Share on Facebook  |  More Articles

Published Saturday June 6th, 2009 at 6:44am

Original Article by Erin Anderssen

With Ontario about to open upadoption records dating back more than 80 years, only a small fractionof birth parents and adult adoptees have taken steps to prevent afuture reunion.

By the end of April, 2,500 people – a number almost equally splitbetween parents and offspring – had signed disclosure vetoes that wouldkeep their identities secret when the new legislation comes into effecton June 1.

The law will give both sides of an adoption equal access to birthinformation for the 250,000 adoptions registered in the province since1921.

Previously, the system was set up so that biological parents couldregister with the province that they were willing to be contacted,while only adult adoptees over the age of 18 were given access to birthdocuments to initiate a reunion.

But over the years, there has been growing pressure to makeadoptions more open, particularly to help adopted adults fill in theirmedical histories.

The Ontario legislation follows similar steps taken by four otherprovinces to open up adoptions – British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba,and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The disclosure veto was added to the legislation in 2007, after theOntario Superior Court ruled that retroactively allowing access toconfidential adoption records was unconstitutional. The new law alsoincludes a no-contact order, which allows information to be releasedbut carries a steep fine if contact is made against a person's wishes,and a provision allowing people to say how they wish to be contacted.

As of last month, nearly 1,100 people had requested not to becontacted at all, and more than 1,500 people had attached conditions toa reunion – suggesting, for example, that they be approached by e-mailonly or through a third party.

The provincial minister of Community and Social Madeleine Meilleursaid Monday that the low number of vetoes suggest that most peopleinvolved in an adoption want the option of a reunion. “It tells us wehave done the right thing,” she says. “There will be, I hope, manyhappy people in Ontario and elsewhere [who] will find their birthmother, and perhaps birth father too, and parents will find their sonor daughter.”

While the new law is “a major step forward,” Michael Grand, apsychology professor at the University of Guelph and an expert inadoption, also points to its shortcomings. For instance, he said, thegovernment will no longer offer assistance in finding people who mayhave moved or changed their names, which may make it harder foradoptees and birth parents without money or expertise to conductsearches on their own with information that is often vague or out ofdate.

The new law also neglected to include a requirement that peoplerequesting vetoes must still leave key medical information with theministry, Prof. Grand said. He also believes the government should havemade it possible for adopted parents to conduct a search on behalf ofminor children, if they felt it was in their child's best interest