The primary stakeholders in the opening of adoption records are those who have been separated from a family member by adoption. This would include the adult adoptee, natural mother and father, and extended family.
Although adoptive parents may be interested parties, they are not primary stakeholders in that:
a) Any proposed open records legislation would most likely target adopted adults who have reached the age of majority and are not minors
b) No parent, adoptive or otherwise have rights with respect to adult children and their personal affairs
c) Adoptive parents have not been separated from any family member by adoption.
Personal documentation regarding one’s birth is available to the majority of members of society, except, to our knowledge, people who were adopted and mothers who surrendered their babies for adoption based on their being ‘separated by adoption’. This would constitute discrimination to a segment of the population.
The disparity in open records legislation by province is problematic as basic human rights are available for some Canadians and not others therefore constituting discrimation to one sector of the population.
Many Indigenous people separated by adoption during the Sixties Scoop have been denied their native status and in some cases Canadian citizenship. Only through transparency and openness in adoption records can those Indigenous people impacted hope to be repatriated to their band of origin.
Adopted adults, natural parents and siblings should have direct access to identifying information on their family members.
Adopted adults are no longer children, but are competent adults capable of making decisions and connections for themselves, or to ask for assistance if necessary. Sealed adoption records continue to treat adopted adults as perpetual children in need of some kind of protection.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION/RIGHT OF CONTACT
Members of our society have the right of freedom of association with any person, including their natural families. At Origins, we are not aware of natural families or persons adopted contacting each other for any nefarious purpose. Usually contact is made to answer questions, exchange information, or to initiate family contact with hopes of a relationship.
In this age of technology, citizens of Canada receive unsolicited calls or technological intrusions from a variety of sources and have the choice as adults on whether or not to interact with those people. Further, all citizens are protected by law in cases of harassment or unwanted contact.
A “special law” enacted by the State for “those separated by adoption” sets them apart from all others in society, appearing to suggest they are a suspect group.
Adoption records are open in many jurisdictions in Canada and around the world without negative consequences.
Natural parents and persons adopted do not have the same right of freedom of association as other citizens in Canada under current legislation.
SEALING OF ADOPTION RECORDS
Adoption records were originally closed for several reasons which do not apply today.
Unmarried mothers were often told adoption would protect their children from the socially and legally constructed stigma of ‘illegitimacy’. In modern society, it is not socially or legally acceptable to stigmatize single parents and their children with ‘illegitimacy’, and with the trend today for openness in adoption practice and law, past reasoning to keep the records closed no longer exists.
Contrary to popular belief, adoption records were not sealed to protect natural mothers.Adoption records were sealed to protect the interests of adoptive parents from any possible interference by natural families and to perpetuate the “as if born to” myth.
When adoption records open, they are not open to the general public but only to those adopted, and their mothers. Secrecy and shame entwined in past adoption practice have supported the emergence of myths, misinformation, and fear associated with Open Records. Due to liability concerns, governments, religious groups, and social service agencies continue to restrict access to adoption related records.
In many jurisdictions the matter of mothers’ ‘confidentiality’ or ‘privacy’ from their daughters or sons is used not only to blame mothers for legislation they had no part in creating, but also as a condition of their surrender.
To this point in time, Origins Canada has not any document signed by a mother that afforded her ‘confidentiality’ or ‘privacy’ from her son or daughter. We also have not seen any evidence that anonymity was a ‘choice’ for young mothers through a law or document signed by a mother where she was allowed to refuse ‘confidentiality’ or ‘privacy’ from her daughter or son at the time of surrender.
In the absence of specific legislation regarding confidentiality for mothers, adoption facilitators did not have authority to suggest to some mothers there would be ‘confidentiality’ from their daughters or sons.
In contrast, around the mid to late 1970s when the availability of babies began to decrease, some mothers were ‘promised’ by adoption facilitators they would be able to make contact their sons or daughters when they reached the age of majority. A ‘promise’ that most often did not materialize as ‘promised’ because closed adoption records existed or still exist.
The keeping of social secrets of some individuals in society should not be governed by legislation, costly government departments, and civil servants. The keeping of social secrets of some individuals in society does not supercede the right of others in society to have access to their own birth documentation and information about their identity.
There are studies, and our experience indicates that a high percentage (86%) of mothers want to know about and have contact with their now-adult children. With the introduction of the internet and social media, there have been increasing numbers of people searching for each other, often resulting in positive healing reunions.
RIGHTS OF PERSONS ADOPTED
It is a basic human right for every person to know their origins and to obtain their birth documentation from the state.
Mothers who gave birth to babies who were lost to adoption in the past have also been denied the right to have the original birth certificate even though it was most often the mother who gave the information for the registration of birth. The birth of her baby has not been acknowledged and validated as is the right of all other mothers who give birth in our society. It is not a secret from her. The mothers gave birth, and has the right to obtain paperwork to prove that birth.
Although mothers (many single and unsupported) lost their right to raise their children when they surrendered to adoption, this does not preclude them from seeking their adult children once they reach the age of majority; adulthood.
There is no logical reason today, where openness in adoption is the norm, to preserve the archaic consequences of the closed adoption system of past decades in present day legislation.
The keeping of closed adoption records is becoming an obsolete and costly endeavour for governments as those searching for family are increasingly, and with good results, using DNA to find family members. Also with the introduction of the internet and social media, the number of people using this technology has grown expeditiously, often resulting in affirming healing reunions.
Origins Canada does not support vetoes for the following reasons, but instead supports “Contact Preferences”
- No citizen in Canada should have the right in law to prevent another citizen in Canada from receiving their personal government documents, such as a birth registration, or birth certificate.
- A new group of marginalized citizens is created when records open, except to those individuals where vetoes are filed.
- Vetoes are hurtful. Many mothers and adopted persons who search and find a veto at the end of their journey, are devastated with no recourse.
- In provinces where records are open, eg. Ontario, less than 1% of those who had the opportunity to file vetoes actually did so.
- Origins have had reports of fraud in the filing of vetoes. eg. vetoes filed by adoptive parents instead of adopted person.
- The administration of vetoes is costly and ineffective.
Not all countries have closed or mediated adoption records. Nations such as France, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Norway and Israel have never closed their adoption records.
Adoption records have been open in Scotland since 1930, in Great Britain since 1975, in Australia since 1991, and in New Zealand since 1985 with no negative consequences.
In fact, Canada is the last remaining Commonwealth nation that continues to have some closed records in some provinces. Currently in Canada, four provinces and one territory have Open Adoption Records including Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and The Yukon.
Copyright Origins Canada 2013