Ontario's adoption records bill passes in voteCTV.ca News Staff Ontario has passed a controversial bill to open up adoption records that have been sealed for almost 80 years. With the support of the New Democrats, the governing Liberals' Adoption Information Disclosure Act passed Tuesday afternoon by a wide margin. The Opposition Conservatives opposed the legislation. Ontario has been trying to pass adoption legislation for more than a decade, but previous bills have always been stalled. The province now joins British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland, which have already unsealed their adoption records. Those who have fought for years to have the records opened say it will help adoptees and birth parents reunite.
But those who didn't want the records opened say opening the records will violate their right to privacy. The province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, told CTV's Canada AM earlier this year that she was fine with the bill applying to adoptions in the future, but believed that birth parents in the past who had an understanding of complete privacy should be protected. She fears that the new law will destroy the confidentiality of parents who don't want to be found. Premier Dalton McGuinty stresses the legislation allows people to maintain their privacy should they not want to be contacted. Parents and children, he said, can stipulate that their records be kept sealed and that they not be contacted — provided they can prove to a tribunal that unsealing the records would cause them harm. "We're saying to people, 'You've got a right to know but you don't have the right to a relationship,''' McGuinty told the Canadian Press. "We're confident we've got it right."
Others in favour of open records say such a system will be an improvement on Ontario's current system, the Adoption Disclosure Register. The Register allows adoptees over 18 or adoptive arents to register that they would like to find the birth parents. If the birth parent also registers, the two sides are put into contact. Many have complained that the register system takes too long and that adoptees should have direct access to records. Ontario Social Services Minister Sandra patello notes that the law has provisions so that people can ask not to be contacted. But others are not satisfied, noting that their identities would still be revealed, whether or not they were contacted. The provincial Conservatives didn't like the bill because it failed to include a provision that would allow birth parents to veto disclosure of their records. They note that other provinces that have unsealed their records have included the option of keeping certain records sealed.
Ontario's legislation won't be enacted for another 18 months while the province launches an advertising campaign across Canada and the northeastern United States to inform those impacted by the changes.