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Published Sunday June 14th, 2009 at 10:43am

Original Article

Manitoba, Canada is considering opening up all adoption records going backto 1925, which some adoptees say would finally put them on par withothers in North America, granting them the right to know their mother'sname.

Manitoba passed legislation in 1999 that opened up its adoptionrecords to birth parents and adult adoptees, but the access was notretroactive. For the last decade, adoptees and birth parents havelobbied to have the law changed so they have a right to their fullmedical and family history.

While some adoptees wonder why it's taking the province so long toconsider full access, provincial officials say they are learning fromothers' mistakes and will launch a legislative review before making anychanges.

"There is a North American trend to open records," said JaniceKnight, Manitoba's manager of adoption and post-adoption programs."We're moving into a whole different era and generation. People areasking about it and jurisdictions are moving to that. That's whatManitoba will be looking at."

Manitoba, which oversees about 100 adoptions a year, is proceedinggingerly in the wake of Ontario's court battle over similarlegislation.

A group of adoptees and birth parents successfully challenged theOntario law, saying it violated their right to privacy under theCharter of Rights and Freedoms because it did not contain a disclosureveto for those who didn't want to be contacted. The legislation wasrewritten to include a veto and came into effect June 1, 2009.

At least 2,500 people in Ontario have signed vetoes that keep their identities secret.

If someone in Manitoba was adopted before 1999 wants to find theirbirth parent, Knight said the province will contact that person onbehalf of the adoptee. If they don't want any contact with theirbiological child, Knight said the province tries to get as muchnon-identifying information as possible, including medical history.

"There are people involved who really believe that they have a rightto know, but . . . we also, as a democratic society, have to balancerights," Knight said. "You can't force somebody to release privacyinformation without having their consent."

But some adoptees say they have the right to know who they are.

Roy Kading, now in his seventies, tracked down his birth mother in1977 without the help of the government. He said adoptees "live a lie"their entire lives without knowing anything about their background,including their mother's name.

"Why should you be the only person in North America who doesn't knowyour heritage? That doesn't know your birth mother, your birth father,your siblings? Why should we be different?" said Kading, with LINKSPost-Legal Adoption Support Group.

"Just give this block of people the right to have the sameinformation that everybody else has the right to and that every otherjurisdiction has given them."

Kading said he hopes the NDP government will eventually open up allrecords and extend access to the grandchildren of adoptees and birthparents trying to find out more about their family history.

"I hope they also open it up to grandparents," Kading said. "We havea lot of people who are grandparents -- their son has died or theirdaughter has died, they've had a child and they have no rights. Theycan't do anything."

Manitoba's ombudsman's office and privacy watchdog declined tocomment because it wasn't aware the government had a formal position ona further opening up of adoption records.

But Ontario's Office of the Information and Privacy Commissionersays it's difficult for governments to retroactively open up adoptionrecords when it promised people anonymity and sealed their records."It's very difficult to retroactively open them up unless theseindividuals can be notified," said Michelle Chibba, director of theOntario privacy commissioner's policy department. "These are extremelysensitive issues for these individuals. They've started a new life.They have been completely anonymous . . . How could you possibly makecontact with those individuals to get their consent to open up theserecords?"