Open Records Legislation in British Columbia

Following is some information with respect to Open Records in BC

Unfortunately, the legislation in BC contains provisions for contact and disclosure vetos. We encourage the BC government to replace these with contact preference statements.

How were Open Records legislated?

After much lobbying from adoption/reunion-related community groups, legislation was passed in 1995 to open adoption records in BC. The text of the second reading (the debate) in the BC Legislature can be read here. It took a total of two weeks to be passed, from first reading on June 21, 1995 to 3rd reading (vote) on July 4, 1995 and Royal Assent two days later.

The then-Minister of Social Services, the Hon. Joy MacPhail, recognized in the House debate that many mothers did NOT have a choice in losing the babies that under closed records they might never see again:

“The previous speaker suggested that there are maybe 50,000 women in British Columbia who may not want it to be known; that they would like to keep their past secrets. I would suggest to that Hon. member that perhaps the reason that is so is that we have had legislation in this province and we have had an attitude in the fifties and sixties that took young women who happened to become pregnant, ripped them from their communities, put them in homes for unwed mothers, shut them away from their families and friends, punished them for this horrible thing they had done, literally took their children from their bodies and threw a piece of paper in front of them to be signed, and then expected those women to go back as if nothing had happened. Maybe that is the reason some women in British Columbia are frightened. But I maintain that that is exactly why we need to take this legislation out of the fifties and bring it into the open, to celebrate a society that supports women and children … — and that supports access to identifying information.

“I believe that if we open those records…. Yes, women or children who do not wish those records opened may register that. But if we open those records, we will finally have pulled back the curtain of an incredibly judgmental society that has kept the whole issue of adoption and the children born to [natural] mothers — especially young [natural] mothers — in the dark all these years.

“This may not seem to be a big issue to many people, because when you look around now, our society is supportive of young women who choose to keep their children. Many of them do keep their children. Many of them continue with their schooling; many of them have access to supportive families, supportive communities and supportive services, so that they may raise their children. That was not the case in the fifties and sixties, and that is exactly the situation in which the legislation we have had until this time is steeped.”

“What we’ve got here is a shift to legislation that facilitates more open and more honest adoptions. It gets rid of a lot of the pretences of the past that hail from a time that my colleague so eloquently spoke of: a time when it was practically a crime when a woman had a child out of wedlock. Those women were marginalized and judged and treated in a way that was, in my view, reprehensible. Both the woman and, in many cases, her child suffered for years if not throughout their lives from the effects of that kind of oppression and its consequences.”

Sections 63 to 68 of the Adoption Act contain the open records clauses.

This was the progress of Bill 51 “Adoption Act ” [RSBC 1996] Chapter 5 as it was passed in the Legislature:

  • First Reading (Introduction): June 21 Afternoon (Part 1)
  • Second Reading (Debate):June 26 Afternoon (Part 1)
  • Committee stage: June 28 Afternoon (Part 1), Afternoon (Part 2)
  • Third Reading (Vote): July 4 Afternoon (Part 1)
  • Royal Assent: July 6 Afternoon