P.E.I. advocates call on government to allow for open adoption records

Katie Smith katie.smith@theguardian.pe.ca
Published: Nov. 3, 2017, 9:41 p.m.

Adopted Islanders might soon have answers to their past.

After meeting with advocates and concerned Islanders, the minister of family and human services said the province is reviewing the legislation surrounding adoption and hope to start the public engagement process come January.

Tina Mundy said the province is looking into opening the adoption records and changing the Adoption Act, if necessary.

“Right now we’ve been reaching out to our colleagues in other provinces that have gone through the process and we’re trying to gather some information on what might work for us and what hasn’t worked for them.”

Currently, P.E.I. is one of three provinces, along with Nova Scotia and Quebec, that doesn’t have open adoption records.

Valerie Andrews, executive director of Origins Canada, an international organization supporting those separated by adoption, sent a letter to the premier calling on the province to change the Adoption Act.

In an interview with The Guardian, Andrews said her organization advocates for transparency in adoption records across the country and said it’s an issue of discrimination.

“By not allowing those citizens to have access to their birth information, it’s discriminatory. Everyone else can apply and get their birth information, and adoptees are being discriminated against by not being able to have that basic human right of having their original birth certificate,” she said.

“No government should be holding, sealing and filing and keeping that information.”

Andrews also said adoptees are entitled to their information.

“It is about them. It is their information. It is their first chapter.”

Not all countries have closed or mediated adoption records, she said.

“Canada is the last remaining Commonwealth nation that continues to have some closed records,” she said, adding records are open in the Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and the United Kingdom. “Yet Canada continues with these three provinces to perpetuate the closed records system. They need to be open now.”

Theresa Aylward, the Island’s “search angel”, has been helping reunite adopted children and their birth families for years. Three years ago she formed her own group, the Prince Edward Island Adoption Search & Support.

When she was 16 years old, she didn’t feel she would be able to care for her child, so when her daughter was born, she put her up for adoption. After years of searching she found her, but her daughter still isn’t ready to have a relationship, something Aylward said she respects.

Like Andrews, Aylward believes the issue is about human rights.

“I believe everybody has a right, I believe everybody has a choice. Just like my daughter, she has a choice and I respect that choice. I’m not going to cross the boundaries,” she said. “It’s the cards that were dealt.”

Aylward said she is pleased the province is willing to take steps in the right direction.

“I think it’s great that they’re at least going to look into it. I hope it’s straightforward where they open records with no vetoes involved.”

Currently, Aylward’s group is drafting a petition that will be presented to government early next year.

Source: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/pei-advocates-call-on-government-to-allow-for-open-adoption-records-159123/#.Wf28ZEtCX9I.facebook

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