Select Committee on Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Karen Lynn

  In Canada we have been following with interest the progress of your proposed legislative changes to closed adoption practices. Historically, Canada has followed such laws and practices introduced in England. For instance, in 1926 England introduced closed records in matters of adoption and Canada (Ontario) followed suit in 1927. I regret to say that we are unable to continue regarding England as our model in view of the proposed Adoption and Children Bill which achieved second reading on 26 March, however, we are carefully watching, with increasing alarm, how the British Parliament unfolds this particular piece of legislation.

  Canadian provincial and territorial models departed from the British model of adoption disclosure in 1996 when British Columbia opened up sealed records to adult adoptees and birth relatives, subject to contact and disclosure vetoes which, it turns out, are infrequently used (less than 4 per cent and declining), a situation which mirrors the New Zealand legislation introduced in 1985. I'm sure your research has already explored the New Zealand experience. Subsequent to British Columbia's opening sealed records, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut also opened records and Newfoundland passed similar legislation. In Ontario where secrecy in adoption started here, I am a member of a "think tank" planning a draft of a new law which will be presented to our Government. This group is spearheaded by the Ontario Association of Childrens Aids Societies, an umbrella group representing all Childrens Aids Societies that report to the Ministry of Community and Social Services in the province. I assure you that the proposal will include access to identifying information for birth relatives and adult adoptees with even fewer conditions which apply in British Columbia.

  I urge you to consider similar legislation in recognition of the short and long-term effects of undeserved trauma on women who surrendered their children under cruel laws of government imposed secrecy. I request that you consider the legislation created in New South Wales last December 2000, and in particular that you read the NSW inquiry into past adoption practices:

  New South Wales, Parliament, Legislative Council, Standing Committee on Social Issues

  Releasing the past: adoption practices, 1950-98: final report/Standing Committee on Social Issues. [Sydney, NSW] (Report 22 December 2000) (Parliamentary paper no 600).

  The final report form this inquiry is easily available on-line through the NSW government web site.

  The recommendations ensuing from this report will help you to understand past coercive and illegal practices employed by authorities to separate new mothers from their babies. With great respect, I doubt very much that one would find experiences of first mothers in New South Wales, Canada, England and Wales to be significantly divergent. I also expect that all of these truths will emerge in time given the upsurge in advocacy and communications world-wide by the millions of us who lost our children to adoption.

  In the past, women who bore children ex-nuptually were shamed, blamed and coerced into surrendering their children—coerced, among other reasons, because they were never made aware of the life-long tragic impact on either themselves or their children. They were vulnerable to this abuse by their own youth, poverty and lack of familial support. The social construction of single parenthood has changed in our life-times. For these reasons and more it is time for legislators to consider the consequences of passing legislation like the Adoption and Children Bill which will perpetuate the punishment of first mothers and fathers when few deserved it. Should you pass this legislation as currently written you will be permitting the tragedy of secrecy in adoption to unfold well into the twenty first century. Many mothers and fathers will die in the grief of not knowing how their lost children fared, many adoptees will grow old feeling abandoned by their original parents and England will have lost some of its moral authority in the Commonwealth of Nations.

  We urge you to live up to the moniker "Mother" England.

  We urge you to implement laws requiring active policies and procedures to meet the needs of all adults affected by adoption who wish to reunite with their long lost loved ones as requested by NORCAP and in so doing truly represent the members of your constituency who will continue to pay dearly for secrecy in adoption practices.

April 2001

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