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Ontario PCs Oppose Adoption Disclosure

September 23, 2005 permalink

The following article in the York Region papers opposes adoption disclosure. It features the story of an anonymous man identified only as "Ted". Comments appear after the article.



Ontario adoption bill 'morally rapes' citizens

Sep 22, 2005
Roy Green, Staff Writer

When "Ted" and his wife adopted a little girl out of an abusive family situation more than 15 years ago, provincial authorities assured them the process would forever remain confidential.

"You'll never be interfered with -- that's the one thing they told us," an angry Ted (not his real name) said this week.

"They never gave us any financial support to save this child's life but they promised anonymity. She's 16 now and after years of medical hurdles, therapy and dozens of doctors later, she's doing great.

"We've never told her she's adopted; never. She was discriminated against enough because of her afflictions. Now, they're about to invade and destroy our lives."

He's talking about Bill 183, the adoption disclosure legislation that was put off last spring after privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said it fails to protect the privacy rights of birth mothers and adult adoptees.

The bill will give adoptees and their birth parents access to adoption files containing names, medical records and other personal information. Because it is retroactive, guarantees of confidentiality given decades ago no longer apply.

Instead, the bill requires those seeking anonymity to prove to a tribunal that revealing their past would cause "significant harm".

Ted and his wife are afraid of what will happen to the child they've lovingly raised for 16 years if her birth parents decide to contact her.

"What kind of person is going to try and get hold of her? Is the government going to force that horrible family to be visited upon my child. (This is like) being intellectually and morally raped. We're considering leaving this country we're so frightened. What right does this government have to frighten its own population?"

The Conservatives support the privacy commissioner's call for a retroactive disclosure veto in the bill, which would give birth parents and adoptees the right to refuse release of their information.

At a meeting in Ottawa in June, 13 privacy commissioners representing 14 jurisdictions across Canada endorsed Ms Cavoukian's call for a veto.

But after a clause-by-clause examination this summer, the bill will be reintroduced, virtually unchanged, when the provincial legislature resumes next month.

Bill 183 is a welcome change in adoption policies, according to Sharon Virtue, chairperson of Aurora-Newmarket Parent Finders.

"The way it is now, it's like we're not allowed to know who we are; like we're third-class citizens," said Ms Virtue, who was adopted as a child and now has an adopted child of her own.

"No one's out to hurt anyone. My understanding is there will still be some kind of veto where you can say, 'I don't want anyone contacting me.'"

The right of adopted children to know their history outweighed the privacy issue, said Thornhill MPP Mario Racco, chairperson of the standing committee on social policy that debated the bill this summer.

"We did not do what the privacy commissioner wanted us to do. People will be able to know who their (birth) parents are," Mr. Racco said. "We had to make a choice knowing that someone won't be happy. Who should we pay more attention to? At the end of the day, the (social services) minister was convinced the right to know was more important."

But both sides could have been accommodated by a disclosure veto, Oak Ridges Tory MPP Frank Klees said.

"Mr. Racco is wrong; no one needed to be hurt by this legislation," he said. "It can and does provide for right to access, but to deny people their privacy rights, especially retroactively, is fundamentally wrong. The government has a responsibility to protect everyone's right to privacy."

If Bill 183 becomes law, Ontario will become the fourth province to open adoption records but the other provinces, Alberta, British Columbia and Labrador and Newfoundland, offer a disclosure veto.

Source: York Region Papers website

Comments: This story leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The family mentioned only as "Ted" gave their adopted daughter years of medical treatment and therapy. Was that to remediate problems from her natural parents before she was adopted? If so, how did Ted avoid telling her she was adopted?

In response to an inquiry, the reporter Roy Green said that he did not himself know the man's identity, but that Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees got Ted to call the reporter.

So the Ontario PC's are not just voting against this measure in the legislature, they are assisting in placing unfavorable stories in the press. Mr Klees ran for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party on a platform opposing same-sex marriage, an apparently pro-family position. Now he is cooperating in an anti-family campaign to preserve the power of social services with continuing secrecy.

Addendum: In reply to reader response, here are the relevant provisions of bill 183, adoption disclosure:

Disclosure to an adopted person

48.1 (1) An adopted person may apply to the Registrar General for an uncertified copy of the original registration, if any, of the adopted person's birth and an uncertified copy of any registered adoption order respecting the adopted person.

Age restriction

(2) The adopted person is not entitled to apply for the uncertified copies until he or she is at least 18 years old.

Disclosure to a birth parent

48.2 (1) A birth parent of an adopted person may apply to the Registrar General for all the information contained in the following documents, with the exception of information about persons other than the applicant and the adopted person:

1. The original registration, if any, of the adopted person's birth.

2. Any birth registration respecting the adopted person that was substituted in accordance with subsection 28 (2).

3. Any registered adoption order respecting the adopted person.

Age restriction

(2) The birth parent is not entitled to apply for the information described in subsection (1) until the adopted person is at least 19 years old.

These sections state clearly that an adopted child can get his records starting at age 18, and a birth parent can get the adoption records starting when the child reaches age 19. The one year difference is peculiar, and may lead to some clever games. Other sections of the act provide that the birth parent or the child can issue requests to preclude disclosure or contact.

The linked audio titled "Social Workers Discuss Adoption Disclosure" contained a discussion at length of plans to nullify or even reverse the apparent effect of the law. It was un-linked from this site at the request of the police, but can still be found elsewhere on the internet by resourceful readers. Children's Aid Societies might put boilerplate in its adoption forms invoking the non-disclosure provisions in every case. But at least with its enactment, parents and children separated by force of arms would in principle have the legal right to the information required for reunification. One provision of the act is totally unworkable:

56.1 (1) If, under section 48.1, an adopted person receives notice that a birth parent does not wish to be contacted, the adopted person shall not knowingly contact or attempt to contact the birth parent, either directly or indirectly.

This provision is impractical in the age of the internet since an internet search for the name of a parent desiring no contact may, under certain conditions, be disclosed to that parent, constituting contact.