Monday 5 December 1994

Adoption Disclosure Statute Law Amendment Act, 1994, Bill 158, Mr Martin /

Loi de 1994 modifiant des lois en ce qui concerne la divulgation de renseignements sur les adoptions, projet de loi 158, M. Martin

Families in Adoption

Lloyd LeBoeuf, representative

Canadian Adoption Reunion Register, Ontario chapter

Holly Kramer, representative

David Stubbs

Adoption Council of Ontario

Pat Fenton

Judy Patterson

Pat Richardson, coordinator

Parent Finders Inc

Judy Rice, president

Brian Macdonald, vice-president

Adoption Roots and Rights

Wendie Redmond, cofounder and coordinator

Jan Sullivan

Joyce Ramer

Michelle McColm


*Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York-Mackenzie L)

*Vice-Chair /Vice-Président: Eddy, Ron (Brant-Haldimand L)

*Carter, Jenny (Peterborough ND)

Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC)

*Gigantes, Evelyn, (Ottawa Centre ND)

*Jamison, Norm (Norfolk ND)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

*McGuinty, Dalton (Ottawa South/-Sud L)

*O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

*O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND)

Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND) for Mr Rizzo

Jackson, Cameron (Burlington South/-Sud PC) for Mrs Cunningham

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

O'Brien, Patricia, assistant registrar, adoption disclosure register, Ministry of Community and Social Services

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Doug

Staff / Personnel: Drummond, Alison, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1534 in room 151.


Consideration of Bill 158, An Act to amend the Vital Statistics Act and the Child and Family Services Act in respect of Adoption Disclosure / Projet de loi 158, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les statistiques de l'état civil et la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille en ce qui concerne la divulgation de renseignements sur les adoptions.

The Chair (Mr Charles Beer): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The standing committee on social development is now in session and we are reviewing Bill 158, An Act to amend the Vital Statistics Act and the Child and Family Services Act in respect of Adoption Disclosure.

Just before calling the first witness for this afternoon, I would just note with members of the committee, because we have tried to include as many as possible, there will be one question per presenter in order to ensure that we can hear from everybody and get through the agenda today.


The Chair: So with that, I would call on our first presenter this afternoon, representing Families in Adoption. Welcome to the committee. If you would be good enough just to identify yourself for members of the --

Mr Lloyd LeBoeuf: I assume I can sit here.

The Chair: Please. Could you identify yourself for members of the committee and for Hansard and then please go ahead.

Mr LeBoeuf: My name is Lloyd LeBoeuf. I'm representing Families in Adoption.

First, I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to address and I'd also like to particularly thank Mr Tony Martin for his introduction of this bill as a private member's bill.

As I said, I'm part of a group called Families in Adoption, which is basically a support group that collects and shares information with people who have or would like to adopt children.

My wife and I adopted a baby at birth about five years ago. It was an open adoption. We met the birth parents, her parents, the social worker, and we had a chance to discuss most aspects of adoption with all the parties involved. We found it very useful. It was a very emotional experience, but it was the best way to proceed that we found, in an open fashion. For anyone considering adoption, I'd strongly recommend that process, as opposed to a closed adoption where the parties don't share information and don't have an opportunity to meet with one another.

This bill, as I understand it, would allow adopted children who haven't the information, to know where they were born, to find out who their biological parents are. We feel as a group, and we have discussed this, that this really is a fundamental right that adopted children should have and enjoy. Just having your biological surname, something as fundamental as that, that everyone takes for granted, now will be available to people who haven't had that opportunity or information in the past. I think that a lot of adopted children will take advantage of this proposal, this registry. Some may not feel the need to know; others certainly will.

As to the bill itself, we felt that the rights of privacy of the birth parents must be considered and acknowledged. We felt that noting on the registry that they won't want to be contacted was appropriate as well. They should have this opportunity to make that information known to any prospective adopted children who are looking to contact their biological parents.

We also felt, however, that the wishes of the child must be paramount, that they should have the absolute right to identify their biological parents, for any number of reasons, so that they could establish what they may feel is their original identity. It may be as simple as just satisfying a curiosity as to where they came from and who they were or who they are. They should have this right absolutely, maybe, if nothing else, so they can get on with their lives and satisfy that part of their lives. As I understand it, this bill allows for that right and we really support that and appreciate the fact that it was introduced that way.

The problem we had as a group in discussing this was with the potential to criminalize the activity of looking for your biological parents inasmuch as the birth parents have the right to request no contact and there is a penalty provision if the adopted child proceeds even though they have been forewarned that the biological parents wish no contact. We had a problem with the fact that there is a penalty in place for that.

We recognize that the bill is trying to balance the interests of all affected parties -- the birth parents, the adopted child -- but the fact that a criminal activity may take place if they proceeded after they were warned we didn't feel was warranted. We felt that this aspect of the bill should be reviewed. We didn't have an answer to that problem, but we felt that it's an issue that should be revisited, that should be reviewed.


Personally, I think it taints the intent of the bill. I think it's a little overkill. I think it's misplaced. There are other ways to deal with unwanted contact. There are anti-stalking laws, there are restraining orders. I think the very small minority of people who may abuse this information would probably act independent of any penalty anyway, so why provide for this overkill penalty to people who may have such an emotional need to satisfy that they would contact their biological parents against the biological parents' wishes?

That's the only negative part of this bill that we saw, that we felt existed. I appreciate the fact that this committee is addressing this concern. I think it's very important.

I'd like to thank the committee for the time and, again, Tony Martin for introducing this and all of you for carrying it forward.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Ms O'Neill?

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm sorry, I don't have any questions. I think the presentation was very clear. I guess I could ask you to say a little bit more about your attitude towards the non-contact.

You definitely had a very different experience. I'm very aware of your kind of experience and no doubt it's the most preferable if all parties can be involved from the very moment of birth and even before. There are definitely concerns, as this bill is being debated, about the non-contact register and certainly the penalty that's attached, and I think that confusion around that is mounting. Do you see another way? Do you see a way of keeping the register as it is now and just encouraging people to register if they want contact? Would you see that as a more positive approach than the approach of having to register if you don't want contact?

Mr LeBoeuf: I'm not sure I have an answer. I understand what you're saying. I think all adopted children should have an opportunity to find out who their birth parents are, and I think this bill addresses that.

Mrs O'Neill: Right.

Mr LeBoeuf: I think we should also consider the rights of the birth parents. Perhaps in a situation 20 years ago a child was given up for adoption, the birth mother has married and she has a family of her own. The last thing she needs is the introduction of a family member that she has forgotten about to disrupt her life in the face of any number of problems that may or may not exist presently.

We didn't have an answer for that, and that's why my suggestion that perhaps we should relook at the penalty provisions of this bill, because there are no easy answers. I don't know if there should be a penalty provision. I don't know if you can create this bill and pass it in legislation without a penalty provision. I don't know. But to criminalize something that fundamentally drives most of us -- that is, where do we come from, who are we, who were our parents? I'm not adopted, but I can well appreciate those questions -- I think is misplaced.

Mrs O'Neill: Okay. Thank you for your presentation. You are the first one who's really been as explicit as that on that item.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee this afternoon.


The Chair: If I could then call on the representatives from the Canadian Adoption Reunion Register, Ontario chapter, and I note for committee members that Mr David Stubbs, who is to follow the Ontario chapter, has indicated that he would, I believe this is correct, forgo some of his time if there are a few more questions for Ms Kramer. I believe it is Holly Kramer?

Ms Holly Kramer: Yes, that's correct.

The Chair: Welcome to the committee. Would you be just good enough to identify yourself for Hansard and make sure we have the name of the organization correct.

Ms Kramer: Good afternoon. I'm very glad to be here today. My name is Holly Kramer and I'm here on behalf of the membership of the Canadian Adoption Reunion Register. This is a private, not-for-profit registry which was established in 1974. As the umbrella group for Canadian search and support groups, CARR represents more Ontario adoptees than any other organization.

This has been the International Year of the Family, as well as the 20th anniversary of the law reform movement in Ontario, but we haven't had any celebrations as we head into our third decade of advocacy work.

I am an adoptee and through my own efforts I was fortunate enough to be able to find my birth mother in 1979. We both consider our reunion a miracle and a blessing and it has enriched our lives and the lives of my parents and my daughter.

I think it's important to remember that the first step towards changing punitive adoption laws was made right here in Ontario over 15 years ago via a private member's bill. This resulted in the enactment of Canada's first governmental disclosure registry. I don't know how many of you may recall that, as I do, but it showed very good leadership on the part of the Ontario government, and that's the kind of leadership we are looking for today.

A conservative estimate is that one in four Ontarians are affected by adoption. Over time, the volunteer sector and the private sector have facilitated at least twice as many reunions as has the official helper, and we've done it twice as effectively. To my mind, this makes us the experts. As you heard the other day, adopted persons are apprehensive about what we perceive as the possibility of a second rejection. The decision to search is not made lightly and we're very careful, exercising great discretion and respect for the privacy of our birth parents when we do a search.

Over the years we've developed a non-intrusive method for initiating contact with sensitivity, and as you'll hear from the Parent Finders representatives in a few minutes, recently we've been working with ministry staff to ensure that those who require assistance will continue to benefit from our wide experience.

Self-search, like adoption and like reunion, is a process. To take responsibility for a part of your life over which you've never had any control before is a positive step in personal growth and development. Self-determination is integral to what it means to be an adult in our society. After more than 16 years spent working with and for the benefit of the adopted, I think the word which best describes our goal is "autonomy."

I must say I find it intolerable when, as has happened here several times, we are referred to as adopted children. We were adopted and, like you, we were once children. Being adopted is a lifelong condition, but despite the good offices of the social work profession, which never anticipated it, we have grown up.

Most people can't quite comprehend why we're so adamant about having our right of access to personal information addressed in law. Maybe we're not always very good at articulating why this is so important to us, but suffice it to say that what matters here isn't whether we win you over by trying to make you understand what it is to be adopted; what matters is that you be able to distinguish between needs and rights. Human rights exist sui generis and by definition cannot be balanced against needs.

Last week the concept of necessary losses came up at this table. The adopted are well acquainted with loss. Social intolerance towards out-of-wedlock pregnancy and birth and towards marital infertility have cost us dearly. We have paid with our identities, our heritage and our reality to erase the stigma once attached to so-called illegitimacy and to personify the as-if-born-to myth.

We teach our children, as most of us were taught, that deception is wrong. Yet we've been forced to subjugate our right in order to fit a monolithic model of what is family. We will probably never know what the real cost of the shame and denial inherent in sealed records has been to our society.

Substituting fiction for fact has the effect of, as it's been aptly described, suspending us in a state of perpetual genetic bewilderment. Cut off from our ancestry, our clear demands for access to our personal truths have been dissected and discussed by those who will never know what it is to be adopted.


Sealed records discriminate against us on the basis of circumstances of birth through deprivation of a right which all other Ontarians take for granted. I'm incredulous that in 1994 in this province we should be called upon to prove or justify such a fundamental human right.

We understand the social strictures into which we were born. We know about the prevailing social climate of years gone by, and we also know that restriction and control around disclosure of adoption information is a product of this century, not a universal social phenomenon. The question isn't whether we'll take no for an answer in the form of a contact notice; rather, the question is from whom we should be expected to accept no.

We strive to know the truth, and if no is part of reality, we'll accept it, as adults everywhere accept life's disappointments. What we cannot accept, however, as adults who happen to have been adopted, is bureaucratic, uniform denial of our right to have our own real birth certificates.

On behalf of the membership of CARR and the wider adoption community, you should know that we are tired of consultations. We're fed up with studies, we're sick of empty promises and we're unimpressed with pacifying measures and sorry excuses. We wholeheartedly support the proposals in Bill 158.

Having said all this, I'd also like you to know that I've spent my entire adult life pursuing the rights of adoptive persons, and I appreciate having had this opportunity to present our views in support of redress for, as Dr Garber put it almost 10 years ago, the wrongs imposed by previous legislation.

The Chair: Thank you very much. As I noted at the outset, we will have a little bit more time for questions. We'll begin with Mr Jackson.

Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): Thank you very much, Holly, for a very clear and concise and long-overdue presentation. I want to welcome you here especially because I know you've certainly kept me apprised of a lot of issues around adoption reform.

At the outset, I have a couple of questions. First of all, you have seen the so-called housekeeping amendments that were circulated a week ago. Are you comfortable with those? Have you any specific concerns around some of that wording?

Ms Kramer: Not in particular. I have looked at the amendments and, to my mind, they are housekeeping amendments. We don't really care very much how you people accomplish this; that's your job. We just want our birth certificates.

Mr Jackson: Okay. The other new piece of information that was tabled with us is a letter, dated December 2, from the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Mr Wright. I'm sure he's watching in right now as we speak. He takes some very strong positions here in his letter. Did you want to comment on that? Have you had a chance to have a look at it?

Ms Kramer: I haven't seen it. It was just handed to me just this moment.

Mr Jackson: Oh, okay.

Ms Kramer: So no, I haven't seen it. Maybe you could sort of précis.

Mr Jackson: He laments the imbalance that's created by the legislation, moving decidedly in support of adoptees over birth parents. That's an oversimplification of his page-and-a-half letter, but do you have a response for him?

Ms Kramer: Do you mean to tell me that he has a problem with the contact notice not falling within the parameters of FIPPA?

The Chair: If you'd like to take a few moments, if you have that in front of you, to just look at it, we can have, as they say, a moment's silence.

Ms Kramer: That might be a good idea. Okay.

The Chair: It's at the bottom of page 2, I believe you said?

Mr Jackson: Yes, the no-contact registry.

The Chair: Why don't you just take your time and read that, just so you don't have to get rushed.

Ms Kramer: I can't suppose that we could have expected this to go through quite as easily as we might like it to. In answer to your question, however, I think, from my perspective, I should say that we are searching and we are finding and we have been for years and years and years, and at present this would have to be, from that perspective, an improvement over the fact that there's no no-contact registry in place as we speak. Right now, when a person goes out and makes contact with his or her birth parent, there is no mechanism in place that would let them know ahead of time. I think what I tried to say in my presentation is that if there were, we will respect those.

Mr Jackson: You're familiar with how staff in the presentation -- I believe you were here the day that staff made a presentation to us with respect to how they would be pre-preparing some of the files in anticipation of future searches and also that the automated system, if it began today, wouldn't net any direct access benefits for 18 years. Did you want to comment on both of those points?

Ms Kramer: I thought the presentation by Consumer and Commercial Relations was quite good. I was glad to know that they are looking to do something, at least, ahead of time in order to get prepared for this.

I think that we should all note that despite the fact that we have adoption orders that have numbers on them, those numbers do in fact correspond to the original registration of live birth number, which also corresponds to the amended version of it. I know that they keep meticulous records at the registrar general's office, so this should be not too terribly difficult for them to do, as far as I can tell.

Mr Jackson: Perhaps if I might have a brief question about some of the implications for additional staffing to assist the backlog. I tend to rather support some of these staff adjustments. There are people in other departments who aren't as busy, and this department tends to traditionally indicate that they just can't keep up with the workload. Ministry staff shared with us the delays and the lengthy periods of time that people are delayed in terms of from when they file to when they actually get some access to the records. I wondered if you had some comments to share with the committee on that.

Ms Kramer: It can't be as long as we've been waiting now, can it?

Mr Jackson: Well, true enough, but if the legislation doesn't shorten the time frame or increase the access, then why are we really doing it? I mean that as a rhetorical question. I'm glad we're doing it.

Ms Kramer: Certainly we don't want to create another mechanism for creating a backlog such as the ADR has become in just seven years. Certainly we don't want to see that sort of thing happen. In a few minutes Mr Macdonald will be in and Mrs Rice will be giving you some figures in terms of how many actual applications for these certificates we can expect here in Ontario. Projection, it's hard to say. In some countries, less than 10% of adoptees would go and request this kind of information; in others, it's as high as 25%. You have to remember that Ontario has done more adoptions than any other place in North America. They've done the majority of them between 1968 and 1978. Those are the people who are now starting to reach majority, and they are not going to sit and wait.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Thanks for coming and presenting. Certainly the letter from the Information and Privacy Commissioner is interesting, and I'm glad we have it and that we got it so quickly. I think the important piece of that letter, though, is that the commissioner says the Child and Family Services Act adoption records fall outside the scope of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, so it's not within his scope.

Ms Kramer: That's what I've always understood.

Mr Martin: However, he does lay out some concerns that he has, as he says, because he has the mandate to offer comments on privacy implications of proposed legislative schemes. I've read through them -- I had them over the weekend -- and certainly there's nothing in here that we haven't already discussed and that you haven't already discussed ad nauseam for the last however many months and years in putting together the package that we have before us today.

I know that you and others from the associations that have come before us and the individuals have participated in the development of this bill and feel comfortable that we have here something that will take us a distance. In some people's minds it's not the whole 100 yards, but it's certainly significant and gets us to a place where you feel there is some justice being done here.

There's one piece that he does lay out in his comments, though, that I'd like to have some comment from you on. It talks about balancing the right of --

The Chair: What page?

Mr Martin: I'm sorry, the bottom of page 2. He talks here about this balancing act that needs to take place that certainly others have raised, and he says that in this bill "there would be a positive onus on" -- birth parents -- "to protect their privacy. You may wish to consider whether the basis of the register should be reversed -- that is, the presumption should be that birth parents do not wish to be contacted unless a birth parent expresses a contrary intention. In this manner, those not wanting any contact, or those unaware of the need to register, will not be required to take proactive steps to protect their privacy." It seems to me that what he's saying here is just, "Don't do anything."


Ms Kramer: If we look at what could happen if we took that approach to it, we would have a disclosure registry, which is what we have in Ontario, and it's not working, number 1.

Number 2, I think we need to distinguish -- and I think there are a lot of mistakes made around this or a lot of misunderstanding around the fact that we've never really distinguished what the difference is between privacy and confidentiality or privacy and anonymity.

Certainly birth parents need to have privacy from the community. To not be put under a microscope in their communities is one thing. I do believe that's what the law implied when it was originally set forth and adoptions were taking place where birth names were appearing on adoption orders for 60 or 70 years, and even prior to that before we had any kind of sealed records. I think we need to make a real distinction between the difference between a birth mother's right to privacy and confidentiality within the community and at large versus does she have a right to anonymity from a person she gave up for adoption.

I would argue no. In the latter instance, I would say no. The right to anonymity doesn't exist. It may be a need, but needs and rights aren't the same thing.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee.


The Chair: If I could then call on Mr David Stubbs. Mr Stubbs, welcome to the committee. We in fact will have just about the required time, so thank you for your patience and please go ahead.

Mr David Stubbs: I'm here as a united adoptee. My name is Dave Stubbs. That's my legal name. Until I was 15, my name was Dave Hopkins. In the 1960s I was adopted, and I'm still adopted. For the rest of my life I'll always be an adopted person, and I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that last year I applied for my birth certificate, and believe it or not, what I received was a true certified copy of my alleged birth registration from the registrar general of this province, and I've supplied you with a copy of that. This document certifies that I was born to my adoptive parents.

The information on this document is false. Not only have the particulars of my birth been falsified and the information not complete, but this falsification has been sanctioned by the government. It has taken me over 30 years to find my birth family, and I've had a relationship with my mother, grandparents, siblings etc ever since. The unfortunate part of this story is that my father passed away seven years before I had a chance to meet him.

I don't claim to know a lot about politics or laws. I'm here because it offends me as a citizen, a taxpayer, a native-born Ontarian and a human being that this government has fabricated my true identity and won't release to me my own real statement of live birth.

I am discriminated against on the basis of the fact that I'm an adopted person. My parents, Mr and Mrs Stubbs, are now deceased. They were good, hardworking, tax-paying people, and they were, as far as I'm concerned, my real parents. They were also very honest people. My father and mother would never have condoned the lies contained on this piece of paper. They taught me as a child it was wrong to lie and, to the best of my knowledge, never lied to me about anything, including my adoption.

I'm sure when they adopted me they were asked to sign many pieces of paper and that they knew nothing about this falsification. I didn't know about it myself until a few months ago, and I must say I wasn't very happy about it. I want you to understand completely that being adopted is not the problem; being lied to is. Being lied to by the government is unbelievable.

The reason I'm here today is to be sure that no one else has to go through the trouble and pain that I had to go through to find out the truth about myself. You have the opportunity here to change things for the better for thousands of people, not just those who are adopted but for their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles in both the birth and adopting families.

It's the 1990s, and this was the Year of the Family. I'm here today to ask you, as you've been asked for 20 years now, to give us equality, recognize our basic human right to have access to our own birth certificates, unamended, no strings attached.

One thing I'd like to point out on that birth certificate that I handed everybody, if you look at the bottom, it says, on the right-hand side, "I am satisfied as to the correctness and sufficiency of this statement and register the birth by signing the statement...." That's the assistant deputy general. Mrs Stubbs signed, "I certify that the above stated particulars are true, to the best of my knowledge and belief...."

When you're sitting there tonight in the House till 12 o'clock, I want you to think about this and how silly this is. This means that this woman had a child, five foot nine, 140 pounds. If you can figure out how that was done, according to this document, I'd like to talk to you after.

I support this bill wholly. I can see the women laughing because they probably know what the pain is already. If there are any questions, like I say, I don't know a lot about laws and that type of thing; it's just an experience that I've gone through. I know I have a brother who's very happy to see me and a mother who's very happy to see me.

The Chair: Thank you for coming before the committee with that particular presentation and as well with the copy of the birth certificate, because I think that does underline clearly a problem. It was clear, but if there are any specific questions? Mr Hope.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): Thank you very much, David, because you bring a very personal perspective to this piece of legislation. Just in your opinion, because there are others who say the legislation should go further and there are others who say that there should be stronger amendments put forward to this legislation, in your humble opinion, your views, because you indicated it's been a number of years and all that you're asking for is equality, and I know you and we have had communication over the past few years, I'm just wondering how you could express to this committee member and to both the opposition and to the government side the importance of this legislation passing.

Mr Stubbs: I think one of the problems -- and I watched a TV show a couple of weeks ago and someone put it, to me, right on the button -- is the fact that when an adoptee goes looking for his birth mother, father, whatever, he has a load on him. The first load is, how are my adopting parents going to accept this? Is it going to break their hearts? Am I going to hurt them? I don't want to do that. That's the first thing he worries about. The second thing he worries about is, am I going to be an intrusion on my birth mother? So he has that also, or she has that also loaded on her back.

With all these things that have been loaded on their backs, they worry about everybody else, but it's time we started to worry about us. What are our rights? What are our feelings? Not that we're saying that we shouldn't have feelings for anyone else, but we always say: "What about the birth mother? What about the adoptive parents? What about this? What about this?" What's the sense in having legislation unless it's about us? For once let us have. We're not saying that when we get this thing we're all going to go out like a bunch of banshees and knock on doors and say, "Ma, I'm here after 150 years." It's not going to happen that way. We're civilized people. We just don't do those things. I don't know if you understand that, but we don't do those things.

What it's going to do is give us an identity. People are worried that once you have this birth certificate you're going to be able to find your parents. My mother remarried. The name on that doesn't do me any good. It's a start, but it doesn't do me any good. But I just think that we as adoptees have got to stand up and say: "What about us? Everyone else is worried about everybody else, but what about us?" The only way we can do this is to come to people like yourselves and express ourselves, because I know the majority of people I've talked to who are adoptees, and I know they won't like this, are very passive people. If you tell them, "It's not going to happen; we're not going to give this to you," they'll say, "Well, what am I supposed to do?"

It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. There are a few of us -- and some of you people know that I'm pretty kick-rear-end-minded, that I'm not going to let it sit. I don't represent anybody except Dave Stubbs. I've met everybody. I've nothing to gain by this, but I know what I went through.

Mr Hope: So I guess, David, a perfect Christmas gift to a lot of people out in the community would be the passing of this legislation before the House rises.

Mr Stubbs: If you people want to be Santa Claus, you've got it in your hands to make an awful lot of people happy, and I wish that you would. I'd take it back to your caucuses, because one of the problems that I've seen talking to people on this issue is they're taking it personally. "I know of an experience. That's why I'm not going to get involved with it. I know about this." We're not looking at one or two that you have had yourself or anybody else. Look at the full picture.

The Chair: Both Mrs O'Neill and Ms Gigantes would like to ask a question. I think we can work that in if people are short and succinct.

Mr Stubbs: I'll be short.

Mrs O'Neill: David, you have made a very powerful statement.

Mr Stubbs: Thank you.

Mrs O'Neill: You haven't said much about the non-contact veto or register, or whatever we want to call it. I wonder if you would say a little bit about that. You've had reunification, so it doesn't really affect you, but I know you've talked to a lot of people. I think the discussion is hovering around whether the veto should be able to be renewed more than once and also whether the veto should be accompanied by medical history, if it is placed. Could you say a little bit about that from your experience with adoptees?


Mr Stubbs: Well, the ones that I've talked to, it's unfortunate, and I hate to say this, but a lot of adoptees, when they say they're looking for people, use the medical excuse. "I think I'm going to die because I have a disease. I think this is what's happening to me. I'm not sure, but I think that this is what's happening to me." I think that as far as the medical thing goes, if there was something serious and these files are updated, the birth parent phones in and says, "I have this and you should get this to the adoptee," I have no problem with that.

As far as the veto goes, if they feel that they do not want to be contacted and it's going to cause them hardship, then I see no problem with it, but I would like to see the actual reason why. Now, a lot of people are saying that they won't put down a reason. It could just be "No." If they know that they're not going to be contacted, then what's the problem if it's not going to happen?

You'll find, and I really believe this and I think speakers behind me will tell you, that this non-contact veto is not going to be an issue. There will not be that many mothers, fathers, whatever, that will veto it. We're not talking 50%. We're not talking 40%. We're not talking 20%, and I think speakers behind me will verify that. It's a very small point to this. They have the right, fine and dandy, but we're making a big issue of this and I just don't think it needs to be there.

Again, I don't know much about laws and that, but those are my thoughts on it.

Ms Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre): Thank you, Mr Stubbs. Ms Kramer referred earlier to the previous discussion that had gone on around reform, the provision of information to adopted people, and I don't think that it's just bureaucrats who've had troubles around this one. I watched that debate earlier and there were a lot of politicians who had a lot of problems around it.

In your experience in working with people -- I would have liked to have asked Miss Kramer too -- what are you finding in terms of the number of birth parents who will say, "No, I don't want to have contact"?

Mr Stubbs: First of all, I don't work with people. I'm just myself as an individual.

Ms Gigantes: I'm sorry.

Mr Stubbs: There are some people who do. They have nowhere else to go because nothing's really publicized so that they know where to go, so they'll come to me and say: "Well, you found somebody." I have found that for most birth parents, if contacted by the adoptee by phone, by letter, whatever, there's no problem. It's when a third party interjects and sends a letter on. "How dare you bring up my past? I don't even know you." That's when you have a little bit of a problem. It's like prying into your own private affairs and that's when the problem arises.

Ms Gigantes: That would certainly be the case in -- well, maybe not. In fact what you're suggesting to us is that there would probably be fewer requests for searches if adoptees had information from their birth certificate and were able to pursue their own search.

Mr Stubbs: Yes, I would think that they would. I don't know how many. The biggest problem you find with them is, how do they go about doing it? There's nothing that really tells them, outside of people like Parent Finders and what have you, or any association like that, that shows them how to go about doing it. They could save this government thousands of dollars, because these people can go out and do it themselves without having you have all these bureaucrats going around trying to do it.

The other problem that you find with this --

Ms Gigantes: But that essentially is an informal method, which doesn't jibe in a sense with the notion of a veto registry.

Mr Stubbs: Again, I say I don't know how many people would actually go ahead and do it. If the mother moves, the mother remarries, the birth certificate does nothing except give you your birth name.

Ms Gigantes: And a place.

Mr Stubbs: And a place, and a weight and a height, that type of thing. One of the problems I had, on a personal thing, was that the original letter that was going out to my brother was, "We have some information about your birth family, and we'd like to discuss it with you." I had them change it because my concern with that was, what if he, somehow through his life, had a real hate for his mother? It didn't say brother; it said birth family, and the minute he says, "I don't want any contact right now," the search is finished. It's done. It's over.

So I had them send out a letter. It said, "I have some information concerning a birth brother," figuring if he hates me, he's going to say no, but if he doesn't, we're going to get together. Little did I know, nor did anyone tell me, he never knew he had a brother. This caused a whole other circumstance, and it took a while for us to get together, but we're just like two pains in the rear end right now.

Mr Jackson: Real brothers.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Stubbs, very much for coming before the committee.

Mr Stubbs: I thank you all very much. Please go back to your caucuses and push this thing through. It means so much to so many people.


The Chair: If I could then call the representatives from the Adoption Council of Ontario. We want to welcome you all to the committee. Once you've had a chance to get some good Queen's Park water, if you would just introduce yourselves for Hansard and the members of the committee and then please go ahead with your presentation.

Mrs Pat Fenton: Thank you, Mr Chairman. We are here to represent the Adoption Council of Ontario. My name is Pat Fenton. My colleagues will introduce themselves as we go.

The Adoption Council of Ontario is a volunteer organization that provides information, support and advocacy for all parties in the adoption process. Since 1987, ACO, as we're often referred to, has established a province-wide membership of over 300. This includes adopted persons, birth parents, adoptive parents, professionals, groups and agencies.

Like our membership and our board, our panel of three today represents the adoption circle; adoptive parent, which I am, birth parent and adopted person.

Through our telephone support line, we have handled over 2,000 calls over the past year from many people within the adoption community. Many of these calls have been from adopted persons and birth relatives who are interested in search and reunion.

I would like to make it very clear that we as an organization support Bill 158 as a first step towards a healthier, more human and humane adoption system for the province of Ontario. We feel that persons who have been adopted have the right to know who they are, to know their family name, not be just a number, and to know who their parents are. We've heard from previous speakers how important this knowledge is to be able to establish a sense of identity, wholeness, freedom and connectedness. We want to base the system on truth, as truth is generally easier to cope with than lies, fantasies and secrets.

As an adoptive parent, although I don't know really what it's like to be adopted, I can't speak for an adoptee, what I do know is that my child, whom I adopted, has from a very early age been very interested to know about her birth family. According to her adoption order, she is a number. No amount of my loving and caring as an adoptive parent can fill the void left by having no name, not knowing her birth parents, and no amount of my loving and caring could give her that sense of wholeness that you've heard from other adoptees.

Birth parents do have a right to privacy. Yes, we support that, the right to refuse to be contacted. For this reason, we support the provision of the no-contact registry. Since circumstances and attitudes can and often do change, the ability to change one's mind about the request for no contact is something that we support.

We would suggest, if a birth parent does register to be not contacted, that she or he be asked to state a reason and that there be an opportunity for an update of medical and social information.

I guess it's the imposition of the fine of $5,000 to the adoptee upon violation that is the most controversial part of this bill. We've heard it called overkill. Some feel it's insulting to their sense of humanity and human relationships. Others see it as unnecessary, and given the very low likelihood of violation, as you've heard referred to in the research that was done in the New South Wales, Australia, situation, it probably would be unnecessary. Still others, however, feel that it is important to have some teeth in this bill and, by having this violation provision, that does that.

In spite of this range of opinions, I want it to be clear that there's common agreement among our membership that this bill should be passed and not be held up because of bickering over the penalties and violation.

At this point, Judith Patterson will speak to the birth parent aspect.


Mrs Judy Patterson: My name is Judy Patterson, and I am a reunited birth mother. I'm delighted to endorse this proposed legislation. First, I agree with the provision that adoptees be entitled to receive a copy of their original birth registration.

One of the few things, if not the only thing, a birth parent can give a child is a name, and many of us ponder for months over that gift. Then, almost always, and understandably, that name is changed by the baby's adoptive parents. It is important for the adoptees to have their original names.

My birth daughter became a doctor, a specialist, and she went to the hospital where she was born and she went into the room where the medical records are archived and she just stood there, surrounded by names. She knew she was in there somewhere under her original name and she just needed to be there.

Second, with respect to the no-contact clause, I am pleased that it is there for the birth parents who do not wish contact. Some birth mothers are still frightened, embarrassed and ashamed, still remembering the green mark from the phoney wedding bands they wore and still carrying the stigma of a pregnancy termed "illegitimate." For these and other reasons, birth mothers may sign the notice.

This would be an ideal time for obtaining updated medical information and a social history. When I met my adult daughter, the first thing she asked me was, "What nationality am I?" She didn't look like anyone in her adoptive family and she was consumed with a need to know who she was and what she was so she could place herself in the world picture. Until she gave birth to her own son, she had never seen anyone who looked like her. This is the kind of thing that could be included in the social history.

Third, I feel that the likelihood of an adoptee breaking the law by pursuing a reluctant birth parent is very low. The research figures from New South Wales back this up. There are laws in place already to deal with people who harass others, and I feel that there's no need for further sanctions. I feel that giving these adoptees some basic information, medical and social, while not fulfilling their real wishes, will go a long way towards easing their feelings.

Fourth, the signing of this no-contact registry by the birth parent is tantamount to a second rejection of those never-forgotten sons and daughters and, on reflection and as society becomes less secretive about adoption, these birth parents may change their minds. For this reason, they need an opportunity to reopen the door by removing their names from this list. I am glad the provision is there.

Last, I like the fact that counselling is available but not mandatory. Some people will never want counselling. By eliminating the people who don't want or need counselling, there will be more opportunity for those who do want it. People may want to avail themselves of this option at very different times along this emotional journey.

A bill this long coming and so eagerly awaited needs a lot of publicity so that people will know its provisions and their rights and will have adequate knowledge to make their choices. I applaud this bill and look forward to being in the House when it is read, no matter what the hour.

Mrs Pat Richardson: My name is Pat Richardson. I am the coordinator of the Adoption Council of Ontario. I'm a former co-chair and I'm a director of the Canadian Adoption Reunion Register, national office.

I quite agree with everything my colleagues and friends have said in this room. We've all, most of us, been around a lot of years and we have a lot of expertise in these matters. I'm going to speak off the cuff because I want to talk to you about the people whom I don't hear talked about very much right now, and those are my children and the children of all my adopted friends.

I think that I grew up with one hand behind my back. As you can tell, I am not a child. I'm 59 years old, and I've raised three natural children. Those three natural children are now adults and they're out on their own. They're all about to get married and they all will have children, and they need to know what their biological background is.

I think that we have to pay attention to these things. It's certainly been a heartbreak for me when raising them. I would want to be able to tell our doctor something about my medical history to help them, and I could not do that.

I found my natural family in my early to middle 40s. I waited until my adoptive parents had died, as many of us do. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. I was very sensitive about them. They didn't tell me I was adopted until I was 12, so I really gave them a run for their money in my teen years, so much so that I ended up an alcoholic. I've recovered from that and it will be 30 years tomorrow, actually. I looked for alcoholism in my birth family. I found none, so I think it was the pain I went through as a teenager that caused this problem for me and deprived me of many things.

I was very tormented and very unhappy and I just hope that you'll feel in your hearts to pass this law. It's one small step towards our freedom.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Again, we'll begin questions. Mr Jackson, do you have any?

Mr Jackson: Well, what's to say? It was a very cogent, clear presentation from all three aspects of adoption. I guess I'll ask the same question I asked earlier about the amendments, if you've seen them and if you're comfortable with them. I know you've had an opportunity to look at the legislation. It's very clear, it's well-written. You're not having any difficulty with any of the amendments and that's a comfort?

Mrs Richardson: It's housekeeping.

Mrs Fenton: Yes, the mechanics of how this will happen. We're looking forward to it happening.

Mr Jackson: Good. I can only agree with you.

Mrs Fenton: If I could just say that the Adoption Council of Ontario is certainly very willing to help to publicize this legislation, should it pass, and the no-contact registry, through our newsletter, through our telephone support line and through our information sessions that we hold. We are planning as of January to begin the first phase of an Adoption Resource Centre and that could be a vehicle whereby information could be disseminated as well.

Another part I wanted to mention was the fact that we as a council have been working already with the ministry and the children's aid and Parent Finders to help to develop and enhance the peer support network as it relates to search and support services around the province. We look forward to continuing this and we see this as a very important companion piece to this legislation passing.

Ms Gigantes: Thank you for coming before us. I'd love to ask Ms Richardson, if I could, you mentioned that you had been associated with, in fact were a founder of, the registry.

Mrs Richardson: Parent Finders and the Canadian Adoption Reunion Register.

Ms Gigantes: Right. Do you have a sense of how many natural parents are likely to say no to contact?

Mrs Richardson: I've been involved with the adoption movement in this area since 1976 and I think I've had one birth parent say no.

Ms Gigantes: So very few, in other words.

Mrs Richardson: Yes, I have not had a reunion that -- and I think my colleagues in this room would say the same thing.

Ms Gigantes: Did you have a chance to look at the -- now which one is this? We were given a summary of information from New South Wales. There was a study which had occurred in the early 1990s and there seemed to be a fairly high number of vetoes. Maybe I'm reading this information wrong.

The Chair: Is that the one from today?

Ms Gigantes: It's numbered page 11, but it's the third page in the memo we received December 5. Is that today? I've lost track of time.

The Chair: Yes.

Mrs Fenton: We don't have a copy of what you're referring to.

Ms Gigantes: There's a column, "Statistics -- Adoption Information Act 1990," which is the base for their study. "Applications for original or amended birth certificates from 2 April 1991 to 30 June 1992," and there are over 7,000 applications for the birth certificates. "Contact veto registrations" -- now maybe I'm reading this

wrong -- "3,432." But under that, it says "Birth certificates issued subject to a contact veto" only "225." I don't know how to read that information. If I just read the first two items, it would suggest that almost half were registering for a veto.


The Chair: While you're looking at that, I would just note that we got some information on New South Wales and New Zealand which our researcher's put together. Alison Drummond is the researcher with us. Alison, is there anything that you wanted to add just while the witnesses are looking for the statistics?

Ms Alison Drummond: I have to apologize. I got this information in a fax from Australia and the provenance wasn't clear entirely. It was clearly some kind of summary report put out by the law reform commission, but I don't have an exact reference for it.

The way I read that number -- there are plenty of people in the room who know more about this than I do -- is that that 225 number seemed to me to be the overlap of people who had applied for their original birth certificates; that of the people who had applied, 225 of them were given birth certificates with contact vetoes on them. That's how I read the number.

Ms Gigantes: So you would read 225 out of 7,358?

Ms Drummond: Yes.

Ms Gigantes: Have you any notion what the 3,432 is?

Ms Drummond: I think those were people who had asked for a contact veto to be put on the file, but the 225 are the overlap of the people who had gotten birth certificates with a contact veto on them. That was how I read it.

Ms Gigantes: If it's possible to find out a little bit more about those figures, I think it'd probably be of interest to us. Your experience has not been that close to half of people don't want contact.

Mrs Richardson: Not at all, ever.

Ms Gigantes: Do you think that there's anything in the suggestion that it's easier if the contact is by the adoptee rather than third party, that it's easier for --

Mrs Richardson: My view is that it's easier for the adoptee to do their own search. It's much better. It's healthier.

Ms Gigantes: It's certainly cheaper.

Mrs Richardson: Cheaper, but it's healthier. They learn of it slowly at their own pace, what they need to know about their own background. That's what I advocate. I will help somebody search, but I won't do it for them. Adoptees can do their own contacts, but if they don't want to, then a third person's a good idea. I think the adoptee, as an adoptee, as an adult person -- I think that I can handle my affairs in life. We're all adults here and we can handle our own affairs in life. You're allowed to; why can't I?

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee this afternoon. We appreciate it very much.

If I could then call on our next presenters, from Parent Finders Inc.

Mrs O'Neill: As the presenters are coming forward, I wonder if we could ask Ms Drummond to try to clarify the information from New South Wales and New Zealand, because it seems to be really contradictory in the things that were given out.

Data on breaches of contact vetoes is the page I'm reading from -- it's page 2 of December 2 -- and it states something that is quite worrisome if it's true. It's only from one author that's quoted, "A survey of several adoption support group members have shown that, from 76 people receiving a veto on accessing information, 75 embarked on a search." If that's the case -- and I'm reading only from what I got from the library -- this is certainly not what we've been hearing from any of the presenters or from any other information I've had to this point.

I don't know why this person was picked as somebody who was quoted. It goes on even further to explain that 72 were able to trace their parents successfully.

The Chair: Perhaps, if I could, just because I'm conscious of the time for the presenters today, there may be a number of questions and, if I might ask, together with the researcher, if some of those could be followed up. Those that still seem problematic we could then bring back to the table tomorrow and getting into them as we start off.

Mrs O'Neill: If Ms Drummond what she can take from this, and if it means some phone calls, I think they should be made.

The Chair: We'll follow up on that, Mrs O'Neill.

Mrs O'Neill: Thanks.


The Chair: Welcome to you both to the committee. Please introduce yourselves and then go ahead with your presentation.

Mrs Judy Rice: I'd like to first off say thank you for allowing us to make a presentation to this standing committee. My name is Judy Rice and I'm a birth mother and president of Parent Finders Inc. Here with me is Brian Macdonald, a reunited adoptee and the vice-president of our organization.

Parent Finders is a volunteer self-help group committed to all members of the adoption triad. The Toronto branch was founded in 1976. PFI represents some 15,000 persons whose lives are directly affected by adoption. As Ontario's largest search-and-support group, we are dedicated to furthering the interests of adopted persons and their family.

We are a non-profit corporation entirely driven by volunteers whose mission is to reduce the isolation that members of the adoption triangle feel within the community and their families by encouraging support networks and by participating in the search for biological families. As a service, we share with and provide to other organizations resources and consultation with regard to the search process.

You have before you copies of the brief that we submitted over 18 months ago to the Honourable Tony Silipo following the last round of consultations with the ministry. Bill 158 concurs for the most part with our recommendations, so we submit it again to you, to this committee, both as a detailed statement of our position and as our endorsement of the bill as it stands. Rather than give you a synopsis of our views, we feel it would be more useful to you to present to you the probable effect and workability of these proposals.

To begin with, Bill 158 would grant adult adoptees access to their original statements of live birth. We maintain that such access is a right, but it is also an empowering measure. In practical terms, it would allow adopted persons to search for and contact birth relatives more readily than they are able to do now. It will enable adoptees to act in their own best interests in this crucial area of their personal lives without being dependent on government or social agencies.

We do not foresee new or special problems arising from this access. It will simply expedite search activities that adopted persons have been undertaking for many, many years. However, we do anticipate an increased workload for support groups such as ours, and for this reason, over the past year we have been working very closely in cooperation with the MCSS on a program to improve communication between government and volunteer groups.

This program includes an advertising and public awareness campaign around the rights and responsibilities of those involved in adoption disclosure. These efforts will consolidate existing services and make them more visible, so that those who access their birth information will have an efficient support network available should they require help with search and/or contact. We believe that the contact notice system will work as intended, although we contend that the punitive fine, which some may see as an essential safeguard, will prove unnecessary over time.

Statistics from the New South Wales experience give some idea of how the contact system might work. In its first year and a half of operation, that registry received vetoes from about 1% of the total birth population. Of these vetoes, only 7% came into force by matching with an adoptee's request for his or her birth record. Of this number, no violations were reported.

In Ontario, we can expect the total possible population of 400,000 birth parents to lodge 4,000 notices and of these, about 300 might match with a request for an original birth record. A liberal estimate is that 5% of vetoes could be breached; it means that there would be approximately 15 violations. Projections for the numbers of requests for birth registrations by adopted persons vary considerably. In the United Kingdom, less than 10% of adult adoptees seek the information, while in New Zealand, some 25% of those eligible apply. The Ontario government might expect as many as 30,000 requests from adoptees.

Several members of this committee have commented that this bill, if enacted, could provoke court action. We would like you to consider that court action is almost inevitable if this does not pass into law. During the technical briefing, Ms O'Brien told you that the ADR has a six-year waiting list for service. You should note that this is not a projection, but simply a statement of the length of time those already registered have been waiting and is incidentally the length of time this service has been in existence. Even with booster funding, the ADR has never completed 1,000 searches in any year. Over 10,000-plus persons are presently wait-listed. This translates into a 10-year-plus waiting list for those who have applied since 1988. By any measure this is unreasonable and we believe that if this bill fails to pass, adoptive persons will have no choice but to petition for writs of mandamus or other remedy through the courts to force the government to provide them with legislative services in a timely fashion. This is especially likely in the case of those adopted persons who are identified by number rather than birth name prior to adoption. These people do not have sufficient information available to them to conduct an independent search and so are wholly dependent upon the ministry if they wish contact with a birth relative.


It is imperative to realize that more people were placed for adoption in Ontario between 1968 and 1978 than ever before or since in North America. These adoptees are now reaching majority and we are convinced that they will not wait patiently on a 10-year list for service. Their choice will be court.

In our view, Bill 158 is practical, workable and acceptable to the clear majority in the adoption community. It is the recognition in law of the right of self-determination for adopted persons, which is long overdue. We trust that this committee will recommend immediate passage to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

The Chair: Thank you. Did you wish to --

Mrs Rice: Questions.

The Chair: Then we'll move on to any questions.

Ms Gigantes: I'd like to ask, how were the New South Wales figures read? You've obviously looked at them. You've made sense of them, which we can't seem to make at the moment.

Mr Brian Macdonald: Interpreting these statistics is a bit tricky because they have a two-way access. So the population of people lodging applications for vetoes is doubled. They have 80,000 registrations of adoption, so they would have a birth parent population of 160,000 as the greatest pool of birth parents who would be able to lodge a veto. Half of the 3,400 number would be birth parent vetoes. So you would have 160,000 people lodging 1,500 vetoes.

Ms Gigantes: Now, what do you read that contact veto registration as?

Mr Macdonald: Fifteen hundred.

Ms Gigantes: Fifteen hundred. Why would you split it down the middle?

Mr Macdonald: Well, they say on the next page --

Ms Gigantes: Which we don't have.

Mr Macdonald: You don't have the same thing. It was split pretty evenly, birth parents and adoptees launching vetoes.

Ms Gigantes: All right.

Mr Macdonald: Ms Drummond's interpretation of the 225 figure is correct, that those are the number of vetoes that match --

Ms Gigantes: The overlap, yes.

Mr Macdonald: -- with those requests for information.

Ms Gigantes: So you would read 3,432 as being veto registrations out of a total potential identifiable population of 160,000.

Mr Macdonald: A hundred and sixty thousand birth parents. You would also add in the adoptees for the total population.

Ms Gigantes: That's right.

Mr Macdonald: Now, one thing that we weren't able to figure out here was how many step-parent adoptions there were. It's difficult to tell. These are the highest possible numbers, and in our Ontario figures we've given the highest numbers as well.

Ms Gigantes: Do we have information about the number of adoptions which are step-parent adoptions in Ontario?

Mr Macdonald: Two hundred thousand adoptions overall; 120,000 are to strangers. So about a third are step-parent adoptions.

Ms Gigantes: I see.

Mr Macdonald: And those people would not be requiring information on birth relatives; in rare cases, but we thought it would be negligible.

Ms Gigantes: Yes, there might be some cases, I can see. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I think for many of us we are learning a great deal as we go along and we thank you for the information. Is there any other question? I think not. Thank you both again for coming before the committee today.


The Chair: If I could then call on the representative from Adoption Roots and Rights. Welcome to the committee. Again, if you would just introduce yourself for Hansard and for the members of the committee.

Ms Wendie Redmond: Yes. Mr Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Wendie Redmond. I was born Wendie Stipe on April 7, 1941, in Hamilton, Ontario, and was subsequently adopted. I accomplished my own search for both birth parents in 1977 and maintained an ongoing relationship with each of them until their deaths, my birth mother's in 1989 and my birth father's just this past September.

My involvement in the adoption movement began in 1976, when I started the Hamilton chapter of Parent Finders. I was on the founding board of directors of Parent Finders Inc and am a past board member of the American Adoption Congress and the Adoption Council of Ontario.

I am here today to present to you on behalf of Adoption Roots and Rights, a self-help search and support group which is based in the London area of southwestern Ontario. Our membership includes adoptees, birth parents and siblings of adoptees, as well as adoptive parents. I am a cofounder and one of the coordinators of the group.

Our organization fully endorses Bill 158 as a piece of legislation that is long overdue in addressing the rights of adult adoptees to obtain their own birth information. Adoptees were non-participants in the adoption process. Any action or decision-making which led to their eventual placement was done by others who were at the very least cognitive of the situation. Paramount to the process was the best interests of the child. Can continued lifelong secrecy and deception be said to be in the best interests of the adopted adult, who, after all, was and remains the primary client? I think not. Nor have scholarly investigations such as the Garber report in 1985 shown this to be so.

In the years that I have been a part of the adoption community, I have seen bureaucracy and policy as well as legislation change in small increments. I have also seen self-help groups proliferate and continue the work begun in 1974, successfully -- one might add more successfully than the government -- assisting individuals in doing their own searches and reunions, without government intervention. I have learned, as have countless numbers of us in the adoption reform movement, the value of gaining control over this aspect of our lives.

Present Ontario legislation denies adult adoptees equal rights with other non-adopted citizens. Adopted persons in this province have for too long been expected to accept unquestioningly the decisions made for them by others during their infancy. No other segment of the population is prevented from knowing the truth of its identity.

Unfortunately, there is among us a new generation of adoptee, a category even more disadvantaged by having been assigned a number instead of a surname at birth. These numbered adoptees have no birth surname on which to base a search. They must seek the nameless, faceless persons who gave them life based on their non-identifying background information alone. Some might deem this a hopeless task. It is, however, the only alternative for those seeking self-determination and who are destined to wait interminably on a government list currently backlogged by six years. I ask you to remember in particular these numbered adoptees when you are considering Bill 158.

The dictionary defines "adopt" as "to take into one's family through legal means and raise as one's own child." The Latin route, adoptare, means to choose for oneself. I define adoption as an institution invented by society to care for children in their infancy who for a variety of reasons cannot be cared for within their families of origin.

Adoption was not invented to relieve birth parents of parental responsibility; it was not invented to provide children to prospective adoptive parents; neither was it invented to provide employment for social workers and others whose livelihood is linked to the adoption process. Without adoptees, there would be no adoption. That fact is central to this issue. The rights of adult adopted persons must be addressed and Bill 158 would do that.


For me, this is the third standing committee on social development to which I have made a presentation in support of adoption disclosure. The first time was in 1978, when Bill 114, An Act to revise the Child Welfare Act, was under consideration. The second time was in 1984, when sections 157 and 158 of the Child and Family Services Act were being scrutinized. Then, as now, we were asking that adopted adults in Ontario be allowed access to their own information. Meaningful change has been a very long time in coming. We urge you to support Bill 158 in the name of all that is fair, equitable and just.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Any questions?

Ms Gigantes: I find this topic just enormously fascinating. Can you tell us something about the process of assigning numbers to infants and was it carried out throughout the province? Was there a period of time when it was in use?

Ms Redmond: It is now. It's got to do with the adoption order. For those of us who were born between the middle 1960s and 1970, we would have had on the adoption order our given names and birth surname, about which Mrs Patterson spoke to so eloquently. That was the only thing our birth mother could give us, the name which was then placed on the adoption order.

Then there was a change and, as I understand it, it was a policy change -- I can be corrected if I'm wrong, which I may well be -- written into the Ontario regulations that were attached to the act, whereby the birth surname would be replaced by the birth registration number. It wasn't universally done. We canvassed agencies way back when in the 1970s when I was first involved with this. We canvassed about half the agencies and we asked them, did they use the number. Some of the agencies told us that they always used it, some told us they weren't using it. Some told us it was up to the adoptive parents, they were given the option -- would it be a name or a number? Some told us that they -- Windsor sticks out in my mind. One of the agencies in Windsor told us they used it if the name was an uncommon one; if it was common, they then just put it on the order. It would depend on the jurisdiction and the policy of each of the agencies. My understanding is there was no regimentation in those years.

Now those people are starting to come forward to us and they're wanting us to help them. They are in the position of having virtually nothing but a background sheet, and those are the people Parent Finders has spoken to you about, who will end up testing the law. I believe that will happen without Bill 158, because these people are a new generation and they are not going to accept the fact that they are numbered.

Ms Gigantes: Do you know how many are numbered?

Ms Redmond: I would say that the ministry people would probably be able to crunch those numbers for you; I'm sorry, I can't.

The Chair: Would you please identify yourself for Hansard?

Miss Patricia O'Brien: I'm Pat O'Brien with the adoption disclosure register. I don't know as we would have an exact number of how many were using the first initial of the surname and the birth registration number in place of the full surname but, as Wendie said, it did come in about the mid-1960s and it was an optional thing, agencies could use it. It's in the rules of court, I believe, not in the Child and Family Services Act.

Ms Gigantes: The rules of court?

Miss O'Brien: For the legal papers, how they do the --

Ms Gigantes: There was a change in the court process?

Miss O'Brien: No, it was optional and it is still optional that people, when they are completing the final papers for an adoption, could either use the full surname of the child before the adoption or the birth initial and number.

Ms Gigantes: That was not the case up to a certain point in time.

Miss O'Brien: No, it was about the mid-1960s that this came into being.

Ms Gigantes: Is that right? You just said you couldn't give an exact number, but do you have a rough number in your mind?

Miss O'Brien: It would be fairly high, I would think, probably over 50% of the adoptions since that time.

Ms Gigantes: So potentially, 50% of people who applied to get their birth certificate could be told that they have a number.

Miss O'Brien: No. Their original birth certificate would have their original name. It is only the adoption order that does not have the name. The adoptee's original birth certificate would have the full surname as any other original birth registration would have.

Ms Gigantes: Thank you. Okay.

The Chair: Just to be clear, if I may, did that end at some point in the 1970s, do I understand?

Miss O'Brien: No, I believe it is still an option, but I don't think it is being used as frequently. I think it is still an option when they're doing the final papers record.

Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): Can that number be used to find the birth certificate? There must be a link somewhere between the number and the name.

Miss O'Brien: Yes, it is the registrar general's registration number.

Ms Carter: Okay, so they could look it up and find the name immediately.

Miss O'Brien: Oh, yes. There would not be a difficulty in locating it, no.

The Chair: If I could next call on Valerie Hamilton.

Ms Gigantes: It's a little bit early. Perhaps we should leave open the possibility that --

The Chair: Perhaps what I'll do then, if our next witness is here -- and then we can come back.


The Chair: Is Jan Sullivan here? I'll call again for Miss Hamilton after.

Ms Sullivan, thank you very much for coming before the committee today.

Mrs Jan Sullivan: I would've given anything to be here so I'm very happy that I made it. I am a birth grandmother. My first granddaughter was born when my daughter was 16. She was named Tanya Louise Sullivan but, under the existing law, as it stands, because she was born in 1973, when she does apply she will be told her name was Tanya Louise S and the number.

There are an awful lot of S's in Canada. It's a bit of a handicap, just a touch, and it's rather upsetting from her point of view. It's horrible to think you've just got a number. People in jail have a number. You have a social insurance number, this number and that number, but when the number replaces your name, I think it's a little tragic.

It's rather hard for a child to give up a child. In my instance, my child was only 16 and she realized that it was in the best interests of the baby. This was not a decision taken lightly. She carried that child for nine months under her heart and as part of our family. It was a very well-thought-out decision and we honestly believed at that time that the best thing in the world for Tanya was to find two parents who had been waiting for a long time. In Tanya's instance, she went to parents that we were told were very similar to us. They already had a four-year-old boy who evidently idolized his little sister and they'd been on the waiting list for two years for a little girl.

We know at the time we did the right thing, and we had no intention of stirring up anybody's family life by insisting that somebody needs to find another family. That isn't what Tanya needs. She needs to take a look at her birth mother and at me and her cousins and aunts and uncles and say, "Gee, I look like that person," or "I look like this person." Most of us look like somebody in our family and it's very interesting, I find even my handwriting is like my mother's. I know I look like my mother and I look like one of my aunts. I took after my Uncle Sid who was an adorable man and I just loved him to bits and everybody would say, "Oh, you're just like your Uncle Sid." But I belonged there. My genes were all part of that family.

Tanya doesn't have that privilege. She's got a family that I know love her dearly. They can't give her the genes, though. They can't give her the looks. One day she's going to need to know about her birth family and when she gets that little form saying, "Well, your last name began with an S and you have a number," it's going to be very disheartening.


What we do definitely need, as Bill 158 is asking for, is please, please, let these people have their statement of live birth. It's theirs. It was given to them the day they were born. They were given a name and the records showed that, in this instance, our little girl was born Tanya Louise Sullivan. It's hers by right and it was taken away from her. She was an infant, so she couldn't speak for herself. Everybody else spoke for her and said: "We're going to change your name. You should be happy about this."

But in that case, as she didn't make this decision, then surely she has the right to say: "I would like to know what it was. After all, I didn't say that you could take this name from me." If you're picked up by the police and they say, "What's your name?" you give them John Smith and that's not really your name, you could get into an awful lot of trouble there. It's not legal, but if the government does it, it's legal. So it's kind of a difference there.

In our instance, also it's very, very important that Tanya maybe can contact us. We do have some very important medical information that she doesn't know. I lost my paternal grandmother and a paternal aunt to a renal kidney problem that is very preventable. It has to be treated very vigorously. As it so happens, Tanya's aunt, my other daughter, also at 13 this appeared in her medical problems and it was treated and her little boy also seemed to have inherited it. It's very important. It can be treated. It has to be treated properly and vigorously, and in our instance we were able to say to the doctor, "This is what was in the family." It was very treatable.

One of the things that is amazing -- I hear again and again -- is that you have to fill out, of course, a medical form at some point or other in your life -- usually lots of them. I just filled one out for life insurance and the questions -- we're talking of a big piece of paper and I was able to answer all of those questions. An adoptee can't. Every question that is on that form with regard to their own personal history is: "I don't know. I was adopted." You simply cannot answer it. "Is there heart disease in your family? Is there diabetes?" "I don't know." As loving as your adoptive parents are, they can't give you their genes. They'd love to. They'd love to hand on everything they have so that it's part of your body, but they can't. It's just simply fact.

Twice in the last month and a half I've spoken to two people who had the most marvellous, loving upbringing in the world, but those two people also had relatives in those families that were doing a family tree. That was when it dawned on them that, up until that point, they were very happy with their lives and, yes, they would like to find their birth parents. But at the point when the family tree came into being, then it became even more important that they had to feel: "Gee, I don't really belong on this family tree. This is my adoptive family. It's not part of my family." So as I say, in six weeks -- twice.

The basic thing too is -- I don't know if any of you are adopted, but if you were figuring at this point you're going to fill in a medical form and somebody asks you a question, how are you going to answer it if you're an adoptee? If you put yourself in that position, the "I don't know" bit gets to you, you know.

One of the important things too is for the adoptee to ask why. "Why was I given away? Was I a plain nuisance? Was I ugly? Was I a difficult baby? Did you really just have to abandon me?"

I want to be able to explain to Tanya that, "When you were given away, darling, it was because we really thought this was the best for you." Her own mother at this point was very young, still had a lot of school ahead of her and it was purely best for this little girl to go to some loving parents.

I need to explain that. I need to explain it was done with tears, buckets of them. It's not easy either for the birth mother or the grandparents, even for other close relatives. It's not easy knowing that this is the best thing in the world to do.

I want to feel that Tanya one day is going to be able to find me and I'm going to pick up the phone and a little voice is going to say, "Is that Jan Sullivan, because I think I'm your granddaughter" I really would like to hear that one of these days and then I'm going to fall apart and phone my daughter.

The closed records were done to stop the birth mother being disturbed. The thing is, though, this child has been disturbed from the day they knew they were adopted and it really is only fair that they still get that point across to the birth mother: "Okay, if you don't want a relationship, it's not a problem. I'll back right off. Here's a picture of your grandchildren." That sometimes knocks down some barriers I've noticed but also, you know: "Okay. I don't want a relationship but could you please fill in this medical form for me? Just where did I come from, what country? What did my grandparents do?" My dad was a bricklayer. It would be nice to sort of feel you are telling this child, "Your granddad was a bricklayer" or an engineer or a policeman or something. It's just that you need all those little things.

Family albums -- one adoptee I spoke to when they were flipping through family albums, afterwards a relative said to her, "Of course, this is probably very boring for you because you're not related." Well, this little adoptee needs to find a family album that she is related to the people in that album.

A niece in my family found us two years ago and you have no idea the excitement we all went through. It was just amazing. This was a child that my brother-in-law fathered when he was 17 and he wanted to marry the little girl's mother, but she changed her mind and said no, she wasn't in love with him after all and she gave her up for adoption, but she found us. My brother-in-law got that little call: "Are you Vincent Sullivan? Are you in house building?" "Yes, I am." "Well, I think I'm your niece," and the phone lines between England and Canada just sang. It was amazing just to think that this little girl had found us. We've got another member of the family. It was super.

One of the things that does really chill my mind is that there's always a major possibility of incest. There is always the possibility that there's an attraction and this stranger that you met at the bar or in a dance or at school or whatever, might be your brother. It could just be. I met somebody very recently and he thinks the lady he was dating is his sister and at this point he stopped dead. He hasn't called her. He doesn't know what to do. He met this lady's mother and two or three things started to fall into place and he thinks it's his sister. Fortunately, in this instance, if it is his sister there's no harm done, but there must be cases where there is harm done. The possibility of incest alone means that we've got to start ringing a lot of warning bells and get these records opened so that people know. It's very, very important.

My last little point is, I really feel very strongly. No one has the right to hide somebody's name from them and no one has the right to say, "Well, yes, you were born. There is a statement of live birth that was made at the time but, gee, I'm sorry, you're not entitled to it," and this is what's happening right now. My Tanya cannot or the other people who are here -- I haven't been here all day, probably lots of adoptees -- they have not got the right to have that statement of live birth, but it's theirs. It's theirs, so they should have it. That's it. I'm finished.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Any questions?

Mr Hope: I'd just like to say thanks for the presentation. How much more personal can you get than what you've expressed today? Hopefully, we'll be able to do something to correct some of the problems you've had.

Mrs Sullivan: Hopefully, I'll get that little telephone call, eh? As I say, I know I'm going to fall apart.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee.

Mrs Sullivan: Thank you.

The Chair: Just to inform committee members, we have had a phone call from Miss Hamilton and she will not be able to join us today. We are ahead, so I'm just going to call the next presenters and if they're not here, we'll take a short recess and come back when they are.

Jonathan Savin and Michelle McColm, are they here?

Ms Michelle McColm: Jonathan's about seven foot something. He's very striking. I was really hoping we could walk up together. It's quite an impact.

The Chair: You can wait, if he's going to be coming. Your time was at 5:30 and we just have moved ahead. If you want, we can wait. Perhaps what I could do --

Ms McColm: Or we could split it, if you want. I don't mind sort of --

The Chair: Let me just ask: Is Joyce Ramer here?


The Chair: If she wanted to go first, then perhaps Jonathan would come in the interim and that way --

Ms McColm: We could do the theatrical thing --

The Chair: We'll just pause for 30 seconds and see if Joyce is there.



The Chair: Okay, we have Joyce Ramer with us. I want to thank you for being here. We've gotten a little ahead of ourselves, but if you're ready to go ahead with your presentation, we're ready to hear you.

Mrs Joyce Ramer: My name is Joyce Ramer. I grew up in a small community in PEI with my grandparents, my parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. I knew I looked very much like my mother and had mannerisms like my favourite aunt. When I looked at my relatives or the pictures of my ancestors, I could see the resemblance, just as most of you can and your children can, but maybe you take it for granted.

I am reunited birth mother. My daughter Jo-Anne and I were reunited in Amsterdam in August 1993. The match was made June 30, 1993, by Parent Finders. I received the marvellous news July 1 from my contact at Parent Finders following 29 years of yearning, worrying and hoping. It took three years, from November 1990, through Parent Finders, but I can tell you that after the reunion I wrote to the ADR and enclosed a copy of an article of our reunion. The response to that was a phone call to say that there had in fact been a match made in 1991, but no one called anybody. There was no excuse given.

In July, I was overjoyed and somewhat speechless to talk with my daughter and to receive her first letter and pictures of her growing up. In fact, my aunt thought they were pictures of me when I was younger.

Jo-Anne's adoptive mom was Jo-Anne's contact with Parent Finders in Hamilton as Jo-Anne herself was and still is living in Holland. My daughter and I arranged to meet in Amsterdam the following month, but before that happened, I spoke with her mom on the phone a number of times. She came to Stouffville to meet me and bring a bag of pictures of her daughter's life with their family and her growing up. She also shared stories. Mary said: "There's enough love for everyone. You'll be there when she gets her PhD. You'll be there when she gets married. You'll also be a grandmother one day."

I was left with the feeling that I knew my daughter a little bit before we met in Amsterdam and it was probably the beginning of a long-term relationship. Her mom looked at me smiling when we talked. She was surprised at how much we looked alike and had similar mannerisms.

This is the year of the family; November was adoption month. How appropriate for us to be here today in support of Bill 158. When it's passed, it will allow adult adoptees to have a copy of their original long birth certificate. For adoptees, this is a wonderful piece of legislation, a real breakthrough, especially for those adult adoptees who only have numbers. By the way, I've checked the figure on that and the number apparently is 40,000. The other people affected by this are also those who have medical reasons for finding their birth relatives.

I have in my hand an advertisement that if you go to a research library, you can dig up your roots or find your family tree. The experienced staff, it says, will help you. There is nothing that you can probably think about that they haven't already thought about. It goes from Australia right through to Wales. This is fine for most people, but not for adult adoptees. It says that whether you're a beginner or an expert researcher, the staff are on hand to assist you and answer your questions free of charge. They can find out about their heritage, but not adult adoptees.

In conversations with my daughter and other adoptees, it seems to be a natural longing to know and discover one's roots: your ancestors, your heritage and your culture. This is everyone's birthright except for adult adoptees. Bill 158 will be one step closer to making it an even playing field in terms of rights of one's own background.

The next aspect of the adoption that comes up in conversations is that adult adoptees want to know why. What were the circumstances in the mother's or the parents' lives that forced them into a position where they had to give their children up for adoption? They have a real need to know, for their own sense of self, their identity and their self-esteem.

Reunions are healthy emotionally and psychologically for all who have the courage, the persistence to follow it through to the end. Or is it a beginning? I believe it's both. A recent survey states that of the adult adoptees interviewed, 72% of adoptees said it was a positive experience. I have copies here; my daughter has sent this survey from Holland. This is true whether there's going to be a continuing relationship or not.

As for the aspect of Bill 158 which grants the birth mother the option to state that she does not want to be contacted, I believe this is a very compassionate option, an opportunity for the birth mother. But it must be made mandatory that the birth mother will have the opportunity to reverse this at any time, with perhaps a sunset clause.

In my own case, I probably would have signed, but I would have changed it within the first year, for a long-time family friend, comforting me at the time, told me that I should be prepared to meet my daughter because at any time after her 21st birthday she would probably come looking for me. I have always been open and emotionally prepared to welcome her into my life, no matter what. I did not live by denying her or by telling lies. My friend has since passed away, but his words never left me.

I lived in hope to find out how she was doing, if she was alive, if she had been abused or if she was fortunate enough to be placed in a good family, which I'd hoped and prayed for. She did live in a good home, a home full of love, with her mother, her stepdad, her sister, also adopted, and her niece. Our daughter Jo-Anne is a proud part of our extended families, both her adoptive family and her birth family.

Next summer, Jo-Anne and I will be travelling to Prince Edward Island to a planned second family reunion, a family reunion on our family's part, but first time for her. She will meet her birth grandmother, her aunts and uncles and her cousins. She now can see in the pictures how she does look like the rest of the family. One of the first things she said to me after we met and had a couple of private moments was, "It's really nice to find someone who looks like me."

I have given her a lot of information about her heritage and the genealogical histories of both sets of grandparents. We will look forward to a loving, evolving relationship for the rest of our lives. I thank her mom and her stepdad for welcoming me into their lives and family with such love and understanding. They are a wonderful example of adoptive families who have reached beyond the fear of losing their child in meeting a birth relative to embrace the opportunity to show there is enough love for everyone.


There are a couple of recommendations I would like to make. One would be that the birth parents or relatives should be allowed the adoptive name and address at the time of placement, if they choose to search at a later date.

I further recommend that should the birth mother use the "no contact" clause, she should be required to fill out an extensive medical and heritage information sheet or form, and perhaps a clue as to why the child was placed for adoption.

I also believe that although birth mothers have the right to no contact, the penalty suggested, $5,000, is far too high. There are already laws that protect a person's privacy. Circumstances change; we must make this clause somewhat flexible and reasonable.

Please pass Bill 158. Thank you for the opportunity to present.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): You touched a little bit on it, and I just wondered if you could share for the committee, because you said that the adoptive mother, in this case, initiated some of the work. I think that some of the fears that we're hearing is that the adoptive parents have this fear. You mentioned a little bit about it. I'm sure that since you have met and have been able to be reunited with your daughter, you've talked over some of this. Maybe you could share some of how that personal response was. I think that fear really does turn some people off.

Mrs Ramer: It's a real fear. It probably comes out of possession. It probably comes out of the reason for adopting to begin with. Whatever the reason, it's a real fear. But I think that you have to have the courage to go on, if -- and these are Mary's words -- you consider the adoptee's (a) rights or (b) curiosity, or whatever it might be, her wanting to know, if you consider that, you've got to step back as the adoptive person and say it'll be okay, because you're not losing the child, as Mary says.

I wasn't there in the 30 years that she was growing up, to be there for the aches and pains and all the little things that go on with school and so forth, but what you're doing is you're gaining now in terms of knowing who that person is and what their background is. That's part of the focal point of what adoptees are looking for.

I will never replace Mary, but Mary can never replace me. We've talked about it. It's a matter that I don't think birth families can replace adoptive families or vice versa; I think it's a matter of sharing. There is sacrifice made for time and sharing after a reunion has taken place, yes. That's where we have seen it. You have to get past the fear.

Mr O'Connor: As a birth mother being reunited, do you feel any sense of loss that you have to share what you've lost or what you --

Mrs Ramer: I can't get that back.

Mr O'Connor: No. Is there any remorse to that? Or is some of that overcome now that you have been reunited?

Mrs Ramer: I think I dealt with that in the last 30 years. I think what I'm dealing with now is probably making the most of what's forward.

Mr O'Connor: I think it's wonderful.

The Chair: Again, thank you very much for coming before the committee.

The Chair: We are a little before 5:30. Do we have our next representatives?


Mr Jackson: We have Michelle.

The Chair: Michelle's here. I'm sure if you are expecting Jonathan Savin to be here shortly, we can quite easily recess for a few minutes and --

Ms Michelle McColm: I'm okay with starting.

The Chair: You sure?

Ms McColm: Sure, yes. They're sort of separate presentations. We're sharing the time.

Mrs O'Neill: Is Valerie Hamilton here?

The Chair: No. She phoned, as I mentioned, and said she would not be coming.

If you would be good enough just to introduce yourself for Hansard, then please go ahead.

Ms McColm: My name is Michelle McColm and I'm an adoptee. I think it's hugely appropriate that an adoptee should have the last word today. Jonathan's also an adoptee.

I was born in 1959 and adopted in Toronto at the age of four months old. While I grew up in a very large adoptive family and felt quite loved and accepted by them all, I also felt very strongly that I didn't really quite fit in. I always knew I was adopted. My family was very open about talking about adoption, discussing it. It was very difficult for me as I went through my developmental stages to reconcile the fact that I was told that my birth family was German and my adoptive family ran around in kilts to weddings and so on. In fact, I didn't know what a German was.

There was a clash, there was truly an identity crisis, and I think that's the kind of situation that our, I would consider, antiquated adoption legislation has created. It's created a situation that really no longer fits. I think that as the adoptees from closed adoptions have reached adulthood we can start to talk to them and hear about how that felt, how it was to grow up with that huge dearth of information, very vital information in terms of identity and self-esteem.

I met my birth family when I was about 27. I've met my birth family on both sides, maternal and paternal sides. That includes a trip to Europe, going around meeting relatives who, because I was brought up in a Scottish family rather than a German family, I could smile at but couldn't actually speak with. But it was still wonderful and a very, very healing situation. My adoptive family was behind me 100% -- very, very supportive.

After that experience, I researched and wrote a book called Adoption Reunions, because I did find that was truly a beginning as opposed to the end of the search for the Holy Grail -- I met them and that's it. No, no, no, there's a lot more to it than that. It's a healing experience, but it's a new experience. So I wrote a book and worked in a children's aid society for three years preparing background information, non-identifying information for adoptees and birth family members.

I've also lectured widely and written. I hope you all got a copy of my article that was in Maclean's with my personal story. Okay, so I've written a lot about adoption as well. The upshot of all this is that I'm truly speaking as an individual, as one person's story, but I do know that my story really does segue into and encompass thousands of lives.

As an adult adoptee, let's face it, I'm the only party to adoption who was affected by adoption since conception. Since before I was born, my birth mother, like so many others, knew that she would be giving me up for adoption. It started the day I was born or before.

As adoption legislation was always supposed to be in my best interests, I think it's wonderful that I get to address Bill 158 directly. I really do think that this particular bill certainly is in my best interests.

Working at the children's aid society and seeing adoption files dated back to 1918, I was able to glean a lot of information. Meeting other adoptees and speaking with them, one of the things that I learned is that one of our routes to finding out who we are is to do our own searches. One of the ways to start that search is to take your non-identifying information and become your own detective and search out based on those clues.

Unfortunately, it's absolutely mind-boggling how much of that information is patently false or hugely inaccurate, which sets you off at a disadvantage right from the beginning. If that's the only avenue you have, it's a pretty tough or impossible route to take.

One adoptee whom I know was told that his birth family was in fact deceased, both mother and father. He's met his mother now. I think his father is alive; he just hasn't met him.


Actually, I was told in writing by the children's aid society that I was adopted from -- they provided my non-identifying information three years after my reunion, and it was only because I'd met these individuals that I knew people who they were saying were deceased in my non-identifying information were quite alive and well. In fact, I had lunch with them last week. Had I done things in a reverse order and taken that information, it would have been quite difficult and quite traumatic, I think, to try and reconcile those anomalies.

I think Bill 158 directly does address that. In most cases, having looked at these long-form birth certificates, hundreds of them, I know that the information gathered at that time, the one thing the birth mother usually feels comfortable with giving is her name. She might not feel comfortable with saying who the birth father is and she may feel, back in 1959, that to get the child adopted into the best home she has to say that the birth father was some heavy-duty doctor or something, so therefore the information is completely incorrect. Bill 158 really addresses that inadequacy.

You've already heard a lot about adoptees who are now given a number instead of their birth name on their adoption order. That's a point I don't want to rehash, but these are all things that really curtail the adoptee's possibilities of finding out information about themselves.

The other thing that curtails that, one of the mind-boggling things I learned when I was working in a children's aid society, is that at a certain point in time, I think it was the early 1960s, adoption files in children's aid societies across this province were routinely destroyed. I don't mean they were put in synopsis form; I mean actually totally destroyed, do not exist, all that background information lost.

I can't tell you how painful it was for me dealing with a waiting list of 400 people, to have someone call at age 28, someone who was 30 years old, who's waited that many years to finally get up the gumption to pick up the phone and say, "Yes, I'd like to know what my ethnic background is, and you know, I want to have a child and I need to know my medical information." For me to go ahead and search out that file and have to come back to them and say, "I'm sorry, I can't tell you; there's no way in hell you're going to get that information from me," is a pretty tough thing to have to do and it affects a lot of lives.

So then their next recourse is to go to the registry, of course, and register for a search. Now, that same individual who's taken that long because they were raised in a closed adoption to finally get up the nerve to look for this information is told, "Well, sorry, it'll be about seven or 10 years before we can start your search, which may or may not be successful." Well, do I put my plans to have a family on hold until I'm 40?

There are some really clear decisions and there are some really important things happening in people's lives. We're not just talking about pieces of paper and pushing around information and statutes. We're talking about feelings and people basing their whole lives on very little information.

I guess I do want to say something about the no-contact registry. We were hearing a lot about that, and I do agree with many of the other presenters that it's a wonderful opportunity to gather medical information, if there is a no-contact register. It's also a great opportunity to gather the reason why the birth parent doesn't want contact, and I think that it's only fair, really. It would be extremely cruel to set up a scenario where an adoptee hears that there is a no-contact -- and it can be felt as a second rejection to be still kept in the dark about what's happening.

In terms of a breach of a no-contact request, I wish I had four hours to address this one. It's a really fascinating exploration, I agree with you, into the human psyche. Living in a closed adoption system, believe me -- the adoptees who reach adulthood today and search for their birth family information, for the most part, if not in every case, have given it a lot of thought. These are not people who are rash or impulsive individuals. Many adoptees, like myself, will wait until their adoptive parents, one or the other or both, are deceased before they search for that information because they are sensitive to the fact that their parents are now 60, 70 years old and they're not going to change the paradigm under which these adults have been adopted and they'd prefer not to even risk the fact of hurting the only parents they've ever known and whom they love. So I waited until my adoptive mother died before I registered. My father was not as threatened.

My point is that these are not impulsive individuals. None of us here can project the future. We don't know why people jaywalk, we don't know why people steal and we don't know why people rape or murder or break any other law, and I can't tell you. I can only give you a tiny course in the psychology of being adopted under closed adoption and just let you know that I think the search for your birth family information represents a real move towards wholeness and health and mental health and that the individual who's doing that is doing something that has been well thought out. They're searching for self-awareness and an integration of the past and present, and it shows a great deal of thought.

When a positive change like Bill 158 is made, these people who've been denied their basic human rights all their lives are not going to, all of a sudden, start acting irresponsibly or illegally, especially if we can provide them with that reason why there may be a no-contact wish. Look, we can do a little bit of education on it and we've done a lot of research. I've done years of research. We have a great deal of information that says, "Hey, we've all got our own timetables." What's happening now is a real societal shift.

I interviewed one woman for my book who is an adult adoptee who contacted her birth mother, who found her. The birth mother had absolutely no interest in meeting with her. They exchanged letters and a few cards. The adoptee managed to get a list of 32 allergies that ran in the family, and seven years later, roll the film, this birth mother was now finally ready to have a reunion, and they had a wonderful reunion. They remain in contact after four years.

So if there's anything that I want to tell everybody, it's that it's hard to change something that you've been told 30 years ago. You know, "You're an unwed mother and you'll never see your daughter again, so just forget it." It takes a little time. I think that if the adult adoptee understands that -- and again, this is an adult, with all the stuff that I've been talking about -- I think this can work out for the best, I really do.

There's been some concern raised, because I've been sitting in, on the fact that some adoptees were conceived under difficult circumstances, such as an incestuous situation or rape, and that's true, some have. But in all the contact, again, at workshops, giving workshops, and meeting hundreds and hundreds of adoptees and birth parents across North America, working out of children's aid for three years -- at the children's aid I saw about two files that suggested in any way shape or form that incest was involved. It's a rare number of people.

I guess for me, speaking as an adoptee, not just as a researcher, I could name my next book Oops, I Married My Brother. I mean, that's happened. At least the birth mother gets to know there was incest happening. The adoptee really doesn't get to know that. I've talked to one male adoptee who grew up beside his birth family, the next house, sat in the same classroom with his birth sister. He thought she was kind of cute, you know, but just did not know.

So it has happened and it will keep happening unless we can rectify that, which is not to say that rape and incest isn't a difficult situation. Of course it is, but we're talking about adults. I think ethically we need to weigh rights. We need to define clearly what is a right. The birth mother who had those difficult circumstances has avenues to therapy, knows where she came from. The adult adoptee has so many, what I would consider, very primal, basic needs and rights taken away from them by our current legislation that I really think the bill must be acted upon.

Mandatory counselling: I'm really pleased to see that mandatory counselling will no longer be the norm and that it will be provided. I think that it's great that it will be provided. When I went through mandatory counselling, I reacted quite strongly because I was 28 years old and I'd given this a lot of thought since I was six years old. I thought that I'd thought about every angle. I hadn't, of course, but the fact that, as an adult, I didn't have the right to choose my own destiny, that I didn't have the right to decide for myself what was good for me, what was healthy for me, was really patronizing.

I went through my reunion before 1987, and at that time, if I had been 40 or 50 or 30 or 28 years old, it didn't matter. I had to ask my adoptive parents permission to register in the registry. If that isn't insulting and patronizing, I'm not really sure what is.


In any event, I think that adult adoptees grow up under a huge stigma already. I was illegitimate. My mother was an unwed mother. My father was a putative father. I love that word. I was teased at school. I think that to further stigmatize us by asking us to get counselling for what's probably the healthiest urge and act that we've ever done is really a little wacky. But to provide it afterwards is wonderful, because as I found out by researching and writing my book and living this thing, yes, you could use a little help sometimes, but maybe not from a social worker and maybe not from a stranger; maybe from someone else or someone of your choosing.

The fact that Bill 158 will also provide the original birth name, to me, is really integral. Growing up adopted and knowing that you have this alternate identity is a very bizarre experience. Working at the children's aid society, I got to look at all these statements of live births to infertile couples, and I'm going, "Whoa." The Garber report has been referred to before. Ralph Garber referred to these amended birth certificates as "legally sanctioned fraud." I tend to agree. I really do. From my perspective, I think the psychological aspect is even more important.

When I found my birth name on my adoption order, my father was really great about it. He said, "The papers are upstairs," you know, the X files in the metal box, "and you can look at them any time you want," for which I'm eternally grateful. But I still felt guilty. I felt that I was betraying my adoptive parents, so I waited until they were both out. I'm 17 years old and I'm sneaking upstairs and into my parents' room and I'm looking in the files. Seeing my birth name for the first time was just -- I didn't even know I had a birth name at that point. I didn't even know what I would find. I found a little bit of medical information, hospital stuff, you know, fontanelles, things you don't even know what they are unless you work in a hospital.

But it was amazing, it was wonderful. "Wow, Diana. Is that really me?" It made my birth family concrete for the first time in my life: "Maybe there's a real woman out there who actually gave birth to me." Of course I was brought home from an agency and my sister was born -- she was a breech birth -- to my adoptive parents.

So even the fact that we're not just disconnected from our entire genetic lineage, some of us aren't even convinced that we were born from a woman. I mean, I was hatched; I was convinced of that. So this is the first time I thought, "Maybe someone gave birth to me." What a concept. Pardon the double entendre.

So there I was, and I think that was the first step towards really coming from space and sinking into who I really am, with my wonderful current family and with my past, with my beginnings.

I think that adoptees have the moral and ethical right to know where they came from, and part of that right is knowing their original name. I think it's time to make it a legal right also, I really do.

Society has changed a lot since the first legislation was penned and the laws, unfortunately, haven't kept up with the changes in our culture. In fact, a lot of birth mothers I spoke with said: "I'm really scared to tell my subsequent children I'm going to meet my birth daughter or son. What will my kids think of me?" One birth mother said: "My son's 15. How can I tell him that I did what I'm telling him not to do?" But across the board, these birth parents find out that it's the 1990s. These kids don't have any concept of illegitimacy or unwed mothers. Single motherhood is everywhere, split-apart families, reblended families. You name it, we got it.

My brothers were nine and 11 when I met my birth mother and they were fine. The first thing they said was, "Wow, big sister, that's great," and I hear this over and over again. These are the kinds of issues birth mothers might have about being contacted, but I think that with a lot of care and a lot of love and information and education, this can all come about in a very positive way for everybody.

I'm asking you to consider this bill not only with your heads and your intellects, but with your hearts. I'm asking you to really think if you can, just step on to the holodeck and imagine yourself growing up with nobody who's related to you, no blood relative. You might be 5'2", with the big bump on the nose and the wacky hair and the little bones, and everybody else around you is talking about their breast reductions, and you're going, "Oh yeah, right." You know, you're just not really hooking in there.

So think about what that might feel like. Think about the research that's been done. Think about what we know about psychological realties. Think about basic human rights, and please pass this bill.

The Chair: Thank you very much for a very personal presentation. I don't know if there really are any questions. Oh, there are some. Mr Eddy.

Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): Yes, I really appreciate you coming forward. I would think that anybody who heard your presentation would be convinced of the importance of supporting this bill, and that's why I feel very strongly about that. I was disturbed to hear you say that some CASs have destroyed files. I'm astounded at that because I've never known that. I thought that they were all there. To my knowledge, they were. Some societies certainly have them going back many years.

Ms McColm: That's true.

Mr Eddy: I'm astounded. I'm astounded to hear you say about the misinformation that's been given, to the point of lying. People in positions of trust lying on information to the point of saying that birth parents are dead. How did that happen? How does it happen? Does that mean it's recorded that way or is somebody filling in some blanks? How could that possibly happen?

Ms McColm: I think there are many ways that misinformation gets bandied about. Again, I really take a socio-historical perspective. If we blast ourselves back to the past and think about how busy we all were trying to protect each other and trying to evoke the secrecy that is really entrenched in the law, "as if born to," I don't think there was any scrutiny and certainly no legal mechanism to check facts at the time that the information was gathered.

In most of the cases of adoption from, let's say, 1921 up until even the early 1980s, and today in fact, birth mothers have gone through the adoption on their own, and especially in the past, as I mentioned earlier, they may have been trying to protect the birth father. Maybe he's a married man. Maybe he's someone -- who knows? -- and they may be giving false information with the best intent.

I think the other way this might happen is -- this is not going to win me a lot of friends. I saw these files, and part of the mindframe at that time was, "Well, look, these people will never meet anyway." It was believed that the adoptee would never have any desire to know this information. Once you're adopted, you're "as if born to." Your parents are your parents, your family is your family. Well, haven't we changed? So the note-taking was so sparse and so sporadic at times, and files get lost, files get mixed up.

There are any number of ways that can happen, and I think part of it is the protection thing: "Well, your parents are dead." And let's face it, social workers are human beings as well and we all have our own values and mores and so on. If that particular individual believes it's in the best interests to not facilitate a reunion, who's going to stop them from saying that?

Mr Eddy: Indeed that's the problem. They're deciding for adoptees and all others connected what's good for them. They see all the information and know more about the person than the person can ever know about themselves, and they're making judgement calls and decisions to prevent people knowing about themselves. I'm telling you, I can't think of a more disgusting situation.

Ms McColm: Absolutely. Well, as I said, I prepared this background information. I can't tell you how many times I had to rewrite it, water it down, leave something out that might be disturbing. It was a real -- I'm amazed -- no, I can't say that on the record. It was tough. It was really tough, yes, to be treating adult human beings like that.

Ms Gigantes: But it's the legal framework that's permitted it.

Mr Eddy: Yes, unfortunately it was the legal framework. It should never have been the legal framework, but unfortunately it is. I find it so disgusting that we've gotten ourselves into a situation like this where people can't know who they are. But anyway, thank you.

Ms McColm: Can you imagine growing up and not knowing your ethnic background?

Mr Eddy: Yes, we've been hearing about those situations. Thank you for your presentation.

Mr Martin: Yes, I just wanted to thank you as well for such an eloquent presentation and for making some very compelling arguments for us moving forward with this piece of legislation. It's interesting -- you've been here through the whole process -- that so far, through two days of witnesses, we've not heard one witness say not to do this. As a matter of fact, we've heard witnesses ask for more, which at this point in time I don't think we're in a position to do, but we are in a position to do this, which, I sense from everybody who has come forward and presented, is a first major step forward and an important step forward.


But we haven't had anybody come forward, as I said, who opposes this, and yet I know, from talking to people around this place and in other places, that there is still some uneasiness out there. There is still some sense that maybe this is not the right thing to be doing, maybe there's a violation here of somebody else's rights or whatever.

In your research and the work that you've done, which is rather extensive, and I congratulate you on that, can you give me any reason why the folks out there who might have some difficulty with this have not come forward to express their opposition or their concern?

Ms McColm: I think that would depend largely on their personal situation vis-à-vis: Are they adoptive parents? Are they birth parents? Are they adoptees? Are they just people who are afraid of change and maybe not a member of the triad? I think that for each of those individuals, there may very well be a reason. I could probably write a book about that. I can keep you here for five hours.

Adoptive parents can and do feel very threatened sometimes about the possibility of losing their child. All I can do is go back to the statistics that were given -- I believe it was for Holland from one of the previous speakers -- and say that the statistics that I've unearthed for my book and from my own experience broach something closer to 80% to 90% of reunions being reported as successful. That doesn't mean that there is necessarily an ongoing relationship. What it means is that you come out with more than you go in with. As an adoptee, you come out with more information, even if you have the door slammed in your face, even if your birth mother is dead. You still have gained, as one of the other speakers said, so much by going through that process.

But the word isn't out. The media, especially, likes to sensationalize the negative aspects of things, I think, or, on the other hand, to dramatize the positive. We don't really hear the realities of what's happening. The reality is, when all is said and done, adoptees will say, "I don't view my adoptive family any differently after reunion," or in fact, "My relationship with my adoptive family is enhanced because we can really be real with each other now; we can be honest for the first time in our lives."

But adoptive parents who don't know that, who may feel threatened by this, those are the kinds of people who are just simply frightened.

As for birth parents, I've talked to many birth parents, I've talked about a few today, who just haven't been able to undo what was -- how can I put this? -- a very competent job of letting them know that what they did was shameful, that it was punishable for the rest of their lives by the fact that they would never be able to see the child that they gave birth to and in fact had no right to know who was raising them, had no right to know how they were faring, had no right to even know what they looked like. That's a heck of a lot for someone, and then to go and marry somebody else afterwards other than the birth mother and to not tell them because they feel this taint, to think that could be uncloaked and maybe the family that they've finally established for themselves could be blown apart, that would be another reason.

I think there are reasons, but again I think that the overriding thing is that there are some fundamental rights. There's a group of citizens, that is, adult adoptees and adoptees in general, who don't have some of the very basic things that we need to grow up healthy and that everyone else has access to.

The Chair: Mrs O'Neill and Mr Jackson.

Mrs O'Neill: Michelle, thank you for being so forthright; you have certainly been that. I think you've been a very important witness. I'm sure there's nobody else we've heard from who has got the personal history and then has applied it in their work and occupation. Did you say you're writing a book?

Ms McColm: A free plug. I wrote it.

Mrs O'Neill: Oh, you've written your book?

Ms McColm: Thanks for asking, yes.

Mrs O'Neill: That's good. I didn't know whether you were being facetious.

Ms McColm: I'm glad I brought it. No, I'm quite serious about my book.

Mr Jackson: Where would we get it?

Interjection: What's the title?

Ms McColm: I love it.

Mrs O'Neill: What is its main thrust?

The Chair: Perhaps, because you have referred to it, you could just tell us the title and the publisher.

Ms McColm: Sure. I'd be glad to. It's called Adoption Reunions, subtitled A Book for Adoptees, Birth Parents and Adoptive Families.

Mr O'Connor: Publisher?

Ms McColm: Second Story, here in Toronto.

The Chair: Do you want to just hold it up in front of you?

Ms McColm: This is embarrassing.

Mrs O'Neill: No, it's not.

The Chair: No, it's not.

Mr Hope: It's a free commercial.

Ms McColm: I know. It's hysterical. Okay. Thank you for asking about my book.

The main thrust of it is, after I had my own reunion, and I thought that everybody would live happily ever after, I realized: "Well, okay, so what do I call this person? Do I call her Mom? Do I call her Mrs So-and-so? Where do I go for Christmas?" You know, those kinds of things. Talking to other people who have had reunions, there are so many complexities. You've got a whole new family to try and integrate into your adoptive family. What if she's not calling me enough? Am I rejected again? So I'm exploring those kinds of emotional things that occur. There's a lot of emotional terrain to navigate, and I think that it's quite doable and that it's quite a healthy thing for an adoptee to be able to go through that.

But I think that there's nothing really out there to give some sort of a guide as to: What have other people felt? What are some strategies around making your adoptive parents feel included in your reunion? What are some strategies around resolving your identity? What are strategies around genetic sexual attraction? That's one the media loves to talk about. If you grow up in a family where you don't look like anybody and you suddenly meet someone who looks just like you and they're gorgeous, you may think you're falling in love with that person. There's no incest taboo in place, and it happens. I mean, that happens. We need some kind of a guide, I think, so that's why I wrote it.

Mrs O'Neill: You're a very thoughtful, committed person. I'm glad you came.

Ms McColm: Thank you. This is the most important half an hour of my life.

Mr Jackson: On that note, I can only echo the comments of the other committee members. But would you, please, thank Jonathan for not coming today. It freed you up for a whole half-hour. So whoever this poor Jonathan is, thank him for us because he allowed us to share a full half-hour with you. So on that note, thank you very, very much.

Ms McColm: Thanks for letting me go on. You can have me as long as you want or read my book.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I'm sure many, if not most, of the committee members will undoubtedly read your book. You said at the beginning that perhaps the best way to end the testimony today was by having someone who was adopted and who had found her family. I think in the 25 minutes, half-hour, we've been together, you have demonstrated that very clearly. So thank you again for being here.

Ms McColm: Thank you all, and as Spike Lee said, do the right thing.

The Chair: Members of the committee, before we adjourn, just a couple of things. Firstly, Mr Martin, do you want to just indicate --

Mr Martin: There's a package of amendments that the clerk has that you should have that are the ones we will be dealing with tomorrow.

The Chair: They have been circulated, I believe.

Mr Martin: There is one slight change I want to bring to your attention. It's just a matter of some consistency in wording. On the second-last page in your package, section 176.1, the third-last line in that sentence says, "Original birth registration shall knowingly contact or attempt to contact." Initially that was "shall wilfully contact or attempt to contact." We changed that to "knowingly" so that it would be consistent with the sentence below that under "Same" where it says, "No person shall knowingly contact or attempt to contact," just so that the words were the same. I worked this out with legislative counsel. The word "knowingly" is better.


Mr Martin: Yes, "knowingly" as opposed to "wilfully."

The Chair: We'll be in clause-by-clause tomorrow.

Mr Martin: Legislative counsel will be here to answer that maybe more professionally than I, but that's the word we chose, to be consistent.

The Chair: Okay. If I could as well just indicate to members that tomorrow we have three other presentations, and again we wanted to try to accommodate everyone who asked, and with those three we will have done so. If there's a need just to have a short break at the conclusion of those presentations before the actual beginning of clause-by-clause, we will do that. We will have plenty of time tomorrow. Just so members do understand, because the House is sitting till midnight -- not that I am suggesting that we sit till midnight -- there will be plenty of time.

Mr Jackson: The gavel will not swing at six.

The Chair: No, the gavel will not swing at six, but if we're finished, we're finished.

Ms Gigantes: Some of us will have to do House duty.

The Chair: I appreciate that. Many of us may have to do a number of things. But I just want to indicate to everyone that if there are some questions and so on we can deal with those and complete our work tomorrow. Are there any other questions?

Mr Hope: Just on that, throughout the presentations we heard emphasis on quick passage. Tomorrow we have the opportunity to think if there is any way that, through this committee, we can expedite the House and quick passage of this legislation?

The Chair: The normal procedure, Mr Hope, would be that we would complete our work tomorrow. Then I, as the Chair, would report on your behalf to the House on Wednesday, and then it would be scheduled and normally dealt with on Thursday.

Mr Jackson: Can I ask another quick question?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Jackson: Do we have the amendments translated?

Mr Martin: They will be.

Mr Jackson: They will be or they are translated? I know the main bill had to be translated, but I'd hate to find out that translation was holding us up in tabling it. Can you check on that or can we pursue that? I think if we can get those amendments translated as a priority, then we won't get caught with that one. I'm just trying to be proactive.

The Chair: We'll do that.

Just briefly, a subcommittee report, the subcommittee has directed me to write to the House leaders concerning the one item that is still on our agenda, Bill 85. I'm just trying to find my information here. Where did it go? Proceeds from crime, here we are. Bill 85, An Act to prevent unjust enrichment through the Proceeds of Crime, sponsored by Mr Jackson. I will be sending a letter tomorrow asking that we look at that during the intersession.

With that, then, the committee stands adjourned until 3:30 tomorrow afternoon.

The committee adjourned at 1803.