown

17-year-old Toney Bedell hopes to lay some groundwork and get the PM's attention

It's intended to be like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but for kids, and a Calgary teen is headed to the nation's capital next week to be a part of the development process.

"Children face a lot of different issues than adults, that adults don't necessarily understand or pay attention to," Toney Bedell told CBC Calgary News at 6 on Monday.

The 17-year-old Crescent Heights High School student will be part of a 30-youth panel tasked with laying the groundwork for a Canadian Children's Charter in Ottawa starting Nov. 21.

"I think that it's a unique opportunity and a unique experience to bring Calgary's view to an otherwise Canada-wide organization," Bedell said.

He says issues like anxiety, apathy, drug abuse, education and debt load are top of mind for him.

"It's really a catch-all when it comes down to it," he said.

Bedell hopes to share his Alberta experience on the hot topic of gay-straight alliances.

"It's something that I am very passionate about," he said.

"The mayor's youth council is something that I joined in Grade 11. We've actually been talking a lot of gay-straight alliances in schools. How the strengthen those, how to protect those from certain attacks or certain criticisms."

Bedell says having a children's charter as a companion to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the end game, but the national summit is the starting point.

"That's ideally the goal, but right now I think it's just the official recognition," Bedell said.

"I think that it's making sure that these problems are seen as actually, legitimate concerns that we can focus on and dedicate time and attention to, and get the ear of the prime minister."

Watch Video

(CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/calgary/canadian-childrens-charter-calgary-teen-1.4400897)

Calgary youngster to help frame children's charter

CHRIS NELSON, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD

Selected youngsters from across the country, including a 17-year-old Calgarian, will gather in the nation’s capital this month to help create the long-discussed Canadian Children’s Charter.

Toney Bedell, a pupil at Crescent Heights high school in Calgary, will be among 30 young people invited to discuss and frame the charter in a wide-ranging two-day conference in Ottawa on Nov. 21 and 22.

Canada doesn’t have a children’s charter, but organizers hope this new document will help bring about an increased commitment from politicians and society as a whole for the protection of children’s rights and the promotion of their collective wellbeing...

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