Ontario Adoption Reform History
Parent Finders, Kawartha
1921 - First Adoption Act in Ontario: no mention of sealed
1927 - Secrecy in adoption is introduced in new Adoption Act,
apparently copying a similar Act in England of 1926, basing adoption
law on opinion and social mores of the time. Adopted persons
birth certificates are legally falsified. Other European countries
base adoption law on honesty and truth for all parties.
1970s - Emerging social movements on civil rights
for adopted persons. Voluntary Disclosure Register created in Ontario
in 1978, not perceived to work well.
1974 - Parent Finders was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia,
followed soon after by groups in other provinces, including Ontario.
This movement was largely made up of adoptees, but also included
a number of biological parents. One purpose of the organization
was to advocate for change. Joan Vanstone, founder and National
Director stated, Nothing would change until adoptees got up
on their hind legs and worked for change.
1978 - Canadas first passive disclosure registry.
Birth parent and adopted adults were permitted to register their
willingness to reunite, subject to a veto held by the adoptive parents,
regardless of the age of the adoptee. No searches were done and
sibling matches were not recognized by the provincial authorities.
1980 - The old Child Welfare Act was being revised
under Frank Drea. Government attempted to cut off access to non-identifying
information. Bill 77 (Child and Family Services Act) included more
rather that less restrictive regulations, and prevented Childrens
Aid Societies from giving out even non-identifying information.
1984 - The adoption community rallied and then P.C. Minister
of Community & Social Services, Dr. Robert Elgie, commissioned another
study. Dr. Ralph Garber, dean of the faculty of social work at the
University of Toronto received a plethora of submissions, overwhelmingly
in support of openess. In late 1985 he tabled his report to then
Liberal Minister of Community & Social Services, John Sweeney.
1985 - Protest against new restrictions in Ontario; Ministry
of Community and Social Services commissions the report "Disclosure
of Adoption Information" under Special Commissioner Professor Ralph
Garber. Garber concludes that: "facts surrounding a person's adoption
belong to that person regardless where the information is stored;
revealing those facts has not been shown to cause harm; and reunification
of a right to parent a child at a earlier time does not limit reconsidering
a relationship with that child later on." (pp. 26-27) Other countries
begin to restore rights to adoptees and birth parents of access
of information, with public satisfaction.
1985 - Ralph Garber recommended that records be made available,
on request, to adult adoptees. Although this recommendation was
not followed, the requirement of consent of adoptive parents to
disclosure of information was eliminated and officials at the Adoption
Register were empowered to conduct a search for biological relatives
at the request of the adoptee.
1986 - The liberal government enacted some of Dr. Garber's
recommendations: adoptive parent veto power was rescinded, non-identifying
information was defined and access codified, siblings were recognized,
and the provincial registrar was empowered to conduct searches for
a birth relative on behalf of adopted persons. Unfortunately, the
government of that day also saw fit to include mandatory counselling
provisions around reunion in the new law.
1987 - Freedom of Information Act in Ontario exempts adoption
information from the rights given to all other citizens, without
consultation with those persons or groups so denied. According to
the Child and Family Services Act, Part VII, the Register is renamed
the Adoption Disclosure Registry. [Its expansion] cost even more,
and clients are frustrated and treated as children.
1992-1993 - Closed, limited Ministry consultations with
selected adoption clients, social workers; principles of the Garber
Report are not discussed.
1993 - More public protests. Adoption Reform Coalition of Ontario
recommends the unqualified right to access identifying information
for all adults affected by adoption law, consistent with the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of
1994 - Adoptees may obtain a copy of their Adoption Order.
1994 - Tony Martin (NDP) presented a private members bill
in the House (Bill 158) which would address the rights of the adopted
by granting us access to our birth certificates, just like any other
person born in Ontario. The bill passed 2nd reading by a vote of
49-3, and we sent for assessment to the Standing Committee on Social
Development. This bill comes as a direct result of the briefs (2)
which were submitted to the Minister by various groups around the
province as well as the letters and phone calls they received.
Ontario's Adoption Disclosure Bill (158) suffered a fatal setback
as it was brought to third reading on Dec. 8th. Six M.P.P.s
managed to filibuster, or delay reading, of the Bill so that it
could not be brought to a vote on this last day of the fall session.
The adoption reform effort has suffered acts of political sabotage
in the past, but this instance of it has been particularly galling
because it involved such a small number of opponents, and because
Bill 158 had such general support in all three parties. Specifically,
it had the unanimous support of the Standing Committee on Social
Development, which carefully vetted the Bill before recommending
it for third and final reading.
Had Bill 158 come to a vote it undoubtlty would have passed and
Ontario, like B.C. would have given adoptees and their families
access to their birth certificates.
1998 - Bill 88 was introduced in the ontario Legislature
on December 2, 1998 by Marilyn Churley. This bill is essentially
the same as Bill #158. Ammendments recommended by the Last Standing
Comittee in 1994 have been included in this new bill.
_ _ _
Over the past 20 years progress has been made. For many of us there
have been times that were discouraging and painfully slow. Would
we have fared better had we given the Legislature an all or
Adoptees born after 1970 do not have birth surnames on their adoption
orders. Their searches are as difficult as those of birth families.
Bill 88 would give them their original birth certificates. Even
adoptees who have been reunited with all members of their birth
families still do not have access to original birth certificates.
Birth certificates give the mothers name and location at time
of the birth. With this info many searches could be completed.
Bill 88 may not be all that we want. As of June 1998, 34,293 adoptees
are langishing on the ADR registry, with years to go. As I have
said, many only have a serial number where the birth surname should
Parent Finders and Canadopt will continue to fight for the members
of the triad. Shall we deny adoptees the right to their original
birth certificates because Bill 88 does not address all the issues?
I dont think so.
I do not like no contact clauses. BC presently has a no contact
clause and Parent Finders is lobbying to do away with it. But I
still see BC as being way ahead of Ontario in adoption reform. If
we get original birth certificates for all adoptees we can go on
to deal with other issues.