Adoption bill passed to cheers, tears
Received support across party lines
Critics want veto clause for privacy
Toronto Star, GILLIAN LIVINGSTON,Canadian Press, Nov. 2, 2005
Supporters sobbed, cheered and embraced one another yesterday as the Ontario government finally passed controversial legislation to unseal the province's adoption records after what proponents of the bill consider 80 years of secrecy and shame.
New Democrat member Marilyn Churley, a birth mother and long-time champion of changes to Ontario's adoption laws, bowed her head and wiped away a tear as the votes were counted, aware that her 10-year battle for change was at an end.
"This is a very emotional issue, partly because it's an issue that we've been working on for so long and it's finally come to pass," a flushed and beaming Churley said after the legislation passed third reading by a substantial 68-19 margin.
Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello, the principal architect of the legislation, walked across the floor of the legislative chamber after the vote to embrace her NDP rival, whose own numerous efforts to get a similar bill passed always seemed to fail on the cusp of a vote.
"We worked a long time to get it right," Pupatello said later.
But it will take months to spell out the mechanics of how adoptees and birth parents alike will be able to access original or current birth certificates and the vital details they contain.
There have been 250,000 adoptions in Ontario since record-keeping first began, with nearly 73,000 names listed on a voluntary provincial registry.
In several months, the province will launch an intensive ad campaign across Canada and in neighbouring U.S. states to alert people to the changes to adoption law, Pupatello said. The new bill won't be proclaimed into law for another 18 months.
The changes will allow adoptees to learn their original name and birth parents the current name of the child they gave up. Such details can prove to be key information to tracing their ancestry and ultimately locating and reuniting a long-lost parent and child.
All 19 votes against the legislation came from the Opposition Conservatives, who want a so-called disclosure veto allowing anyone to keep their records sealed if they so desired.
The passage makes Ontario the fourth province to open its adoption records, joining British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland. But Ontario remains the only province in Canada without a disclosure veto.
The legislation allows parents and adoptees alike the option to request they not be contacted, but to keep their records sealed they would need to prove to a tribunal that unsealing their files would cause harm.
Conservative Leader John Tory, who voted for the legislation in principle when it came to second reading, said the privacy measures in the final bill simply aren't enough.
"They're wholly inadequate in that they force people in extraordinary circumstances to come forward and beg and plead for their privacy rights," he said.
One adoptee has vowed to fight the law in court, saying it violates his Charter right to privacy.