Antiquated Thinking About Old Age Hinders Canada

“Antiquated thinking about old age hinders Canada’s economic and social development,” by Thomas Klassen, York University, Canada

Governments in Canada define working age as being between 15 and 65, but this misrepresents the lives of Canadians.

The 2016 census found that one in five Canadians aged 65 and older — nearly 1.1 million people — are still working and that one-third do so full-time.

Many in the private sector and those who are self-employed work well past age 65, which explains why the average retirement age in Canada is now 64.4, an increase of three years in two decades.

False assumptions about turning 65

Although mandatory retirement at age 65 was eliminated more than a decade ago, laws and public policy, including Statistics Canada definitions, continue to assume that everyone retires at 65.

In many provinces, workers’ compensation laws only pay injured workers for their loss of earnings until they turn 65, or for two years if they were older than 63 when injured at the workplace.

The obligations of employers to rehire workers following an injury only apply until someone turns 65.

Employers aren’t required to provide medical and dental benefits, or life and disability insurance, to workers 65 and over. There may be no difference whatsoever among the skills, abilities and job duties of an employee aged 64 and one aged 65, but one receives benefits while the other does not.

There is nothing magical about turning 65. A reformulation of both working age and retirement is sorely warranted to strengthen Canada’s economic and social development. Other countries have already done so.

Recent Development

Setting age 65 as the entry to old age is a relatively recent development.

Germany, the first nation to adopt an old-age social insurance program in 1889, set the eligibility age at 70. Newfoundland’s old age pension, established in 1911, set 75 as the minimum age to receive benefits. Canada’s Old Age Pension Act, which was in effect from 1927 to 1952, set the pensionable age at 70.

In the mid-1960s, when the Canada Pension Plan was introduced, 65 was established as the age to receive a full pension and to receive Old Age Security payments. Canadian workers’ 65th birthday became the universal marker of their exit from the labour market and official entry into old age.

Demographers and other experts say we should revisit the definition of “old age” and “retirement age,” because using 65 is increasingly inappropriate as people live longer and healthier lives than ever.

As well, compared to several decades ago, Canadians are spending more years in post-secondary education, resulting in a later start to full-time work.

Work itself has also changed, with fewer and fewer occupations requiring intense physical labour.

oldReconsidering What’s Meant By Old

There are ways to update the definition of old age that would have clear social and economic benefits.

One is to have several markers for “old,” such as “young old age” for those aged 65-74; “middle old age” for those 75-84 and “advanced old age” for those 85 and above.

This recognizes the diversity among people 65 and older, permitting politicians and other stakeholders to design more sensitive and age-appropriate policies for each of these three distinct demographic groups.

For instance, working past age 65 has been shown to have health benefits for some groups and therefore should not be discouraged for the “young old.”

A second option is to adjust the age that marks the official entry into old age — currently 65 — to account for increasing longevity. A century ago, Canadians reaching age 65 could expect to live for another 13 years. At present, men reaching 65 will live 18 more years, while women will live 22 more years.

With longer life expectancy, it only makes sense to have the age marker for old age set higher. This option has been proposed in the United Kingdom and is often accompanied by the proclamation: “70 is the new 65.”old age

Lastly, old age could be made more gender-sensitive. Women live longer on average than men, and so are classified as older for a longer period. The latest Canadian census finds there are more than 9,000 centenarians in Canada, mostly women, each of whom has been defined as old for nearly a third of their lives.

Geared Towards Men

Using the same definition of old for both women and men is a reflection that, historically, retirement and pension ages were set for men and not women because fewer women worked outside the home.

Because women live longer on average than men, they must work longer to have similar retirement savings, but that’s not possible if they retire at the same age as their male counterparts.

A revised conception of old age would significantly decrease the number of people classified as old and would more accurately reflect the total number of people in Canada’s working-age population. A modern definition would also mitigate stereotypes of older workers and ageism while prodding governments to reform outdated laws and provide a boost to an economy often facing worker shortages.

Increasing the age at which Canadians are considered old is surely a politically easy sell. After all, who could be opposed to being regarded as younger?The Conversation

Credits

Thomas Klassen, Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, York University, Canada

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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About A Third Of Employees Have Faced Bullying At Work

“About a third of employees have faced bullying at work – here’s how to recognize and deal with it,” by Jason Walker, Adler University and Deborah Circo, University of Nebraska Omaha

The phenomenon of bullying, harassment and sexual abuse in workplaces throughout North America is widespread and harmful to both individuals and organizations. Bullying at work affects up to 30% of workers over time.

As practitioners and researchers who study workplace violence, including bullying, harassment and sexual abuse, we define workplace bullying as harmful acts of mistreatment between people that go beyond incivility and cross the line to intentionally causing harm.

Bullying behaviours range from verbally insulting or socially excluding someone to sabotaging the victim’s work, inflicting psychological terror and engaging in sexual abuse or physical aggression. Manipulation and provocation also play a role in bullying dynamics, and cyberbullying has emerged as a new form of workplace harassment. Research suggests workplace bullying affects employee health and safety and the workplace overall.

In a grocery store line, if someone invades your space, shoves you aside or threatens physical harm, the police may intervene, potentially resulting in an arrest. However, in the workplace, incidents involving bullying, assault, sexual abuse or other forms of violence are typically addressed through internal investigations. Our research suggests that treating workplace bullying as a matter of public health rather than employment law is necessary to protect those being targeted.

workplace bullyingWorkplace Bullying Results In Real Harms

Targets of workplace bullying often experience serious repercussions, including stress and burnout, along with other diagnosed mental health issues and, in extreme cases, suicide.

Bullying can affect physical health, with symptoms including sleep disturbances, cardiovascular diseases, body aches and pain, loss of appetite and headaches. Targets often describe an inability to concentrate; since they’re spending time worrying about what is going to happen to them next, job performance suffers. The negative impacts can spill over to a target’s personal life and affect their relationships with family and friends.

It’s not unusual for targeted workers to feel uncomfortable coming forward and talking about their experiences. But suffering in silence can lead to an even more toxic climate at work that can undermine your victims’ sense of security, with long-term consequences for their well-being.

Personality Traits Of Bullies And Their Targets

Workplace bullies often target those who possess qualities highly valued by employers: self-sufficiency, cautiousness and innovativeness. Those targeted typically are motivated, have a kind perspective and prefer to avoid getting involved in office politics or engaging in competitive behaviour. They take charge of their work and responsibilities.

Bullying often involves an imbalance of power, where the perpetrator acts to obtain power and control over the target.

Researchers find that bullies tend to have low self-esteem, problems with anger management and even personality disorders. Bullies often target people based on their appearance, behaviour, race, religion, educational background, LGBTQ+ identity or because of perceived threats to their career.

There’s no hard-and-fast profile, but males tend to exhibit more of the traits associated with bullying. Those who possess tendencies toward what psychologists call dark triad traitsMachiavellianism, subclinical psychopathy and subclinical narcissismoften gravitate toward jobs that offer high levels of freedom and hierarchical structures.

bullyingAre You Being Bullied?

Have you noticed a decline in your emotional or physical health? Is your job performance being affected? Feeling constantly stressed, anxious or demoralized are signs that something isn’t right.

Think about whether you feel singled out. Do you sense that you’re being isolated because of how others treat you?

If you do conclude you’re being bullied, your priority is keeping yourself safe. Defending yourself against workplace bullying takes courage, but there are steps you can take to diffuse, distance and document what is happening to you.

At the moment when bullying is occurring, focus on trying to keep your emotions in check and avoid being reactive. For example, try to gain some psychological distance in an emotionally charged situation – politely walk away, don’t engage, and give yourself time to settle your emotions. Taking space by stepping away can disrupt the immediate intensity of the situation. It helps you stay in control rather than allowing a bully to force you to respond impulsively at the moment, which can lead you to say or do something you’ll regret.

Try your best to de-escalate the situation. Some tips for how to stop an interaction from spiralling include:

  • Use polite, firm language to ask the bully to stop the conversation.
  • Asking the bully to leave.
  • Removing yourself from the situation if the bully won’t go.
  • Informing your supervisor immediately.

If you feel threatened, calmly and politely stop the interaction by removing yourself in a nonthreatening way. As challenging as it can be, the key here is to stay composed and remain respectful.

How To Respond To An Ongoing Situation

It may be helpful to engage in some advanced planning with a friend or colleague. Rehearse a bullying situation and practice how you would respond to help you get comfortable using emotional distancing and de-escalation. Advanced practice can help you handle an emotionally charged encounter.

Seek the support and safety of your peers. They can talk things through with you and become your allies if asked to describe or even testify about a bullying incident they witnessed.

Strive for an attitude of strength and confidence in yourself. Workplace bullies often choose to attack people they peg as easy targets. Present a strong front, trust in yourself and have confidence in your work – these attributes may make you less likely to be targeted.

Document your experiences when you perceive there is a problem. Be objective: Note the time and date, what happened, who was present, what was said and how it made you feel. Keeping a record helps quantify what is happening. Your organization should have policies and procedures to support you if you believe you are being bullied at work.

A caveat, though: Keep in mind, that human resources departments are often ill-equipped to manage these issues, and complaints may be mishandled, improperly dismissed or simply ignored. Sometimes, if you’re able, it is better to look for a new job.

To effectively tackle the problem of workplace bullying and harassment, both employees and organizations need to acknowledge and actively address these concerns. By establishing policies against bullying and fostering open lines of communication, workplaces can create safer spaces that enhance the well-being and productivity of their employees.The Conversation

Credits

Jason Walker, Program Director & Associate Professor of Industrial-Organizational and Applied Psychology, Adler University and Deborah Circo, Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Nebraska Omaha

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Pants On Fire! Children Learn To Lie From The Age Of Two

“Pants on fire! Children learn to lie from the age of two – here’s how to get them to tell the truth,” by Lara Warmelink, Lancaster University

Lying is often seen as bad behaviour in children. Fairy tales and folk stories, from Aesop’s Peter who cried wolf to Washington’s cherry tree, tell children to be honest and never lie. But what can we do to encourage children to tell the truth?

Children learn to lie from about the age of two. The first lies children learn to tell are denials of wrongdoing. From the age of three, they also learn to tell “white” lies. These are lies that are told to benefit other people or to be polite. For example, a child learns that when you’ve made a surprise birthday present for mummy, you don’t tell her about it and when your aunt gives you a present you should thank her, even if it’s horrible. Telling these lies well is an important social skill.

Developing A Social Skill

Young children start to learn to lie as they mature cognitively and socially. To lie, children have to understand that other people have their own beliefs and thoughts that are not the same as theirs. A child also has to realise that other people may believe wrong things. This is a skill called theory of mind and it develops slowly in the preschool and kindergarten years. As children become more able to think about what other people think and feel, they learn when it’s appropriate to lie and how to lie convincingly.

Lying convincingly is difficult for young children. They often fail at this, especially if they are asked further questions. Researchers in one study found that 74% of lying children gave the game away in their answer to a follow-up question. And as children age they are more likely to understand that they need to match the answer to follow-up questions to their lie. Around 80% of three and four-year-olds revealed themselves, but only around 70% of five-year-olds and 50% of six and seven-year-olds did.

Failing to learn when to lie and how to do so convincingly can lead to problems for older children. Research has shown that adolescents with lower social skills are less convincing when lying than their peers with better social skills. Persistent lying is also a sign that children have not developed socially and cognitively as much as their peers. Children who lie often are more likely to be aggressive, criminal or show other disruptive behaviour.

The negative effects of telling tales are related to whether it is perceived as lying by others, for example by parents or teachers. It is difficult to study whether children who lie a lot without others finding out also show these negative effects.

The Temptation Test

What can adults do to encourage a child to tell the truth? Victoria Talwar, Cindy Arruda and Sarah Yachison conducted new research to investigate this. They tested children between the ages of four and eight.

For their study, the team used the “temptation resistance test”. In this test, the researcher puts a noisy toy behind a child, so they can’t see it. The researcher then leaves the child alone with the toy and asks them not to peek at the toy in the meantime. As you might expect, around 80% of the children do peek at the toy. When the researcher comes back, they ask the child whether they peeked. The child can now lie and deny this and 67.5% of children in the study did.

The researchers wanted to know if threats of punishment (such as “you will be in trouble if you peeked”) and appeals for honesty influenced how often the children lied. They tested two appeals. One where they told the children that the researcher “will feel happy if you tell the truth” and one where they told them “telling the truth is the right thing to do”.

Children Lie

They found that without an appeal to tell the truth, more than 80% of the children lied, whether or not the child was threatened with punishment. Saying that telling the truth would make the researcher happy reduced lying to around 50%, for both threatened and not threatened children. Saying that telling the truth was the right thing to do reduced lying to 40%, but only when the child was not going to be punished – but 80% of children who were told they’d be punished if they peeked, but that telling the truth was the right thing to do, lied.

The research suggests that if you want a child to confess to wrongdoing, you should reassure them that they won’t be in trouble for confessing and tell them that telling the truth would make you happy. And then you cross your fingers that the child is not one of the 40% who are likely to lie anyway.

CreditsThe Conversation

Lara Warmelink, Research Fellow for Security, Department of Psychology, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Alexei Navalny Had A Vision Of A Democratic Russia.

“Alexei Navalny had a vision of a democratic Russia. That terrified Vladimir Putin to the core,” by Robert Horvath, La Trobe University

Alexei Navalny was a giant figure in Russian politics. No other individual rivalled the threat he posed to the Putin regime. His death in an Arctic labour camp is a blow to all those who dreamed he might emerge as the leader of a future democratic Russia.

What made Navalny so important was his decision to become an anti-corruption crusader in 2008. Using shareholder activism and his popular blog, he shone a spotlight on the corruption schemes that enabled officials to steal billions from state-run corporations.

His breakthrough came in 2011 when he proposed the strategy of voting for any party but President Vladimir Putin’s “party of crooks and thieves” in the Duma (parliament) elections. Faced with a collapse of support, the regime resorted to widespread election fraud. The result was months of pro-democracy protests.

Putin regained control through a mix of concessions and repression, but the crisis signalled Navalny’s emergence as the dominant figure in Russia’s democratic movement.

Despite being convicted on trumped-up embezzlement charges, he was allowed to run in Moscow’s mayoral elections in 2013. In an unfair contest, which included police harassment and hostile media coverage, he won 27% of the vote.

 

 

alexei navalny

 

Perseverance In The Face Of Worsening Attacks

The authorities learned from this mistake. Never again would Navalny be allowed to compete in elections. What the Kremlin failed to stop was his creation of a national movement around the Foundation for the Struggle Against Corruption (FBK), which he had founded in 2011 with a team of brilliant young activists.

During the ensuing decade, FBK transformed our understanding of the nature of Putin’s kleptocracy. Its open-source investigations shattered the reputations of numerous regime officials, security functionaries and regime propagandists.

One of the most important was a 2017 exposé of the network of charities that funded the palaces and yachts of then-premier Dmitry Medvedev. Viewed 46 million times on YouTube, it triggered protests across Russia.

Exposé accusing Dmitry Medvedev of corruption.

No less significant was Navalny’s contribution to the methods of pro-democracy activism. To exploit the regime’s dependence on heavily manipulated elections, he developed a strategy called “intelligent voting”. The basic idea was to encourage people to vote for the candidates who had the best chance of defeating Putin’s United Russia party. The result was a series of setbacks for United Russia in the 2019 regional elections.

One measure of Navalny’s impact was the intensifying repression directed against him. As prosecutors tried to paralyse him with a series of implausible criminal cases, they also pursued his family. His younger brother Oleg served three and a half years in a labour camp on bogus charges.

This judicial persecution was compounded by the violence of the regime’s proxies. Two months after exposing Medvedev’s corruption, Navalny was nearly blinded by a Kremlin-backed gang of vigilantes, who sprayed his face with a noxious blend of chemicals.

More serious was the deployment of a death squad from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which had kept Navalny under surveillance since 2017. The use of the nerve agent Novichok to poison Navalny during a trip to the Siberian city of Tomsk in August 2020 was intended to end his challenge to Putin’s rule.

Instead, it precipitated the “Navalny crisis”, a succession of events that shook the regime’s foundations. The story of Navalny’s survival – and confirmation that he had been poisoned with Novichok – focused international attention on the Putin regime’s criminality.

Any lingering doubts about state involvement in his poisoning were dispelled by Navalny’s collaboration with Bellingcat, an investigative journalism organisation, to identify the suspects and deceive one of them into revealing how they poisoned him.

The damage was magnified by Navalny’s decision to confront Putin’s corruption. In a powerful two-hour documentary film, A Palace for Putin, Navalny chronicled the obsessive greed that had transformed an obscure KGB officer into one of the world’s most notorious kleptocrats.

With over 129 million views on YouTube alone, the film shattered the dictator’s carefully constructed image as the incarnation of traditional virtues.

A Palace for Putin.

‘We Will Fill Up The Jails And Police Vans’

It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of the “Navalny crisis” on Putin, a dictator terrified of the prospect of popular revolution. No longer was he courted by Western leaders. US President Joe Biden began his term in office in 2021 by endorsing an interviewer’s description of Putin as a “killer”.

To contain the domestic fallout, Putin unleashed a crackdown that began with Navalny’s 2021 arrest on his return to Moscow from Germany, where had been recovering from the Novichok poisoning. On the international stage, Putin secured a summit with Biden by staging a massive deployment of military force on the Ukrainian border, a rehearsal for the following year’s invasion.

The Kremlin’s trolling factories also tried to destroy Navalny’s reputation with a smear campaign. Within weeks of Navalny’s imprisonment, Amnesty International rescinded his status as a “prisoner of conscience” based on allegations of hate speech. The evidence was some ugly statements made by Navalny as an inexperienced politician in the mid-2000s when he was trying to build an anti-Putin alliance of democrats and nationalists.

What his detractors ignored was Navalny’s evolution into a critic of ethnonationalist prejudices. In a speech at a nationalist rally in 2011, he challenged his listeners to empathise with people in the Muslim-majority republics of Russia’s northern Caucasus region.

This divergence from the nationalist mainstream was accentuated by Putin’s conflict with Ukraine. After the invasion of Crimea in March 2014, Navalny denounced the “imperialist annexation” as a cynical effort to distract the masses from corruption.

Eight years later, while languishing in prison, he condemned Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, exhorting his compatriots to take to the streets, saying:

If, to prevent war, we need to fill up the jails and police vans, we will fill up the jails and police vans.

Later that year, he argued a post-Putin Russia needed an end to the concentration of power in the Kremlin and the creation of a parliamentary republic as “the only way to stop the endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism”.

Navalny’s tragedy is that he never had a chance to convert the moral authority he amassed during his years as a dissident into political power. Like Charles de Gaulle in France and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, he might have become a redemptive leader, leading his people from war and tyranny to the promised land of a freer society.

Instead, he has left his compatriots the example of a brave, principled and thoughtful man, who sacrificed his life for the cause of democracy and peace. That is his enduring legacy. The Conversation

Credits

Robert Horvath, Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Family Day Imagery Neglects Family Caregivers’ Care Work

Family Day imagery neglects family caregivers’ care work; it needs to be valued, by Janet Fast, University of Alberta and Jacquie Eales, University of Alberta

Family Day often evokes images of families enjoying the outdoors together, playing board games or sharing a meal. However, these images neglect the hidden care that nearly eight million caregivers across Canada provide.

One in four Canadians aged 15+ provides care to family, friends and neighbours with chronic health problems, physical or mental disabilities or functional limitations.

The ongoing nature of this care work comes with both rewards and penalties. Caring for family and friends helps people give back, feel close and can give people a sense of competence and purpose. At the same time, many caregivers have to deal with their own poor health, strained social connections and out-of-pocket expenses.

These negative outcomes threaten the sustainability of caregivers’ care work and affect their well-being. Family caregiving is often ignored because it is unpaid, undervalued, hidden in the privacy of homes and care facilities and done primarily by women.

As a family economist, and a family caregiving researcher, (and family caregivers ourselves) we know this work isn’t free. Whether it’s personal care, housekeeping, managing appointments and services, or even home-based kidney dialysis, there’s nothing “free” about a family caregiver’s care work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has made that even more obvious.

Outbreaks in long-term care, work-from-home mandates, job losses and shortages of formal home care services have complicated and intensified family caregivers’ responsibilities, isolation and stress.

The pandemic has also increased caregivers’ financial burden and reduced their ability to get much-needed outside support.

Despite this care crisis, family caregivers have carried on as best they can. Their collective efforts — 5.7 billion hours of family care work annually — help sustain the public continuing care systems that are increasingly dependent on them and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

$97.1 billion To replace Families’ Care Work

Using data from Statistics Canada’s most recent (2018) national survey on caregiving and care receiving, we found that families play a central role in meeting Canadians’ care needs.

Unpaid family caregivers in Canada spend an extraordinary 5.7 billion hours annually supporting others. It would take 2.8 million full-time paid care workers to do this work instead. Multiply that by the national median hourly wage of $17 for home support workers and you get a staggering $97.1 billion as the estimated cost to replace Canadian families’ care work.

To fully understand the magnitude of caregivers’ contributions to Canadian society, consider that $97.1 billion represents 32.2 per cent of national expenditures on formal health care, and more than three times the national expenditures on continuing care services like home, community and long-term care.

Without the ongoing commitment and labour of family caregivers, the Canadian continuing care sector would collapse.

This $97.1 billion value also represents 4.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). That’s double the contributions of industries such as agriculture, utilities and hospitality, and 67 per cent of the contribution of the healthcare and social services sectors combined.

Policymakers rely on GDP as a universal measure of a country’s social and economic performance and standard of living that guides their policy decisions. Yet, because GDP omits the value of unpaid care work, it is an incomplete measure leading to flawed public policy.

family dayThe Key Component Of The Care Economy

Many social injustices arise from the invisibility and devaluation of families’ care work. Caregivers who are women, have lower incomes and are in their peak earning years contribute more than their share.

Bringing family care into debates about the overall economy and accounting for caregivers’ contributions is sparking conversations about recognizing the care economy as a key component and growth engine for Canadian society. We define the care economy as paid and unpaid care work that supports people who are care-dependent because of their chronic health conditions or disabilities, or because of their young age.

Documenting the enormous volume and monetary value of family members’ care work establishes it as an indispensable social and economic activity. Yet it is often left out of the public policy agenda.

It’s time to complete the picture and recognize public expenditures on support for family caregivers as social investments in the well-being of individuals, families and communities. It’s time for a National Caregiver Strategy and a Canada that recognizes, respects and supports the integral role of family caregivers in society.

Credits

Our study on the value of unpaid family care work is a collaborative project of Janet Fast, Jacquie Eales, Norah Keating and Choong Kim from the University of Alberta and Karen Duncan from the University of Manitoba.The Conversation

Janet Fast, Professor and Co-Director, Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta and Jacquie Eales, Research Manager, Research on Aging Policies and Practice, University of Alberta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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4 Things To Know About Ash Wednesday

“4 things to know about Ash Wednesday,” by William Johnston, University of Dayton

For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of The Tradition Of Using Ashes

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from A.D. 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “in sackcloth and ashes,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.

2. Words Used When Applying Ashes

A 12th-century missal, a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist, indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The phrase echoes God’s words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These were Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

3. Two Traditions For The Day Before

Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday Has Inspired Poetry

In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God’s “silent Word” in the world:

  If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
  If the unheard, unspoken
  Word is unspoken, unheard;
  Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
  The Word without a word, the Word within
  The world and for the world;
  And the light shone in darkness and
  Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
  About the centre of the silent Word. 

Credits

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at the University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.The Conversation

William Johnston, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Is It Good For You To Be Good?

“Is it good for you to be good?” by Thomas Culham, Simon Fraser University

When I was very young, five or six, my parents always told me: “Tommy, be good.”

But all I wanted to do was run in the woods, play in puddles, eat fast, swim and have fun. I didn’t have time for manners. Being good seemed always to benefit someone else, not me. Why do I have to follow rules, not cut in line, and say pleasant things to others when all I feel like doing is telling them off? It’s good for others, right?

Well, yes … and maybe no. Maybe it’s good not just for others, but for me too.

It’s easy to see how following the rules of the road is good for you. But what about other more subtle virtues, like being polite, empathetic, generous, grateful, honest and even altruistic?

The ancient Greeks had the view that virtue was broader than our current understanding of morality. They believed virtue could be seen in any object, or the behaviour of people, as the expression of excellence or perfection. For example, they felt one could hear virtue in music or see it in a horse.

In music, virtue might be described like it is in Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as heavenly, and could be generalized as excellence. Physically, a horse that is healthy and flawless might be considered an excellent (virtuous) specimen of a horse.

The ancient Chinese also held a similar expansive view of virtue. They believed that the more virtuous a person was, the more physically healthy they were. It could be seen in the quality of their eyes and skin, and there were other positive consequences. A virtuous person would live a healthy long life, the Chinese believed.

If we think of human virtue as not limited to moral matters but also physical, emotional and mental matters, then it’s possible to understand how being virtuous might be good for you.

Good Physical Health As A Virtue

Take physically. We all know what it takes to be physically healthy: A good diet, exercise, adequate sleep, etc. One could say that when we do these things, we are being physically virtuous, and we attain the virtue of good health.

Similarly, from an emotional perspective, we know that having a positive social network, avoiding toxic people and having a positive state of mind by avoiding ruminating on anxious negative thoughts are ways in which we can practise being emotionally virtuous.

These examples illustrate that engaging in virtuous physical and emotional activities is good for you.

OK, so what about higher-level virtues such as generosity, gratitude and integrity?

Considering generosity, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, authors of the book The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose,
argue:

“Generosity is paradoxical. By giving ourselves away, we ourselves move toward flourishing.”

They also note:

“By grasping onto what we currently have, we lose out on better goods that we might have gained.”

Concerning gratitude, U.S. psychology professor Robert Emmons has studied its impact on happiness and well-being and discovered that there is a positive relationship between gratitude and happiness. The more grateful we are, the happier we are.

These are matters of interpersonal affairs, but even in business, there is an argument that integrity produces positive payback for individuals and firms.

Michael Jensen of Harvard Business School defines integrity as: “A state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, in perfect condition.” It’s essential to ensure optimal performance. There are clear parallels between Jensen’s notion of integrity and the ancient Greek notion of virtue as a kind of excellence.

From a human perspective, Jensen also defines integrity as “keeping one’s word,” meaning, in simple terms, doing what we say we’ll do and if unable to follow through as promised, then taking action to repair the damage or problems caused.

Integrity Leads To Better Performance

We understand that an automobile will not perform properly if one of the tyres is running low on air or is flat. You can probably still drive the car, but it doesn’t work very well.

When a vehicle is in good condition and has integrity, it performs effectively. Jensen argues, similarly, that when people within an organization act with integrity, the organization will perform much better.

He provides the example of implementing integrity in his firm the Social Science Research Network and experiencing an increased output of 300 per cent with no increase in costs. Jensen argues that the interpersonal interactions of business people are a factor of productivity, just as effective utilization of capital and labour are necessary for the success of any company.

Jensen argues that integrity is not just an option — it’s a necessary condition for performance.

These are not unusual or unfamiliar ideas. We all have experiences with companies that we know we can trust, and those we don’t. It’s not difficult to imagine that trustworthy companies will enjoy customer loyalty, repeat business and likely better financial performance.

Is it good for Tommy to be good? As a child, I thought being good was for the benefit of others and it wasn’t all that necessary. But I am learning at many levels that the virtues that contribute to good physical, emotional, mental and interpersonal health, defined as morals, are good for me too.

But one aside: If I am generous to you and expect something in return, this is not a virtue. It’s a business exchange.The Conversation

Credits

Thomas Culham, Visiting Lecturer, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Simon Fraser University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Is The ‘Midlife Crisis’ A Real Thing?

“Is the ‘midlife crisis’ a real thing?”  by Nick Haslam, The University of Melbourne

Middle age is often seen as life’s pivot point. A hill has been climbed and the view over the other side is unsettling. As Victor Hugo said: “forty is the old age of youth” and “fifty is the youth of old age”.

The idea adults in midlife face a night of the soul – or desperately escape from it, hair plugs flapping in a convertible’s breeze – is deeply rooted. Studies show the great majority of people believe in the reality of the so-called “midlife crisis” and almost half of adults over 50 claim to have had one. But is it real?

There is good evidence a midlife decline in life satisfaction is real. Population surveys typically find both women and men report the lowest satisfaction in middle age. The Australian HILDA survey locates the lowest life satisfaction at age 45 and the Australian Bureau of Statistics singles out the 45-54 age bracket as the glummest.

Middle age may be dislocating for some but there is little evidence it is usually a period of crisis and despondency. Psychologically speaking, things tend to get better. If there is a small dip in how people evaluate their lot – even if it is objectively no worse than before – this is understandable. Our attention shifts from time to time, and that requires a process of adjustment.

When Is Midlife?

There are many grounds for being unsatisfied with life during the middle years. But does that make the midlife crisis real, or just an intuitively appealing phantom? There is good reason to be sceptical.

For one thing, it’s hard enough to decide when the midlife crisis should occur. Concepts of middle age are elastic and change as we get older. One study found younger adults believe middle age stretches from the early 30s to 50, whereas adults over 60 saw it as extending from the late 30s to the mid-50s.

A midlife crisis could happen in your 30s, depending on how old you are when you’re assessing what ‘midlife’ is.

In one US study, one-third of people in their 70s defined themselves as middle-aged. This research accords with a finding middle-aged people tend to feel one decade younger than their birth certificate.

However we define midlife, do crises concentrate in that period? One study suggests not. It indicates instead that self-reported crises simply become steadily more common as we age.

Among study participants in their 20s, 44% reported a crisis, compared to 49% of those in their 30s, and 53% of those in their 40s.

In another study, the older the participants, the older they reported their midlife crisis to have occurred. People aged over 60 recalled theirs at 53 while those in their 40s dated theirs to 38.

Arguably there is no distinct midlife crisis, just crises that occur during midlife but might equally have occurred before or after.

What The Theorists Thought

The psychoanalyst Elliot Jaques, who coined the term “midlife crisis” in 1965, thought it reflected the dawning recognition of one’s mortality. “Death”, he wrote, “instead of being a general conception, or an event experienced in terms of the loss of someone else, becomes a personal matter”.

The key achievement of middle age, according to Jaques, is to move beyond youthful idealism to what he called “contemplative pessimism” and “constructive resignation”. He argued midlife was when we reach maturity by overcoming our denial of death and human destructiveness.

Carl Jung presented a different view. He argued midlife was a time when previously suppressed aspects of the psyche might become integrated. Men could recover their unconscious feminine side or anima, previously submerged during their youth, and women come alive to their hidden opposite, the animus.

Less profound explanations have also been offered for midlife dissatisfaction. It’s when children may be leaving the family home and when adults are generationally sandwiched, required to care for children and ageing parents. Chronic illnesses often make their first appearance and losses accelerate. Workplace demands may be peaking.

But there may be something to it that’s even more basic and biological. Chimpanzees and orangutans aren’t known to suffer from existential dread, empty nest syndrome or job stress. And still, they show the same midlife dip in well-being as their human cousins.

One study found chimps in their late 20s and orangutans in their mid-30s showed the lowest mood, the least pleasure in social activities, and the poorest capacity to achieve their goals. The researchers speculated this pattern might reflect age-related changes in brain structures associated with well-being that are similar between primate species.

Midlife As A Time Of Growth, Not Crisis

midlifeCrisis episodes may not be tightly tied to adverse life events. Research often fails to show clear connections between adversities and self-proclaimed crises.

One study found reporting a midlife crisis was not associated with recently experiencing divorce, job loss or death of a loved one, and was primarily linked to having a history of depression.

The idea middle age is a time of psychological gloom is also belied by research evidence. The U-shaped life satisfaction curve notwithstanding, most change during midlife is positive.

Consider personality change, for example. One longitudinal study that followed thousands of Americans from age 41 to 50 found they became less neurotic and self-conscious with age. These personality changes were unrelated to the adults’ experience of life adversity: resilience, not crisis, was the norm.

Another study that followed a sample of women from age 43 to 52 showed they tended to become less dependent and self-critical, and more confident, responsible and decisive, as they aged. These changes were unrelated to the women’s menopausal status or empty nest experiences.

Other research tells a similar story. In general, psychological changes during midlife are positive. Personality becomes more steady and self-accepting, while positive emotion, on average, gradually rises through the lifespan.

Even self-reported midlife crises may have a silver lining. One study showed the more crises people reported, the more empathetic they were towards others. It is perhaps unsurprising that older adults choose middle adulthood as the phase of life they most prefer.

The challenge is to come out at the end of middle age with life satisfaction restored, as most do. Victor Hugo says it well again: “When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable.”

Credits

Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Sex Workers’ Rights: Governments Should Not Decide What constitutes Good Or Bad Sex

“Sex workers’ rights: Governments should not decide what constitutes good or bad sex.” by Meredith Ralston, Mount Saint Vincent University

An Ontario Superior Court justice has dismissed a constitutional challenge to Canada’s sex work laws, saying that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) does not violate sex workers’ Charter rights.

A coalition of 25 sex workers’ rights groups organized a challenge to the legislation, arguing that sex workers are harmed by the partial criminalization of sex work. Anti-prostitution groups argued that the law discourages men from buying sex and reduces commercial sex, in line with the goals of the Nordic or Equality Model of sex work.

The judge ruled that while he believes the laws don’t violate the Charter — which is what he was asked to rule on — regulation and decriminalization might be better policy options. But, he wrote, it is up to Parliament to make those decisions, not the judiciary. And it is about time the government did so.

Canada’s Laws On Sex Work

The current law was developed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. PCEPA makes buying sex illegal while selling sex is legal in some circumstances. This asymmetrical model still leaves sex work in a legal grey area because one side of the transaction is legal and the other is not.

Much research has been done on the benefits of decriminalizing sex work, including work done by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These are not fly-by-night organizations. They based their stance on solid research about the harms of criminalization. They are against trafficking and the abuse of sex workers and they have policies against both.

courtThere is also the example of New Zealand, which has decriminalized sex work and uses health and labour laws to regulate the industry. I won’t reiterate the arguments here in favour of decriminalization because there is so much research already out there.

What I want to discuss in this article is the very conservative (perhaps unconscious) sexual beliefs that underlie many people’s negative views of sex work. The issue is a complicated one, and I recognize how it can be easier to believe that all female sex workers are victims and all male clients are predators, instead of taking a more nuanced view.

That was certainly my opinion before I did interviews with working escorts. Meeting women who sell sex and do so with respect and dignity changed the way I viewed sex work.

Conservatism And Sex

Sex has historically been separated into “good sex” and “bad sex” because of what is called the heterosexual conjugal bond, or more colloquially, traditional marriage. Those who defined what was good and bad sex were often men.

Traditional socially conservative views see acceptable sex as being with one person, only after marriage, heterosexual and relational, meaning that even masturbation was taboo. Scholars have outlined the detrimental effects of the heterosexual conjugal bond on women and sexual minorities.

Canada has liberalized its laws significantly since the 1960s sexual revolution. Gay sex, premarital and extramarital sex and polyamory are more acceptable than they once were, but the vestiges of this conservative ideology remain. Recent protests against sex and gender identity education in the school system illustrate this.

sex workersMost feminists would reject the idea that they are complicit with ideas that harm women or LGBTQ+ people because they have no problem with gay sex, premarital sex or extramarital sex. But anti-prostitution activists draw the line at commercialized sex for essentially moral reasons. Sex work remains bad sex.

As the director of an anti-trafficking group said to me:

“I don’t believe that every aspect of being a human being can be reduced to labour, to work. I think human sexuality is that part of ourselves, that part of being human that should not be for sale, should not be turned into a commodity that can be bought or sold, so on that front we don’t recognize sex as work so we don’t call anyone a sex worker.”

In this view, sex should not be commercialized. And to many people that is common sense. If you are raised in any kind of organized religion, you are likely to believe that sex is special and should be limited to heterosexual marriage. But that is a moral argument based on personal views of sex, and not necessarily what we should base public policy on.

The Value Of Sex Work

The sex workers I interviewed saw the value in sex work. They felt they were helping people, and providing a service and giving others pleasure was a part of that.

This is vehemently rejected by anti-prostitution activists. As one such activist told me:

“If you are disabled or in some way unable to have a normal, sexual relationship with another person, so you think that the right way is to buy it? Well, my answer to you is that unfortunately due to your illness and your disability you cannot have sex with another person.”

So those who might have problems accessing sex because of disability, age or physical attractiveness are simply out of luck.

But if there are women and men who get meaning out of their sex work and see value in what they do, why are we preventing them from doing this work? Why are we creating laws in a way that makes it less safe for them to do so?

If anti-prostitution activists don’t acknowledge that many women do choose to engage in sex work, they are denying the agency those women clearly have and this speaks to a paternalism and saviourism that needs to be faced.

Protections must, of course, be in place for those who don’t consent to sex work and harsh penalties should be taken in place for traffickers. But we do not need to criminalize consenting adults and their expressions of sexuality. We already have laws against sexual assault, trafficking, force, fraud and coercion. We should not want personal morality and religious beliefs being imposed on our public policy.

Many women can and do sex work with respect and dignity. Governments should be looking at those conditions and ensuring that those who sell sex, female and male, cis and transgender, are doing so under the safest possible conditions.

Whether it is a co-op brothel, as was tried in British Columbia, or women working together in their homes or working online, there are many ways to work safely. New Zealand has shown through their health and safety regulations how governments can make sex work safer. If the current courts are unwilling or unable to make sex work safer, then Parliament needs to do so.The Conversation

Credits

Meredith Ralston, Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Deepfakes: How To Empower Youth To Fight The Threat Of Misinformation And Disinformation

“Deepfakes: How to empower youth to fight the threat of misinformation and disinformation,” by Nadia Naffi, Université Laval

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 has issued a stark warning: misinformation and disinformation, primarily driven by deepfakes, are ranked as the most severe global short-term risks the world faces in the next two years.

In October 2023, the Innovation Council of Québec shared the same realization after months of consultations with experts and the public.

This digital deception, which leverages artificial intelligence and, more recently generative AI, to create hyper-realistic fabrications, extends beyond being a technological marvel; it poses a profound societal threat.

In response to the gap in effectively combating deepfakes with technology and legislation alone, a research project led by my team and I sheds light on a vital solution: human intervention through education.

Technological Solutions Alone Are Inadequate

Despite the ongoing development of deepfake detection tools, these technological solutions are racing to catch up with the rapidly advancing capabilities of deepfake algorithms.

Legal systems and governments are struggling to keep pace with this swift advancement of digital deception.

There is an urgent need for education to adopt a more serious, aggressive and strategic approach to equipping youth to combat this imminent threat.

Political Disinformation Concerns

The potential for political polarization is particularly alarming.

Nearly three billion people are expected to vote in countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States within the next two years.

Disinformation campaigns threaten to undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments.

Deepfakes of prominent figures like Palestinian American supermodel Bella Hadid and others have been manipulated to falsify their political statements, exemplifying the technology’s capacity to sway public opinion and skew political narratives.

A deepfake of Greta Thunberg advocating for “vegan grenades” highlights the nefarious use of this technology.

Meta’s unveiling of an AI assistant featuring celebrities’ likenesses raises concerns about misuse and spreading disinformation.

Financial Fraud, Pornographic Harms

Deepfake videos are also, unsurprisingly, being leveraged to commit financial fraud.

The popular YouTuber MrBeast was impersonated in a deepfake scam on TikTok, falsely promising an iPhone 15 giveaway that led to financial deceit.

These incidents highlight vulnerability to sophisticated AI-driven frauds and scams targeting people of all ages.

Deepfake pornography represents a grave concern for young people and adults alike, where individuals’ faces are non-consensually superimposed onto explicit content. Sexually explicit deepfake images of Taylor Swift spread on social media before platforms took them down. One was viewed over 45 million times.

Policy And Technology Approaches

Meta’s policy now mandates political advertisers to disclose any AI manipulation in ads, a move mirrored by Google.

Neil Zhang, a PhD student at the University of Rochester, is developing detection tools for audio deepfakes, including advanced algorithms and watermarking techniques.

The U.S. has introduced several acts: the Deepfakes Accountability Act of 2023, the No AI FRAUD Act safeguarding identities against AI misuse and the Preventing Deepfakes of Intimate Images Act targeting non-consensual pornographic deepfakes.

In Canada, legislators have proposed Bill C-27 and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) which emphasize AI transparency and data privacy.

‘Disinformation can cause harm’ video from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), a Canadian federal agency devoted to security and intelligence.

The United Kingdom adopted its Online Safety Bill. The EU recently announced a provisional deal surrounding its AI Act; the EU’s AI Liability Directive addresses broader online safety and AI regulation issues.

The Indian government announced plans to draft regulations targeting deepfakes.

These measures reflect growing global commitments to curbing the pernicious effects of deepfakes. However, these efforts are insufficient to contain, let alone stop, the proliferation of deepfake dissemination.

Research Study With Youth

Research I have conducted with colleagues, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Canadian Heritage, unveils how empowering youth with digital agency can be a force against the rising tide of disinformation fueled by deepfake and artificial intelligence technologies.

Our study focused on how youth perceive the impact of deepfakes on critical issues and their own process of constructing knowledge in digital contexts. We explored their capacity and willingness to effectively counterbalance disinformation.

Author Nadia Naffi shares some results of a study on youth digital agencies and deepfakes.

The study brought together Canadian university students, aged 18 to 24, for a series of hands-on workshops, in-depth individual interviews and focus group discussions.

Participants created deepfakes, gaining a firsthand understanding of easy access to and use of this technology and its potential for misuse. This experiential learning proved invaluable in demystifying how easily deepfakes are generated.

Participants initially perceived deepfakes as an uncontrollable and inevitable part of the digital landscape.

Through engagement and discussion, they went from being passive deepfake bystanders to developing a deeper realization of their grave threat. Critically, they also developed a sense of responsibility in preventing and mitigating deepfakes’ spread, and a readiness to counter deepfakes.

Students shared recommendations for concrete actions, including urging educational systems to empower youth and help them recognize their actions can make a difference. This includes:

  • teaching the detrimental effects of disinformation on society;
  • providing spaces for youth to reflect on and challenge societal norms, informing them about social media policies and outlining permissible and prohibited content;
  • training students in recognizing deep fakes through exposure to the technology behind them;
  • encouraging involvement in meaningful causes while staying alert to disinformation and guiding youth in respectfully and productively countering disinformation.
Students seen at a laptop.
Educational systems have an important role in empowering youth and helping them recognize their actions can make a difference.
(Allison Shelley/EDUimages), CC BY-NC

Multifaceted Strategy Needed

Based on our research and the participants’ recommendations, we propose a multifaceted strategy to counter the proliferation of deepfakes.

Deepfake education needs to be integrated into educational curricula, along with nurturing critical thinking and digital agency in our youth. Youth need to be encouraged in active, yet safe, well-informed and strategic, participation in the fight against malicious deepfakes in digital spaces.

We emphasize the importance of hands-on collaborative learning experiences. We also advocate for an interdisciplinary educational approach that marries technology, psychology, media studies and ethics to fully grasp the implications of deepfakes.

The Human Element

Our research underscores a crucial realization: The human element, particularly the role of education, is indispensable in the fight against deepfakes. We cannot rely solely on technology and legal fixes.

By equipping younger generations, but also every single member of our society, with the skills to critically analyze and challenge disinformation, we are nurturing a digitally literate society resilient enough to withstand the manipulative power of deepfakes.

To do so, we must equip people to understand they have roles and agency in safeguarding the integrity of our digital world.The Conversation

Credits

Nadia Naffi, Assistant Professor, Educational Technology, Chair in Educational Leadership in the Innovative Pedagogical Practices in Digital Contexts – National Bank, Université Laval

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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