Champions Career Centre: Illness, Disability, and Identity Champions Career Centre: 2013 Annual Client Celebration, June 13th Champions Career Centre: Understanding ADHD Champions Career Centre: Thank you for supporting Champions at the Scotiabank Marathon! Champions Career Centre: Alberta's Best Workplaces 2013 Champions Career Centre: To Disclose or Not To Disclose Champions Career Centre: New Report: Disability in the Workplace Champions Career Centre: Rating the Accessibility Features on the iPhone Champions Career Centre: Diffusing Difficult Conversations at Work Champions Career Centre: Meet and Greet, Allstate Insurance, May 9th Champions Career Centre: Unicorns and Ukuleles: A Day with Herky Cutler Champions Career Centre: Debbie's Story: "I'm Happy" Champions Career Centre: Diversity Champion: Allied Printing and Promotions

Campaign for Barrier Free Health Services in Alberta

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Did you know that many Albertans find it difficult to access basic health services?

Through the years, the Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities has heard people with disabilities express frustration over barriers to health care in Alberta. Some experience physical barriers; others encounter communication barriers; and many feel they are not given enough time with their doctor to have their needs met. This is only a broad description of the barriers. Indeed, the issues are deeper and more complex.

It can be tricky to be proactive about your health when there are so many barriers in the way. With a bit more awareness, visits to the Doctor's office could be a lot easier.

This video highlights many of the barriers which exist today and also provides some easy solutions to make health services more accessible to all. If you would like to get involved in the Campaign for Barrier Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta then please visit

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Illness, Disability, and Identity

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A second amazing TED Talk in as many days! (Yesterdays was on ADHD and is also a must see) 

In our work at Champions we are often confronted with the different ways individuals identify with their disability. For our clients, even the term disability can be a lightning rod - some people look at the term negatively and don't want to identified as disabled, others embrace their disability and use it as major factor in developing their identity. Being born with a disability impacts people differently than those who acquire one later in life. Other disabilities may be fluid and change over time. For example, does a person with epilepsy who has not had a seizure in ten years still identify as having a disability?  

Which brings us to the TED Talk below. In this talk, Andrew Solomon discusses both his personal life and his research into families who have had to deal with a range of disabilities and illnesses - from deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, and those who are transgender. While each of these conditions may be isolating at an individual level, Solomon finds that the experience at the family level is universal as families share both struggles and triumphs. 

It is an amazing journey with an even more incredible conclusion: that diversity unites us all. Give it a watch.

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2013 Annual Client Celebration, June 13th

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our ability. Our success. Our story. 

Please join us at our 2013 Annual Celebration on Thursday, June 13th.

Forget what you know about AGMs. Our Annual Celebration will be an interactive experience which highlights an amazing year behind and many opportunities ahead! The event will be MC'd by Tracy Bridger, a Champions client who has performed stand up comedy across North America, and promises to be a fun filled couple of hours.

Join us as several of our clients share their stories of working with Champions to overcome barriers and achieve employment success.

Food and beverage will be supplied, with plenty of opportunities for networking and sharing.

Please contact us if you have any accommodations needs or requests and we will do our best to arrange them in advance.

Date: June 13, 2013
Time:  4 pm to 6 pm
Address: Kahanoff Centre, 105 12 Avenue Southeast, Calgary

Please RSVP in advance. You can reserve your spot by using the link below or calling 403.265.5374.

Register Now

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Understanding ADHD

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"We need a healthier understanding of ADHD."

Is there a more misunderstood condition out there than ADHD? Even though about 5% of the Canadian adult population lives with ADHD there are still numerous myths, misconceptions and stigmas associated with the condition. It is still not uncommon to hear a person challenge the validity of an ADHD diagnosis, or roll their eyes when someone tries to explain their behaviour.

However, there is a growing movement that is beginning to seriously shift the perception of ADHD. This movement involves looking at the condition as not a disorder, but simply a different way of thinking. As William Dodson says in his brilliant article, Secrets of the ADHD Brain, one of the biggest misconceptions is that people with ADHD have a shortage of attention. The truth is quite the opposite - they pay too much attention to everything.

Dodson goes on to show the differences between the neurology of people with ADHD versus those who referred to as "neurotypical" or normal. Specifically, he shows how people living with ADHD don't typically respond to motivators based on the ideas of rewards and importance. He puts it this way:

"Researchers view ADHD as stemming from a defective or deficit-based nervous system. I see ADHD stemming from a nervous system that works perfectly well by its own set of rules. Unfortunately, it does not work by any of the rules or techniques taught and encouraged in a neurotypical world. That's why: 

ADDers do not fit in the standard school system, which is built on repeating what someone else thinks is important and relevant. 

ADDers do not flourish in the standard job that pays people to work on what someone else (namely, the boss) thinks is important. 

ADDers are disorganized, because just about every organizational system out there is built on two things — prioritization and time management — that ADDers do not do well.

ADDers have a hard time choosing between alternatives, because everything has the same lack of importance. To them, all of the alternatives look the same."

Mirroring this line of thought is an excellent TED Talk by Stephen Tonti, a student from Carnegie Mellon University. He talks about his own experience of living with ADHD, and how he feels some treatments can snub out the spark of seeing and experiencing the world differently.

"Our society needs to embrace cognitive diversity." What a powerful statement.

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Thank you for supporting Champions at the Scotiabank Marathon!

Monday, May 27, 2013

1 day, over 12 000 runners, and $930 000 raised for charities in Calgary. And we don't want to attempt to calculate how many miles Calgarians logged running for their favourite charities, mostly because we are a little weary this morning after an amazing day in the sun yesterday.

For our team at Champions, it was the first time we participated in the Charity Challenge for the Calgary Marathon and we are extremely thankful for all the support we received. In total, Champions received donations from 83 different individuals and raised over $6 000, beating our goal of $5 000. Team Champions had 13 runners, including staff, board members, and friends and loved ones, out on the course seeking to "Redefine Ability" through their participation and fundraising.

From all of us here at Champions, thank you for supporting us in this amazing event and we look forward to doing it all again next year!

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Alberta's Best Workplaces 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. 

Champions is extremely honoured to be named a finalist for Alberta's Best Workplaces 2013 in the category of Diversity. Alberta's Best Workplaces are annual awards handed out by Alberta Venture magazine and recognizes those Alberta-based companies leading the way in corporate culture and human resource development. The Best Workplaces Conference and Awards Dinner were held yesterday and our Executive Director, Lisa Moon, and board members Bryan Arthur and David McLean were in attendance to represent Champions. 

As mentioned earlier, we were a finalist in the category of Diversity, which is an honour for us as diversity is at the heart of all we do here at Champions.  Every employee at Champions identifies as having some form of disability. We believe strongly in finding accommodations for all of the needs of our employees. The accommodations may be based on a visible or invisible disability, lifestyle requirements, or personal preference. Every employee at Champions actively works with their managers and team to find the best ways for them to succeed at work. This doesn't happen by accident, it is a result of employees being able to work in an environment committed to mutual respect and open communication. 

Our organizational philosophy is built upon the values of accountability, collaboration and inclusion. We pursue the achievement of these values by constantly striving for a healthy workplace where individuals feels respected, valued, listened to and appreciated. The result is an environment in which we can demonstrate our gifts, explore new areas of growth, and move forward as a team committed to the cause of the agency. Our client’s success is the cause of the agency, and their success is our success. 

We didn't win the award - the honour went to Syncrude - but we are thankful to Alberta Venture to be recognized as a finalist. As we look to the future, we know that a commitment to diversity never stops and that our success as an agency is dependent on practicing what we preach. Champions will continue to help persons with disabilities achieve their career goals and partner with employers who want to build inclusive workplaces, all the while doing so ourselves.   

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To Disclose or Not To Disclose

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In the past week I have read two very personal articles regarding the issue of disclosing one's disability to a potential employer.

The first article, Why I No Longer Mention My Disability in Job Interviews, details the challenges of a young woman trying to find work while living with a hearing impairment. After being brushed aside for an interview because of her impairment, she decided to no longer disclose her condition unless it became absolutely necessary for the job.

The second article, Why I Always Disclose My Disability in a Job Interview, was posted yesterday and takes a polar opposite view from the article above. Being a wheelchair user and using lessons learned from online dating, this young woman found that disclosing her disability up front lets her take control of the conversation and ease fears.

So who is right? What is the best course of action? This is a question we receive almost daily in our work here at Champions and the truth is simply that both are right.

Disclosing is a personal decision, there is no predefined formula on how to do it. What is important is to have a plan. Both women in these articles had thought about disclosure, on how to approach an employer, and how to best demonstrate their strengths and aptitudes during a job interview. Building a clear and comprehensive plan is the best way to help an employer see your abilities - rather than your disability.

At Champions, we host a disclosure workshop every month where participants explore different ways to disclose a disability to a potential employer, the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing at different stages of the job search process, and how to develop a disclosure plan. If you need help  with understanding how your disability may impact your job search then this workshop is definitely for you.

Remember, "fortune favors the prepared mind".

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New Report: Disability in the Workplace

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I was pleased to see a new publication, Disability in the Workplace from Racounteur media, come across my path this morning. The magazine features several articles and stories surrounding the issue of disability and employment in the United Kingdom. However, the stories are universally applicable and contain knowledge that certainly applies to Canadian businesses and persons with disabilities.

I highly recommend giving the magazine a download. Some of the highlights and articles:

  • Disabled People Can Do a Good Job. Attitudes are changing, but there are still significant barriers in the workplace. "The key is not to recruit disabled people for the sake of recruiting them, but to recruit disabled people who can do the job." 
  • Employing People with Disabilities Boosts Business. "The business case for embracing diversity means you have access to talent that others may overlook and you retain talent you might otherwise lose."
  • Empowering Staff Improves Morale and Productivity. "Adapting existing systems or investing in specialist technology for those with disabilities can improve productivity across a whole organization."
  • The Hidden Majority Must Not Be Ignored. "Accommodating disabled colleagues simply concerns the culture of an organisation rather than making physical changes".  

These were just the articles that jumped out at me. There is plenty more contained in this special edition and you can view the articles online or  download the entire magazine

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Rating the Accessibility Features on the iPhone

Monday, May 13, 2013

*The following is a guest post by Mark Flores of Handi Enterprises. Mark has 17 years of experience in providing adaptive technology and communication devices and is confident that Handi Enterprise can provide solutions to meet your adaptive technology and communication needs.

When evaluating a product I find it useful to compare it against what the manufacture says about it.  The 1st thing that jumps out at me about Apple’s literature on the iPhone’s accessibility features as relates to motor impairment, is the fact that they are touting features used by everyone, including those without physical disabilities, as accessibility features.  Reading this I have to ask myself the question are features such as Siri or volume buttons really accessibility features when they are used by everyone?  Or is the iPhone just thin on motor impairment accessibility features?  Which leads me to my 2nd question based on the iPhone accessibility features that I use every day: is iPhone motor impairment accessibility at the forefront for people that need it or is it just an afterthought?
I will rate the accessibility features that I used in my 30 day experiment, of the iPhone 5, with these questions in mind.
For the most part, the accessibility features of the iPhone 5 that I used were relatively easy to test.  This is because most of them were located in the assistive touch feature of the iPhone; which places a number of those features right on the home screen in a small translucent ball that you can move around with your fingers as necessary.  With the assistive touch feature enabled I was able to easily do things like: turn on Siri, lock my screen rotation into place; (which turned out to be very important for my level of CP,) use the multitasking feature without having to double tap the home button, control the volume of the phone without having to struggle with the buttons on the side just to name a few.
2 more accessibility features on the iPhone 5 that I found quite helpful and easy to use were the voice texting and the select text to read features.  A recent addition to the iPhone operating system (IOS) is the ability for you now to send text messages inside iPhone’s text messaging app.  You can imagine that for someone like me who has limited use of my hands, the ability to transcribe your voice into text right in the texting app is huge; as opposed to having to use a third-party app to dictate, select, copy and paste my text like I had to previously.  The fact that he uses series voice recognition technology to do the transcription also means that it is very accurate. 
As somebody with a learning disability that requires audio feedback for whatever I read the select text to read feature was great.  I did not have to change the text in any way or copy and paste it to a third-party app to get it to work.  The voice feedback was very smooth and I was the default read speed setting and it was fine.  When pressed me the most about it was that it could read virtually any text in any application including the Internet.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Although I did find that the iPhone 5 was quite responsive there is one accessibility feature that I did not feel was responsive at all.  This was the gestures feature.  The way that this feature is supposed to work is that you can create 1 or 2 finger movements to more easily execute iPhone movements that could be tricky for someone with dexterity issues.  These movements could include things like pinching and stretching or swiping.  I just could not get this to work even and when I was able to create gestures they only worked the way they were supposed to 50% of the time.  Which for someone that needs it to work is not acceptable.  Because I found that gestures were not responsive to me but everything else was, I am giving the iPhone 5 a 3 out of 5 rating when it comes to the responsiveness of their accessibility features.
Does the product perform as advertised?
When I looked at whether or not the iPhone 5’s accessibility features performed as advertised  in helping me use the phone it depended on what I was doing with it.  If I was doing things like dictating text or reading emails they performed fantastically.  The assistive touch features that were already built into the accessibility also performed as advertised but as mentioned before I could not use gestures to help me navigate through the phone.  Because of these reasons I mentioned I will rate the iPhone 5 accessibility features a 4 out of 5 for performing as advertised.
How much physical dexterity is required to use the product i.e. can anyone with any disability utilize it?
The accessibility features of the iPhone 5 are surprisingly stable.  As such once I turned them on they did not all of a sudden stop working as can happen with some different models of phones.  This meant that my need to exercise my dexterity was minimal in most instances.  However, I did have to use my dexterity in navigating through the iOS or selecting text for the phone to read.  This can be difficult for many individuals with physical disabilities to do.  There are some external pieces of adaptive technology you can buy that will minimize the need to use your hands with the iPhone.  We will talk about some of these in a future post. The iPhone does have many different assistive technology features that I do not use to help people with many other types of disabilities in using the phone such as a larger text and voice over.  We will also be talking about some of the accessibility features for people living with visual impairments in a future post. As a result of the phones need to still be used by hand even if some accessibility features are turned on I am giving the iPhone 5 a rating of 3 out of 5 under physical dexterity required.
Overall Rating
Overall the iPhone 5 and its accessibility features receive a rating of 14 out of 20.  I have come to believe that the iPhone 5 is an easy-to-use phone.  This is because there is not much to it.  If you are looking for a phone whose accessibility features function as advertised for the most part and whose operating system is quite easy to learn from a physical accessibility standpoint the iPhone 5 may be for you.  I do believe that the iPhone would become the smart phone of choice for people with physical disabilities if they had stronger voice control functionality, like the ability to answer the phone or turn off the alarm by voice.
Stay tuned for next week’s post and I will begin by talking about my experience with the Samsung Galaxy S3.

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Diffusing Difficult Conversations at Work

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fighting is okay in a select few work environments. 
During a recent team-building event at Champions, our facilitator - Herky Cutler - made an interesting point about how to diffuse or push through roadblocks in tough conversations. We were discussing how when dealing with each other in the office, or with clients, we can often run into walls when people have a difference of opinion on what to do in a given situation. For example, perhaps a co-worker wants to challenge the status quo on how we provide a certain service, or maybe a client wants to stick with their current resume rather than making the changes one of our Case Managers recommends.

Herky's suggestion to dealing with these delicate situations was both simple and elegant. Rather than butting heads, or agreeing to disagree and having tension build up, he suggested diffusing the conversation with a quick question:

"How is that working out for you?"

It's an easy question to ask, solicits the other person's opinion and opens the door for further evaluation of the topic being discussed. Brilliant.

This got me thinking, what are some other quick lines that can help release tension and build discussion in the workplace.

I have a tendency to be fairly obstinate when dealing with differences of opinion at work or in my personal life. I think I am being "matter of fact" or "rational", but others have told me many times that it comes off as being slightly condescending. I am always amazed at people who can navigate through difficult conversations, arguments and debates by posing the right questions at the right time. Similar to Herky's suggestion, these questions lead to constructive dialog and build positive relationships.

So I thought I might do some quick research and try to find other quick and easy ways to turn difficult conversations into meaningful encounters. Here is what I found:

Ask questions! It is the best way to understand where the other person is coming from.  Some ideas:

  • Can you tell in more detail why this is important to you?
  • What caused you to see this as a problem?
  • Is there something I can do to help you with this then?
  • Is the best you can do? (A Steve Jobs favourite)
  • What do you suggest to stop this from happening again?
  • What do you think?
  • Why do you think this is a good idea?
  • What do you need from me? 
  • What do you want to happen? What do you need to make it happen?
  • What else? Do you have any more thoughts on this? Can you think of anything else?
  • What would you say if...?

Obviously, sincerity is key to any meaningful conversation. Asking a question in a degrading way, like is that the BEST that YOU can do, can have a totally different impact than asking in a way that encourages honest feedback.

Do you have any suggestions for quick questions or statements to navigate tough conversations? Let us know in the comments!

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Meet and Greet, Allstate Insurance, May 9th

Monday, May 06, 2013

Are you articulate, have great customer service skills and enjoy multitasking?

We are hosting a Meet and Greet with Allstate Insurance on Thursday, May 9th from 1-3 pm. Allstate is always actively recruiting for great employees and people who want to contribute to a workplace that is challenging, collaborative and rich with opportunities.

If you are interested in attending or would like more information please contact us by calling 403.265.5374 or email

Please arrive at least ten minutes before the session and remember to bring your resume with you.

Date: May 9th, 2013

Time: 1:00 pm

Champions Career Centre
Suite 650, 839 5th Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta

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Unicorns and Ukuleles: A Day with Herky Cutler

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Unicorn: a mythical creature resembling a horse, with a single horn in the center of its forehead: often symbolic of chastity or purity.

Ukulele: a small, guitarlike musical instrument associated chiefly with Hawaiian music.

What do the two of these have in common? No, it isn't the greatest carnival act of all time (although we would definitely pay to see that). Instead, they were the themes of a recent team-building event that all of us here at Champions participated in.

Facilitated by Herky Cutler, local change agent/workplace specialist/speaker extraordinaire, the team at Champions took a day to breathe, assess ourselves personally and professionally, and get to know one another just a little bit better. And while there weren't any real unicorns in attendance, our entire team used the day to reflect on some of the mythological heights we are aspiring to as career developers.

Using his creative and innovative style, Herky guided us through a series of activities designed to help us evaluate who we are, how we are feeling, and how we can provide the best support for our clients and one another.

"Days like this are often overlooked or brushed aside," says Rod Ruff, our Marketing and Communications Coordinator, "but it was truly great to be able to take the time to look inward for once and also get to see my co-workers do the same."

The Champions team would like to thank Herky for facilitating this amazing day, and helping our team become just a little bit more in tune with each other, just like that old ukulele.

Our Executive Director, Lisa Moon, wanted to thank Herky in a video testimonial after the day's activities and you can watch the video below.

If your organization could use a new direction, revitalization, or better client and staff relations, we highly recommend getting in touch with Herky at

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Debbie's Story: "I'm Happy"

Thursday, May 02, 2013

When you first meet Debbie Henderson, it would be hard to believe she has ever had a bad day.  A natural optimist, her penchant to always look for the best comes shining through at all times. And when you ask her why she is so optimistic, she simply says “life is too short, you gotta have fun!”

However, even the most positively inclined hit speed bumps from time to time. For Debbie, her optimism was derailed last year when she lost her job at a company she had been working with for the last 6 years.  Living with a hearing impairment all of her life, Debbie had always known how to be successful in the workplace on her own. But when a new manager came on who struggled to understand her situation, things went south in her work environment very quickly and she was eventually dismissed.

Looking back, Debbie believes she got fired because of her hearing. “Some people simply have no compassion for people who are different.”

Finding herself unemployed for the first time in many years, Debbie faced the new reality of trying to re-enter the labour force as a middle aged woman.

“It’s not easy to start over when you’re older and I needed a career change,” she says.  Having always been able to find work without help, Debbie became very frustrated with not being able to do so this time around. “Not being able to find work on my own was difficult, and I was left feeling down, really mentally down.”

It was at this point that Debbie discovered Champions, where she was a little surprised to learn that there was work to be done to find a job that was right for her.

“At Champions, it isn't a free ride. I learned to treat job search like work, where I have to put in the time and effort to get the most out of it.  Champions isn't here to do the work for you, but they are there to encourage, help and give you all their time and resources along the way.  Coming into Champions several times a week was really uplifting and encouraging - they gave me the tools and motivation to make the most of my job search.”

Assessing her current needs and desires, Debbie learned that she needed to take a different career from where she had been previously. She had been working in accounting her whole life but decided a less demanding, more flexible role in data entry was the right choice for her at this time in her life.

When you ask Debbie how the adjustment has been to this new role, you quickly find out just how important finding the right role is.

“I’m happy, I have the best job I've ever had in my whole life,” Debbie states gleefully.  “And I know that the team at Champions is always there for me when I need them.”

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Diversity Champion: Allied Printing and Promotions

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sometimes a perfect match is only a phone call away.

Such was the case when one of our Case Managers, Andy Potton, first contacted Greg Silver of Allied Printers and Promotions, even though both parties were unaware of what the other had to offer.

“I was simply following up on a lead for a client and hoping to open the door for him to a possible employment position,” says Andy.  Although the position had already been filled, Andy asked Greg to keep Champions in mind for any future openings.

So when that new hire didn't work out, Greg was happy to give Champions a call, even if he didn't really know what to expect.

“When I first heard of Champions, my first thought was people with disabilities might need more support and I was worried about if they would be able to do the job. I was a little bit shocked to hear that Tom’s disability was diabetes. I have never noticed a difference and really see no effect in the workplace. I am really proud of what Tom has been able to accomplish at Allied. He has stepped up to the plate in a big way and I couldn't be happier with how things have worked.”

Greg was so thrilled with Tom’s work that he has come back to Champions and brought on two other clients in part time roles. Greg and Allied have really seen business pick up over the last three months and building a reliable team is fundamental to the business being successful.

“I don’t complain about too much work,” Greg says, even as he puts in 14 hour days. “I am fortunate that we have been able to build the business up and the team is a huge part of that. If we can’t rely on each other and work as a team then things tend to not work out that great. I am big on teamwork and everyone deserves credit for our success, not just one person.”

“I have always been an underdog type of person. I know everyone needs a chance or break at some time and if I can help out, then I am all in. I am really happy with the way things have turned out. I feel really lucky to partner with Champions and to have been matched with several employees who have been able to work out.”

At Champions, we are always looking to create mutually beneficial employment placements where the right person is connected to the right job with the right employer. We are proud to partner with Allied and to recognize them as our Diversity Champion for this month. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Greg and the team at Allied Printing and Promotions long into the future.

Allied Printing and Promotions specialize in commercial printing and also offer a complete line of promotional items from A to Z. If you would like to promote your company name, are searching for novelty items for upcoming events, or need help with your commercial printing needs, Allied has what you are looking for.  Their philosophy is to keep service high and product quality even higher and do this with a maintainable company that focuses on this commitment to its customer. Call them today at 403.279.5980!

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