Ontario Opens its Old Adoption Records – Surprise! No Dads!

From Men’s News Daily By Robert Franklin, Esq.
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back on June 1st of this year, the province of Ontario opened all its old adoption records so that adoptees could locate their birth parents if they wanted. Read about it here (Toronto Star, 12/10/09). And, to no one’s great surprise, a lot of them did want to find their biological fathers and mothers. But once the records were opened, it turned out there was a catch for children of unmarried mothers; adoptees could learn who their mother was, but not their father.

That’s partly because the law, up until 1986, forbade listing the father’s name on birth registries or adoption papers for children of unmarried mothers unless both mother and father demanded it. So only some 10% of those documents identify a father. Indeed, many mothers to this day remember writing in the father’s name, only to have it removed. Hospital and adoption personnel throughout the 40s, 50s, 60s, etc., were told to discourage identifying fathers.

Amazingly enough, when a woman who gave birth wasn’t married, the law considered that there was no father. One observer described the attitude this way:

“You’re not married, the child doesn’t have a father, leave that blank.”

“You’re not married, the child doesn’t have a father.” Huh? We’ve progressed a bit since then, but perhaps only a bit. More amazing still is the fact that it seems that now, even if a father’s name does appear on the old documents, provincial personnel are still prohibited from divulging it.

If you’re wondering what legitimate purpose is being furthered by obliterating all traces of the fathers of adoptees, I’m with you. And if anyone figures it out, let me know. The detriments to the practice are obvious. The first is that adoptees need to know their biological parents for medical reasons. Countless illnesses and medical conditions have hereditary components, knowledge of which is necessary to adoptees and their doctors. Adoptees who can’t identify their fathers can’t know that vital information. Second, a lot of adoptees want to know their biological parents. It’s a very common phenomenon. For a government to thwart that kinship urge seems punitive and serves no apparent purpose.

Third, differentiating in law between mothers and fathers is clearly sexist and anti-dad. What exact reason is there for a state to identify for an adoptee his/her mother but not the father? I would argue that the practice hearkens back to times when it was assumed that a woman who was pregnant but unmarried must have been, in some way, forced into sex against her will. Literature is full of scenes of heartless “wolves” “ruining” innocent maidens. The feminist idea that women were sexual beings, fully capable of consenting to and even avidly participating in sex, had not yet grabbed the popular imagination, much less made its way into law.

Most of this is a bell that can’t be unrung. Most of these adoptions occurred years ago and were carried out in the context of the times. They had different understandings about illegitimacy and adoption than we do today. Asi es la vida.

But denying adoptees knowledge of their paternity when that information does exist carries the same anti-dad prejudice into the present day.

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