Ontario Government News Release of November 14, 2007

UPDATE: Amended adoption bill in the works

Liberals to move quickly in unveiling legislation with a disclosure veto, minister pledges
Nov 14, 2007 04:30 AM
Kerry Gillespie
Queen’s Park Bureau

Ontario will not appeal a court decision that struck down attempts to make it possible for all adoptees and birth parents to find each other.

Instead, the government will move quickly to amend its legislation and provide a disclosure veto for past adoptions while still keeping future adoptions completely open, Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said yesterday.

The new legislation would open up records to the vast majority of adult adoptees and birth parents who want to find each other or find out about medical and family history, while still protecting the privacy of those few who don’t want to be found.

“It will enshrine openness in future adoption records while providing a disclosure veto for people involved in past adoptions,” Meilleur said in an interview.

“We believe we need to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of individuals who seek access to information and those individuals who do not want their information disclosed,” she said.

The Adoption Information Disclosure Act came into effect in September, but elements were struck down by the Ontario Superior Court just days later for violating the privacy of adoptees and birth parents who want their records to remain sealed. The legislation allowed access to confidential records by adult adoptees or birth parents without the consent of those being identified. Previously, information was disclosed only with the consent of both parties.

Two weeks ago, Progressive Conservative MPP Norm Sterling (Lanark-Carleton) said he’d introduce a private member’s bill providing a disclosure veto. He said he suggested this when the original legislation was drafted, but the Liberals refused to include it at the time.

British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland, which have all voted to open their adoption records, decided to include a veto option.

But not everyone is happy the government has simply accepted the court’s decision without a fight.

Ontario’s adoption law was passed by the Liberal government, but former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley was the force behind it.

In 1968, she gave up her son for adoption. After years of frustration with the system, she found him in 1996 when he was 28.

“I’m very disappointed they’re not appealing,” Churley said.

Many adoptees and birth parents decide to look for each other because they want information about medical and family history, and a disclosure veto blocks that, Churley said.

“There are thousands of genetically passed on, inherited diseases, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, which there are now screening programs for should you know this runs in the family. Well, think about the adoptee who is looking for information and they’re told there’s a disclosure veto and they can’t have it,” Churley said.

The way it is now, if an adoptee or birth parent opts to keep their information private, the other party can only get access to it if there’s a dire medical emergency, she said.

“As the mother of the bill, I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t get it all … However, we have come a long way,” she said.

“It’s a pretty big victory for myself and the adoption community who have fought for many years and will be pleased if all three parties pass the bill