Tuesday 29 November 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

Maureen Flanagan

Adoption Reform Coalition of Ontario

Patricia McCarron, chair

Tom Vradenburg, public relations representative

Katherine Kimbell

Monica Byrne

Karl Haag

Parent Finders--National Capital Region, Inc

Judith Kizell Brans, executive director

Jeannine Laugher

Debbie Jackson


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

Johnson, David (Don Mills PC) for Mrs Cunningham

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC) for Mr Jim Wilson

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Belford, Joan, policy analyst, children's services branch, 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 services à l'enfance et à la famille en ce qui concerne la divulgation de renseignements sur les adoptions.

The Vice-Chair (Mr Ron Eddy): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the standing committee on social development, now holding hearings on Bill 158, An Act to amend the Vital Statistics Act and the Child and Family Services Act in Respect of Adoption Disclosure.

We'll proceed with the hearings now. Before having the first presenter, how do you wish to deal with the matter of questions? It's realized that times for the presentations are quite short, so one suggestion is to limit to one question per caucus and then, if it appears we have more time, we can do a second question.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): What I would suggest is that because they are 15-minute intervals, it would be up to the deputations if they chose to leave more time or are able to.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, I'll ask that.

Mrs Marland: But if they use up the whole time, then we couldn't allow any questions. I think we just have to play it by ear, and if it works out that we can all have a minute each, fine.

The Vice-Chair: Anyone else wish to speak?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I would suggest that we follow rotation through that process as well, just to keep some sort of order to that.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, I would think that. All right, we will proceed then.


The Vice-Chair: The first deputant is Maureen Flanagan. Please have a seat and introduce yourself and proceed with your presentation. As noted, if there is time within the 15-minute allocation, we will have a question or more. Please proceed.

Ms Maureen Flanagan: My name is Maureen Flanagan. One of the things, as I went through the process of finding out how to testify here, was that I was asked if I'd be handing in a presentation so you could read it beforehand. I decided I didn't want to do that, specifically because I want to tell you how this has personally affected my life. I am not part of an organization. I have been on several different registries, but I am not here on behalf of anybody except individuals.

I have been on the adoption disclosure registry since 1989. When I was put on it, the first thing that happened -- I sent everything in. I sort of found out through word of mouth because there really wasn't anything to tell me where to go to find information about it. They told me there wasn't a match. That alone took about eight months.

After that, I put in a request for a search. I assumed that would take -- oh, I don't know, a few months. Little did I know. I am still waiting for them to commence a search, and it's been five years. I find that to be a little cruel, not just because of the emotional side of it for me, the fact that I have to wait and wait, but also because, in the normal course of my life, I move around and I go places. Right now, I've just been trying to tell them that my address changed six months ago. I keep trying to phone and they don't even answer the phone any more at that place.

You guys are going to hear about the bureaucratic disasters. I know you've received a technical briefing on a lot of those, but in terms of how it impacts people, having to sit there and phone and phone and hope to God that nobody's contacted them in the meantime is rather cruel.

There's also the reality that, as far as my medical background is concerned, it affects me deeply. I don't have a terrible disease right now, as far as I know. I don't have any extreme problem, I'm not waiting for a transplant, but I do have a condition called endometriosis, and that means that I am at a very high risk for ovarian cancer, which they now know is inherited. In fact, there is a worldwide registry operating out of Buffalo called the Gilda Radner registry. I can't go to that registry and check for family history and see if anybody has died from ovarian cancer and if they're related to me, so I can check up on my risk level, because I don't have a clue if anybody has had that.

The non-identifying information that's provided for people doesn't really tell you anything because it stops at the moment I was born. As of 1968, I know the basics of my family medical history, bits and pieces, but I don't know anything that can really help me. They don't have accurate descriptions because grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, all of those people wouldn't have been participating in this when my mother gave me up for adoption. They didn't even know she was over at this home for unwed mothers, so she couldn't exactly phone them up and say, "What precisely was it that you had?" at the time.

I can't even find out my risk level for a lot of inherited diseases. In a world where DNA and genetics mean a lot, I'm sort of lost.


I've also got another problem. I had an operation in 1986 for a knee, not that big a deal, but they turned around and gave me Valium, not realizing what they were doing at the time. I had a massive drug reaction and I almost ended up in a coma. It turned out, after I got my non-identifying information, that my mother was given a pill -- this is the only description -- to relax and control her muscles the entire time she was pregnant with me. At that time, in 1968, women were given Valium, Quaaludes and several other different types of anti-depressants and depressants just as a matter of course. Nobody thought about what would happen when a pregnant woman received these drugs.

I had a massive drug reaction and I could have ended up seriously ill. I can't even find out right now because the only thing in my birth record is some vague, foggy description. I don't even know what to do right now when a doctor prescribes me a drug. I take a really big risk, because I don't want to end up like that again.

A lot of what the current bill will do might help this, but then again it might not, because I'm not going to be able to get my total file; I'm only going to be able to get the birth record. This is one of my biggest concerns with this.

Most of you probably haven't tried to participate in a search. If you had, you'd know how hard it is. There's no town to start from. I can't go into provincial tax records and look for things. I have to sit there and go to each and every city and look through Bell phone books or Might directories from 1955 or so on, trying to find some reference.

I have my last name. My birth name was Pauline Lynda Leonard; it's on my adoption order. Unfortunately, without a town to start from, I have no hope of sitting there and finding -- unless of course one of you would like to help me travel across the province and search in every library and township.

I realize that Bill 158 is considered a compromise. Understand, I'm very grateful that you're willing to give us anything at all, but realize as well that it is just the beginning. From my personal perspective, I'm not going to stop. I am not going to let Bill 158 stop me if it doesn't pass or if it does. I'm going to keep going and I'm going to find all of my information. If necessary, I will break the law.

The reason I say that is because this isn't about what the Legislature thinks is right or what it is politically brave enough to do. This is about what I deserve as a human being. This is about my right to self-determination. This is about my health and my life.

I am scared to go out and have a child. What if I passed on some disease? What if I'm at high risk for something and I don't know? Every day, I live wondering what it would be like to see somebody who looks like me or to see somebody who is related to me. I've even wondered once in a while when I've been on a date and thought to myself, "What if this person is my second cousin and I don't know?"

Some day there will be open records everywhere. It doesn't matter effectively what happens to this bill, because it's going to pass sooner or later in some form somewhere. I would prefer that it happens now and I would prefer that it happens to be this government right here, because I'm tired of waiting. But understand that as you sit here and debate about this, this is a little bit bigger than this Legislature and it's a lot more important than a few petty political concerns.

I ask all of you to please try to work together and try to allow this bill to pass before you close sitting on December 8. Thank you.

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Ms Flanagan, I know that you've likely looked at the bill. How do you feel about it? Do you feel there are things that could still be added to it or changed? Would you like to say a little bit about that or the amendments, if you've seen them?

Ms Flanagan: Yes. One of the things that concerns me is that I feel that the fine should not apply when someone's life or health is at stake. Right now there are approximately 500 people sitting on the registry list whose lives are in danger and needing transplants. There are actually far more who need the information. These people would not be acting out of some cruel concern or some violation of someone else's rights; they'd be concerned about their life. In that aspect, I think that fine should not apply to them.

Also, the $5,000 fine should probably not apply when the father is listed as unknown on the birth record. The only way to contact the other half of the family is to contact the mother. Even if she never wants to speak to you again, just finding out who the unknown father is -- many of them didn't bother to write it down or circumstances didn't permit them to write down who it was. That would be a very key amendment.

We have to make sure that the total file is available, every scrap of information, because just having a name isn't enough. It must be the entire file.

Mrs Marland: I'm wondering, would it work if there was some kind of agency that the mother gave the information to? In your case, it's the health record that you're most interested in, apparently, from what you've said, which I may add you've expressed extremely well here this afternoon. If the mother is one of these mothers who's saying, "No contact," if there was an intermediary person or agency that could take that information so you would still get it, would that work?

Ms Flanagan: It might possibly if it were only the mother who would be concerned. There is the problem, though, where when you're tracking a genetic disease you need to know all of the relatives in the family tree. A doctor such as, for example, my doctor would have to have access to all of their medical records or their doctors in order to know what precisely the risk was. The problem comes that you need to have each individual person's permission to contact their doctor and get their medical records. It becomes a nightmare when you're dealing with an agency which has a bureaucratic concern with keeping distance.

Mrs Marland: Keeping the privacy.

Ms Flanagan: Yes.

Mrs Marland: You said, "If necessary, I will break the law." What do you mean by that?

Ms Flanagan: What I mean is that I would go ahead and save up the $5,000, if I had to, to pay the fine and, if necessary, I would defend my right to have this knowledge all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, if I had to. Civil disobedience is not an unknown tradition in this country. I am not saying that I would run out and do this secretly, but in my view the entire concept of closed adoption records is unconstitutional. I would like to see what the Supreme Court would say and I would be very happy to be an example of that.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): The whole emphasis behind your presentation is dealing with the medical information because of the new diseases are currently in our society and the treatment that is out there. How do we implement a program so we can access most of that information for the future, so you're able to intake all that information at one point versus having to travel? I mean, your concern was also having to travel around the province and look at every phone book possible. How do we then put in that information to address the concerns that you're bringing forward today -- and I know this will not correct your problem -- to correct future problems that occur in similar situations to that you're facing today?

Ms Flanagan: For one thing, you could allow the registry access to provincial tax records. We have the ability to find people when we want them to pay income tax. I don't see why we can't find a way to find them when we want to access their medical records or talk with them.

It would also be good if, in terms of health in this province, we had registries for inheritable diseases such as the Gilda Radner Institute for Ovarian Cancer. That's a private registry where they're trying to trace the genetic history of that. But we don't have anything in Canada like that.

It's also the reality that when people travel, they travel across borders. People could be anywhere in the world right now, and the way to do this is to start warning people: "When you give up a child, understand that this is still a lifetime commitment. If you develop a disease in five years, phone us. We'll contact the agency, we'll contact the parents and let them know that you've developed epilepsy or something else that they should watch out for in their child."

Stop making them believe that somehow the moment they give up their child, their commitment ends, because the moment they conceived, that's when their commitment began.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation. We appreciate your appearing.



The Vice-Chair: The next presentation will be made by the Adoption Reform Coalition of Ontario.

Ms Patricia McCarron: My name is Patricia McCarron. I'm the chairman of the Adoption Reform Coalition of Ontario.

Mr Tom Vradenburg: My name is Tom Vradenburg. I'm also with the Adoption Reform Coalition of Ontario. We're here today on behalf of ARCO. ARCO is a province-wide coalition of individual members of the adoption triangle, that is, adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents. We advocate the right of access to identifying information by all adult members of the triangle.

We've worked with many people to write a brief, which you may have a copy of. It was submitted to the minister in May 1993. It includes what we believe is necessary for adoption law reform, and we've submitted a copy for your information.

Please be sure to understand that we heartily support the proposed amendment to legislation in Bill 158. It's a very important first step towards an adoption system that's based on honesty and openness. We'd like to propose certain enhancements to point this legislation further down the road, so we'll deal with the measures in Bill 158.

Ms McCarron: I will refer to the summary of our responses we presented to the standing committee. We submitted it last June and I believe you've just received a copy.

First of all, we definitely agree with giving identifying information to adult adoptees and we propose extending the same right to birth parents and adoptive parents of minor adoptees.

We agree with the establishment of the contact veto for birth parents and we propose extending the same right to adult adoptees and adoptive parents of minor adoptees.

We agree with the principle of sanctions for breaches of the contact veto, but we believe that this should be dealt with by using currently existing legal measures. We also agree with the need to eliminate mandatory counselling.

With regard to the access to birth information, as of April 1994, adoptees may receive a copy of their adoption order without their adoptive parents' written consent. Most adoption orders issued before 1970 only contain the child's birth name but not the birth parents' names. This proposed bill would provide adult adoptees with information taken from the statement of live birth. It will give the name and address of the birth mother at the time of birth, her birthdate, birthplace and similar information from the birth father, if it was given at the time.

ARCO heartily supports this amendment, but we would like to see it enhanced so that the principle, and I stress the principle, of providing identifying information to one member of the adoption triangle is extended to all three parties.

Our first proposal, therefore, is that the amended birth certificate, the long form, be made available to birth parents. This would provide identifying information about the adoptee.

Also, we propose that the statement of live birth be made available to adoptive parents of minor adoptees. This would provide identifying information about the birth parents.

Our rationale is simple: to apply the principle of equal access to identifying information for all three parties involved.

I now refer to the amendment to provide for the contact veto. The contact veto is being proposed on behalf of the birth parents to enable them to state their wish for non-contact from the adoptee. We support the implementation of this contact veto registry.

Our second proposal is to extend this right to register the contact veto to the adult adoptees and the adoptive parents of minor adoptees who do not wish for contact from the birth parents. The person requesting a no-contact veto must give a reason in writing why contact is refused or allow the veto to be qualified by being limited to, say, six months a year, or to restricted contact, say, in the case of medical information. The rationale for this is that since we advocate the right to access identifying information by all three members, then we also advocate the right to register the contact veto by all three members of the adoption triangle.

Our third proposal is to delete the proposal for sanctions for violating the contact veto. Use existing legal measures such as no-trespassing notices, restraining orders and harassment laws. In other jurisdictions that allow contact vetoes, relatively few are registered and only a very small percentage of those is violated. We therefore expect a minimal number of offences. Our rationale is that the proposed sanctions have serious flaws. ARCO believes it is unfair to single out adoptees who violate a person's privacy. Experience in the other jurisdictions has shown that written reasons are respected in the overwhelming majority of cases. There is an excellent report from the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, and I have a quote in my brief.

The fourth objective, regarding the amendment to make counselling voluntary rather than mandatory, we also agree to. The client should determine his or need for counselling before and after a reunion takes place.

We would like to add the following three recommendations at this time.

If it is not possible to extend the right of access to identifying information to birth parents and adoptive parents, given your time constraints between now and December 8, would the standing committee consider adding an amendment which would allow for a later review of the regulations to expand the category of persons, ie, birth parents and adoptive parents who would be receiving information pertaining to themselves or their kin, and the category of information. If there is updated information given by the birth mother, medical or other, an updated address, would that also be made available to the adoptee? That's something to think about.

Secondly, we would ask that the government recognize open adoption agreements that are entered into by birth and adoptive parents.

Finally, given the one-year waiting period between the enactment of the bill and the proclamation date, we ask that the bill be proclaimed as soon as possible without undue delay.

Thank you for letting us make our views known.

Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): I'd like to congratulate you for an excellent presentation on a topic that I'm just starting to learn about, so bear with me. One of the points, I think your second point, was that all three parties in the triangle should have a contact veto, I think is the way you phrased that. I just wondered, from your experience, what numbers you would expect might use that veto if such a veto were in place from all three parties.

Ms McCarron: All three parties? In that New South Wales Law Reform Commission -- there was a study done very recently. My colleagues might be able to help me out later on. I can't reel them off, off the top of my head, but we're talking a handful; we're not talking dozens or 50 or hundreds of people who have violated this sanction. We're talking of very, very few people, first of all, who put in a contact veto and once it was put in someone actually violated that contact veto.

When there was a written reason from the birth mother saying, "Please do not contact me at this time; my family does not know," in 99.9% of the cases the veto was respected. I am a reunited adoptee myself. That's the first thing you do. You say: "I don't want to disrupt your life. I just want some information. Whatever we can come to as an arrangement is fine." You're not there to turn that person's life upside down. As an adoptee, that was my position and I would most certainly respect that.

In cases where the veto was violated, it was more of an intervention of, say, a social worker or it was simply, "Sorry, she doesn't want to talk to you." I've known several cases like that and that just makes you more angry and you want to contact them even more.

Mr David Johnson: I guess that's true of adoptees and adoptive parents as well, that there are a few cases. Of the points you've registered, and you registered half a dozen or so, which is most important to you?

Ms McCarron: The principle of equal access to the identifying information.

Mr Vradenburg: For all three members of the triangle.

Mr David Johnson: That was really your first point.

Ms McCarron: That's right. We heartily support this bill. We figure if people can accept this principle of giving identifying information, then to give it to you and not to you and not to you -- I have a hard time seeing the difference there or the understanding behind that. I understand that you're not going to be able to amend the whole act between now and next week. This is why we've asked for this back door where the regulations could be revised perhaps later on to extend the people who would have access to the identifying information and the type of information that will be permitted to be given out.

Mr David Johnson: You heard the first deputation, I guess, very concerned about medical information. Is that the kind of information?

Ms McCarron: That's exactly the kind of information, but also birth moms have gone back to the social agencies and said: "Has she tried to contact me? Here is my address and here I am. If she ever comes, make sure you let her know." As it stands, they are not allowed to give out that information. So if you're going to give me my birth registration form and there's an address in the file, why not be allowed to give that to me as well?

Ms Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre): I didn't understand the last part of what you were saying. If I could just go back over that, what is not allowed when the birth mother goes back and says, "Here I am"? What were you speaking to there?

Ms McCarron: If the birth mother has gone back to the social agency to check up on her child, as it stands now, unless the child and the mother are on the registry, she cannot provide that information to the adoptee. If I go into the children's aid society in Ottawa and say, "I want my background information," they'll give me all that. But if I ask them, "Do you have any updated information from my birth mom? Has she been back in?" they can't tell me that. They can't give me any information from the point of my adoption.


Ms Gigantes: But as I understood yesterday from what we called our technical briefing by staff involved through Community and Social Services, there is currently operating a health and safety provision which would make immediate matters of the transfer of health information available.

Ms McCarron: Perhaps my request wasn't medical or urgent enough, but I did not get any further information.

Ms Gigantes: I think it does have to be quite urgent.

Ms McCarron: I have an adopted sister who was just recently reunited with her birth mom through our own search. She had a sister on the registry and they were on the registry for 18 months before a match was actually found in the files. When we wrote in to ask the reasons why, there were problems in the system, but now I understand they've changed that a little bit so things are getting better. But I'm saying at the time that I did my search, that's the information I was --

Ms Gigantes: The process is extremely slow.

Ms McCarron: Yes.

Ms Gigantes: Could I go back to another item that you raised, which was your interest in supporting what I think you called open adoptions? Could you explain that?

Ms McCarron: Today, the way I understand it, if a birth mother wishes to relinquish her child to someone she knows -- say she wants to meet with the adoptive parents -- there is nothing in the legislation to recognize such an agreement. There's no legally binding agreement. The mother may choose the adoptive parents, but there's no legal enforcement to say that the adoptive parents have to keep that mother up to date or maintain regular contact.

I'm just saying that it's a fact of life today that there are these open adoptions, there are meetings, there are arrangements between birth parents and adoptive parents that are very open; they know each other. It doesn't mean they have Sunday dinner every week, but it means that there is this contact. All the information is disclosed. We haven't gone into this in as much detail, because it's something that has to be studied down the road. I'm just saying it is a fact of life today that the Child and Family Services Act will have to review or study at some point in the future.

Ms Gigantes: One of the things that strikes me, listening to your statements to us and also the first witness who came to us, is that traditionally in families there have been a lot of matters which may not necessarily have been shared among members of families where all the children are birth children. In fact, there may be medical histories which are not shared. So the onus that you're putting on the system of adoption is a higher test than we see applied in other areas of family life. That interests me a great deal.

I'm a strong supporter of opening up information flows as much as we can do in conscience. But I'm concerned, for example, with the testimony from our first witness which suggests that essentially, once a woman has conceived, her life is from then on beholden in terms of information she must provide. We don't live our lives that way in families with no adopted kids. We don't say to parents, "You have to tell children everything and you have to reveal all your private life and you have to say who your sexual partner was when this child was conceived." It may not have been the so-called father in the family. There are a lot of things about families we don't know and that we don't try and force.

So I'm very interested in trying to make sure that as we move towards a situation where I think a very important part of life for people is to understand who they are, where they came from and why they were given up as kids, principally -- because I think that's a very painful thing. I know it's also painful for mothers who have given up children not to know what happened to them. Inasmuch as we can do that without setting up a regime where everybody feels eternally obliged to reveal all secrets, then I'm really prepared to do that. But when you ask us to say in principle that in future we should make it a three-way share, I don't think I'm prepared at this stage to do that, because women conceive children and bear children under circumstances that in some cases they don't want ever to have to talk about again.

Ms McCarron: Which is fine. That's what the contact veto is there for.

Ms Gigantes: But there is also a kind of attitude that well, you conceive a child -- we just saw it in the first witness; I'll be perfectly blunt -- your life's an open book and you're on the rack forever.

Ms McCarron: I probably wouldn't describe it the same way, but I guess what we're asking for is at least the choice or the right to have access to that information, and how we contact the person and how we deal with that information as an adult and how we deal with the relationship with that person is our right of choice, our freedom of association with another adult. From what I understand, the right for the child to know takes precedence over the right of the birth mother's privacy.

Ms Gigantes: That's why this bill is before us. That's why I support it, but I must say that the notion that we agree in principle to changes in the future, I guess I'm not ready for that quite yet.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation and answering the questions.


The Vice-Chair: We're ready for the next presenter, Ms Kimbell. Please introduce yourself for Hansard and proceed with your presentation.

Ms Katherine Kimbell: My name is Katherine Kimbell. I'm an adoptive parent from Ottawa who strongly supports this bill and would like to see it passed, if possible. I'm grateful for the effort made in getting it this far.

I am here to speak for many people who stand to be affected by this bill who cannot speak for themselves. I met these people when I lived in Quebec and in Alberta and I heard stories of people from this place and that place who didn't know what to do. Only now that I'm back in Ontario do I wish I'd kept an account of these people. Many of them were affected by Ontario adoption law and they have not been consulted by the government. Well, it's pretty difficult. When it had its closed consultations in 1992 and 1993, these people weren't even informed about the changes being consulted.

I remembered the ones I have met and I remembered their problems, so I thought their feelings probably match those of their neighbours where they now live. I keep in close contact with major adoption support group leaders in six other provinces and a few other countries, so I thought I would contact these people and ask what they were feeling about adoption law reform, because the people in their communities and parts of their groups would include birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees who are affected by the Ontario law. This would be an interesting test. It would be feedback to Ontario.

I contacted these major group leaders and they each have sent me back a letter that they wish to speak to the Ontario reform. There's no need to require you to look at all these, but for your information, I have copies of these letters. Without exception, they all applaud this first stage but would certainly like to see adoption reform for all adult parties equally, with a contact veto, of course.

These groups are, going from east to west, Parent Finders in Halifax -- and by the way, Nova Scotia has just published its governmental report on the matter, with the minister's recommendation behind it with access for birth parents and adoptees and the contact veto.


In Manitoba we have LINKS Post Legal Adoption Support Group Inc in Winnipeg.

In Saskatchewan we have the Triad Society for Truth in Adoption. Saskatchewan also is doing a study on the matter but its report is still pending.

In Alberta we have Open Adoption Records in Alberta, in Ardrossan. Again, the Alberta study -- public open consultation -- supported access for all parties, 88% of the public. We have also Parent Finders in Edmonton. We have the Triad Society for Truth in Adoption of Canada in Calgary. That's the national office.

In British Columbia we have the Adoption Reform Coalition of Canada in Vancouver; we have the Forget-Me-Not Society in Langley; Parent Finders of British Columbia, Vancouver, whose chair is a major pioneer in adoption reform, Joan Vanstone.

Also from Vancouver we have here a letter -- I would be glad to make copies if these would be wanted -- from the legislative study committee chairperson, Margaret Lord, to the Minister of Social Services in British Columbia stating that they would like access to information extended to all parties. This is a very recent letter. In addition, we have people from Quebec, two authors, who support this position.

I'm going to then tell you some of the findings we received from out of Ontario. One is on the right to privacy against the right to information and the contradiction or the conflict that appears there. These people agree, and it's been well stated in the Nova Scotia report, that if there is a contradiction between two individuals or parties, the right to information supersedes or outweighs the right to privacy.

On another position, we have observed that there was never any legislative basis for privacy of the birth mothers, and we have found that there are certain excellent precedents from other jurisdictions on the use of contact vetoes very successfully.

There are two studies that are published on this matter. One is from New South Wales, this law reform commission study. It's the most up-to-date and I would certainly like to recommend that the committee would examine this material at some future date. Also, I personally hope the Ontario government will continue to show strong leadership in law reform on this crucial matter. We'll stop there.

The Vice-Chair: Questions? Mrs Marland.

Mrs Marland: Actually, I think it's the government's turn.

The Vice-Chair: I had Ms Gigantes as the last speaker.

Mrs Marland: Oh. I thought we were going in rotation, that's all. We started the last time, but I'm happy to go. It was the government that asked to go in rotation. We started the last time but the Liberals didn't get on.

The last two deputations have both referred to this New South Wales Law Reform Commission report. Is that the only report that's available, and do we know how many numbers of families or individuals were involved in that report?

Ms Kimbell: A great number. All the members on the committee in June were sent a copy of this report. We had permission from the government of New South Wales to copy it for you. I'm not sure; I think you did not receive one, Mrs Marland.

Mrs Marland: I wasn't on the committee, no.

Ms Kimbell: They requested submissions from the population before they did the law reform in 1990. They received about 722. After the law reform was completed giving access to adoptees and birth parents, with the contact veto, they requested more submissions, saying, "Now are you happy with the law reforms?" They received well over 1,000 this time, more. Therefore, on the basis of that, they had proved that the law was satisfactory but that small fine-tuning was necessary, extending the access to even more parties.

Mrs Marland: The reason I am asking the question is that, as you know, I'm substituting on the committee today and when I hear this document being referred to, I'm wondering, is there no other similar Bible to the argument other than this particular study? There's nothing that's been done in the United States, for example, or anywhere else?

Ms Kimbell: In Canada, yes, another excellent study, not as comprehensive, was done by the government of Ontario, Professor Ralph Garber of the University of Toronto, in 1985. It was an excellent study and it came to two very interesting conclusions, principles: (1) The facts surrounding an individual's adoption belong to that person regardless of where they are safeguarded, and (2) on balance, the risks of revealing adoption facts to those to whom they refer have not been proven to be harmful.

Mrs Marland: So this all lends credence to the other conclusion you referred to, which was that the right to information outweighed the right to privacy.

Ms Kimbell: Yes.

Mrs Marland: To me, that's a fascinating statement to hear this afternoon, especially when our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is really so new in this province. I'm just wondering if there has been any discussion around that part of it, because it's very educational for me to hear that.

Ms Kimbell: I can't say that it pertains to other things, but in adoption, when there has been such attention because of secrecy, this is the conclusion that Nova Scotia has arrived at, and it would appear from the letter going to the minister in British Columbia, Joy MacPhail, I think they are coming to this conclusion also.

Mrs Marland: How does this affect the contact veto?

Ms Kimbell: This means you have a right to access information, but to protect the person who still feels he wants privacy, he has the use of the contact veto, and if you give a reason why you place the contact veto, it's honoured almost all of the time. And the proof comes from New South Wales that for those who break the veto, there isn't a problem, and guess who breaks it often? It's the one who placed the veto. So it's not the problem that people fear it will be.

Mrs O'Neill: Katherine, you have spoken around Bill 158 rather than to it. Have you got any suggestions or have you examined the amendments? Is there anything you feel you'd like to say about the actual piece of legislation that's before us?

Ms Kimbell: We support it very strongly. We certainly would like to see it expanded, as was mentioned by the people who spoke before me. We would like to see it expanded, but it may be too late now. If not now, then we would like to see those expansions considered at a future date, as soon as possible.

The fine-tuning amendments that we received in the last three or four days were too technical for us to absorb at this point. We felt they were relatively small points.

The Vice-Chair: If there are no other questions, thank you very much for your presentation.


The Vice-Chair: The next presenter is Ms Byrne. Please introduce yourself for Hansard and proceed with your presentation.

Mrs Monica Byrne: Good afternoon. My name is Monica Byrne and I'm a part of the adoption triad. I am a birth mother who gave birth to and relinquished a child in the province of Ontario in the mid-1960s. My private life, like your private lives, is very personal. I do not discuss such matters lightly. My closet is as deep as anyone else's. However, I felt this matter was important enough that I would come out of my closet and speak to you here if it were possible.

In 1986 I decided to try and find my daughter in order to pass on family information, medical information, history, and, deep down, from an inner need to find out how she was, who she was, whether she was hungry, whether she needed me, whether she was happy and whether she was even alive. This is a need that most birth parents feel very deeply. We don't make the decision lightly in the beginning, and it lives with us all our lives.


When I went to the children's aid society in Ottawa for information, I assumed, as I had been assured in the 1960s, that should my daughter wish to contact me, or I her, there would be no problem. I was truly horrified to discover the truth: the six-to-eight-year waiting lists; the minimal background information; and my right only to place my name on a registry, passively waiting for her to come to me. What if she had moved, left the country, didn't know about the registry, were dead? I could never, ever know her or have contact with her or even know why. I was truly devastated. This is in 1986. I had waited 19 months for the background information on her adoptive family. I was somewhat reassured. The family seemed to be very nice, seemed to have all the attributes that I would have wished for my daughter. In the interim I had married her father and I had three other children.

Since then I have become a full-time volunteer with Parent Finders and a board member of the Adoption Council of Ontario, the Adoption Reform Coalition, the American Adoption Congress and all sorts of other organizations dedicated towards improving the situation for adoption in Ontario and generally. I have consequently over the years spoken to hundreds and hundreds -- I can't count how many hundreds -- of people in the adoption triad that I have spoken to and counselled and listened to and helped in trying to understand their issues and empathize with them and point them towards where they can receive help.

I found my daughter. I did it myself. There was no help from the agency other than the background information. I happen to be a good detective. I had to grovel before the children's aid, and I mean grovel, begging for information, the smallest, tiniest bits. Was my daughter baptized? Was she in Canada? Was she in Ontario? Did she live in Ottawa? Was there any idea? There was no information other than what had been taken up to the time of her adoption.

I felt that information was rightly mine as her parent. I would have wanted the original registration of her birth to have been available to her. I assumed there would be a mechanism for this to take place. I never believed or thought that my name should be hidden. I have privacy but not secrecy. I have a right to be private. I don't always want my neighbours to know all my dirty washing, as you don't, but I genuinely felt she had a right to know who I was, who her father was and where we were in the world. I couldn't parent her at the time. It didn't mean I didn't exist or that she did not have a fundamental right to know her birth identity.

It's for these reasons that I support Bill 158 fully. In addition, I really believe that all members of the adoption triangle should have equal rights. I don't feel one is supreme over another. I truly believe adoptive parents of minor children should have those rights to access the birth mother's name and some information about her. But I went back to the children's aid on several occasions over the years to update my information, to tell them where we lived, how many children we had, to ask, did she need help? There is no mechanism for that to be passed on to her at any time without her coming forward herself, as it stands. Bill 158 will give her her birth name, my name in 1966. It will be a long and hard search for her to find me in 1994, living on a different street in a different part of town. Luckily, I'm still in Ottawa.

I feel the contact veto provisions would protect me should I wish not to be available. In the same way, I would like to have had access to her amended birth certificate in order that I too could have accessed her if it were necessary or if I felt the need. She too could have had the contact veto provision, in my estimation.

I really, truly request speedy proclamation of this bill. I feel it is so important. There are thousands of people involved. We're not talking a few people, the few of us who are lucky enough to speak to you today and next week. There is so little time left till December 8. It makes me very nervous. I have been on pins and needles all day and every day for months since we heard this might be happening.

I request that anyone filing a non-contact veto be obliged to give a reason. I think that's only fair. If an adoptee comes and gets the notice that there is a non-contact veto, it seems only common courtesy that that person should have to say why. There may be a personal family reason, and that's fine; just say it. It will satisfy the deep inner need in the adoptee to hear: "I have not told my husband." We know all the reasons people would not wish to be found. There are lots, but that's fine.

We hear, we read -- I have read a lot on this, and I hear from other jurisdictions -- that there is not a problem with this contact veto or with people abusing it. It is a very few people who abuse it. Generally speaking, if people have a good reason why the birth mother or father does not wish to be contacted, they will honour that, if they have a reason. If they're just told, "She doesn't want to see you," then it inspires curiosity.

I do feel the contact veto should be time-limited. That is, she should either have to renew it after five years or three years or some period, because if she dies and there is a veto on that file, there may be other people in that family who would have wished that information.

I thank you very much for listening to me.

Mr O'Connor: I appreciate hearing another view and I'm sure we're going to hear a lot of very personal stories as we take a look at this piece of legislation. There has been limited discussion yesterday, during a technical briefing, about signing the non-disclosure paper and having the opportunity to repeal and invoke it again. What are your thoughts on that?

Mrs Byrne: I really don't think there are any problems once the birth mother has thought about it. Generally speaking, with the current atmosphere of openness, more and more, people hear reunion stories every day. They only have to turn on their TVs and watch Oprah and everybody's being reunited with everyone.

The birth mother who places a contact veto, it may be a knee-jerk reaction, and that's fine. She's just terrified right now. But generally speaking, as they get used to the idea -- I have contacted birth mothers who have said, "No, I don't wish to meet the person right now." That's fine. She will sit back and think about it and switch on her TV and suddenly Shirley will make sense to her. She'll see a reunion and she'll say, "That could be me," and she will phone back, after six months. We have many examples of them phoning back after six months or a year and saying, "Can I change my mind?" So, yes, I think it should be possible to change your mind and you should be able to change it at least once or twice. People are human and circumstances in all our lives change drastically. What if the husband, the dread husband about whom she is so nervous, dies? The fear may be gone then that he find out about this child that she gave up years ago. No problem. She should be able to change her mind.


Mrs O'Neill: Monica, you have presented very well and certainly worked us through Bill 158. That was helpful. You seem to be focusing on one particular section of the bill, and that is the non-contact veto, which I suggested yesterday too I do feel has to be examined by the freedom of information commissioner just to see what he thinks of it, and that hasn't been done yet. We've requested it in this committee.

The bill also, as you know, as it stands now, only permits one change of heart, so to speak. You're suggesting that more should happen, and certainly some members of the committee suggested that yesterday.

Mrs Byrne: That's a personal feeling, yes. There should be a limit, but it shouldn't be absolute. We've dealt too long with absolutes, you see. That's how I feel.

Mrs O'Neill: Okay. You also suggested that you feel a reason is extremely important.

Mrs Byrne: I do.

Mrs O'Neill: If there's no mandatory counselling, how do you feel that can happen? Many people do not want to give reasons for many things.

Mrs Byrne: It doesn't have to be a big reason; a form that is filled in, "Why do you not wish contact?" There will be some discussion with a social worker at some point when they're handing in the form. There will be an opportunity at some point and careful questioning, just saying, "Why don't you want to meet your daughter, Mrs Smith?"

Mrs O'Neill: I think that would likely be provided in that the option is there. I think that's enough for my questioning at the moment.

Mr David Johnson: One of the other topics that you hit upon was the information that should flow to all three parties. I just wondered if you could be more specific in terms of what information you think should be available to all three parties. We've talked about medical information, for example, here earlier today.

Mrs Byrne: I think the same provisions, that as the adoptee should have access to the original registration of live birth, so the birth mother should have access to the amended birth certificate with the name of the adoptee on it, and the adoptive parents of minor children should have the birth mother's name.

Mr David Johnson: So we're essentially talking about people's names, that the names should be shared all the way around.

Mrs Byrne: Yes, and hopefully if any parties have come to the agency after the fact of the birth, there is sometimes updated information. As I say, should my daughter receive her registration of live birth, it will give me 30 years ago; it won't give information about me now, which could save her a lot of time if she were looking for me.

Mr David Johnson: Let me ask you about the health information that was the topic a couple of presenters ago. In your view, how should adoptees be able to obtain the health information that was sought by the first deputant?

Mrs Byrne: That's a difficult question. I haven't really considered how that could be done. I think it depends on how they're approaching the birth mother. If she is dealing with an agency, she can update the file. I can't answer that question right off the bat.

Mr David Johnson: That's fair enough. I can't answer it either.

Mrs Byrne: It depends on whether she has been found, whether the adoptee has her name. They can always phone her up and ask her, if they have the name. If she has requested a non-contact, then I think questioning at the time would say: "Are there any medical situations in your family that the adopted person should be aware of? Have you thought of updating the file at least to that extent?" It would be, then, non-identifying information.

Mr David Johnson: So there might be a mechanism whereby a person may not wish contact and may register the veto but may be willing to somehow put information through.

Mrs Byrne: At the present time in Ontario, if the government does a search for a birth mother and she refuses contact, she's usually asked some questions at the time, and generally the birth parents will furnish some information.

Mr David Johnson: Do you foresee perhaps a mechanism whereby adoptees could ask for contact but in the event that it was denied they could list perhaps a series of questions with regard to medical circumstances that might be answered?

Mrs Byrne: Yes, I think that would be a very useful part of the non-contact veto, sure.

Mrs Marland: So you agree with the intermediary agency aspect that I asked about, then.

Mrs Byrne: Yes, to some degree, without it being terribly intrusive. I think most parties to the adoption are not terribly keen on social service agencies --

Mrs Marland: Understandably.

Mrs Byrne: -- or social workers, especially the birth parents. They have had rather unfortunate -- in many cases; not all. I had a very good social worker. But I hear from many birth mothers that the last person they would like to hear from in the world is a social worker. They have unhappy memories.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation and answering the questions.

Ms Gigantes: Could I ask one quick question before the witness leaves? You talked about the situation, and you used an example, "If my daughter were looking for me, all she would have from Bill 158 is a copy of the statement of birth, which gives me 30 years ago," you say, being much too harsh on yourself, by the looks of you, "but she wouldn't have me today." Then you went on to say, "If she wanted to contact me, it would save her a lot of time." But if she wanted to contact you and your name were on the registry, then that contact would be made relatively easily and relatively quickly.

Mrs Byrne: Yes, that's true, except given the slow, plodding speed of the registry.

Ms Gigantes: We heard from a previous witness and we heard yesterday from staff that in fact within a year, if there's an immediate match to be made, a match gets made. Is this not your experience?

Mrs Byrne: This is the optimum. However, I know from personal experience several cases in which matches have not been made. I've done the search for this person, they matched up and these people are still waiting to be informed that they have been matched in the registry. There are errors, clerical errors on the registry. They don't always match people. It's just as simple as that.

Ms Gigantes: I'm sure that's true.

Mrs Byrne: It's just bookkeeping.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Martin wishes to submit information, I believe, regarding the bill.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): We have made contact, on request from Mrs O'Neill yesterday, with the freedom of information and privacy branch of Management Board of Cabinet. In instructions from the director of that branch, a Mr White to a Mr Herriges who gave us the information, it was indicated that they, at this point, having looked at the legislation, really had no need to pursue the matter any further. They were comfortable that there was nothing here that raised any red flags for them.

The only privacy issue was whether or not the privacy of the birth parent was being violated by Bill 158, and that in fact is the purpose of the bill: to change the act so that, in law, that information could be given to an adult adoptee. Therefore, according to Mr Herriges, that decision is then a policy issue.

The draft bill defines the information covered in this bill as information relating to an adoption. Information relating to an adoption is exempt, as well, from the freedom of information and privacy act. Therefore, Mr Herriges feels that there is no technical issue here for him.

If we wanted to pursue it further, to the commissioner, that's always open to us to do if you felt that you would be more comfortable.

Mrs O'Neill: I just felt that it would be very helpful to have in writing from the freedom of information commissioner that the non-contact clause of this bill was in accordance with his understanding of the privacy rights of this province. I felt it would be better to get that before the bill was passed than to have it challenged afterwards.

Mrs Marland: Mr Martin, are you the parliamentary assistant?

Mr Martin: It's my bill.

Mrs Marland: I know it's a private bill.

Mr Martin: I'm not the parliamentary assistant to either of the ministries involved.

Mrs Marland: You're not the parliamentary assistant to any of those associated ministries?

Mr Martin: No.

Mrs Marland: Can I just ask -- I noticed that the first reading was in May of this year -- is the government supporting your bill?

Ms Gigantes: That's why we're here.

Mr Martin: That's why we're here. We wouldn't be here today if I wasn't getting --

Mr O'Connor: -- support.

Mrs Marland: It's an amendment to existing statutes. If the government supports your bill, why didn't the government just make the amendments?

The Vice-Chair: I'm sorry. We should move on with the hearings. If we get into technical details -- I think we should deal with them at the end of the meeting, if you don't mind. I recognize your questions. Mr Martin, do you wish to respond very briefly to that?

Mr Martin: No.

Mrs Marland: We could have avoided the time factor. If the government's in favour, it could have --

Mr Martin: It's a red herring that the Conservatives keep bringing up in front of this bill. It's a private member's bill that's moving forward nicely.


The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation. Ms Gigantes, please.

Mrs Marland: Excuse me. On a point of privilege, Mr Chair: This is the first day I have sat on this bill --

Mr Martin: Perhaps you should have paid attention.

Mrs Marland: I beg your pardon?

The Vice-Chair: Please, one speaker. Mrs Marland has the floor at the present time. Proceed, Mrs Marland. Do you wish to proceed?

Mrs Marland: Not with that ignorant comment that was just thrown across the floor. No, thank you.

The Vice-Chair: We should move on with the hearings at this point.

Ms Gigantes: Just to the point about the protection of personal privacy, I think there may be a mistake here in the understanding of some members of the committee. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is not like the BNA Act. It's not a constitutional document. It is possible for a government policy to be directed specifically to deal with matters related to the protection of privacy or the release of information that may not exactly coincide with that legislation but where a similar kind of precaution is taken about the protection of privacy.

I think that's the nature of the comments we've had here from the commission, which is to explain that there has been a policy decision made, that the framing of the legislation takes into account the policy considerations that are of concern if one is going to create legislation which is consistent with having a bill that protects personal privacy. But it doesn't mean that it overrides any legislation the government brings forward.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for the information.

Mrs O'Neill: Well, Mr Martin asked for my opinion, and I would like to give it at the end of this meeting on what further action I think I would like to have.

The Vice-Chair: We'll move on with the hearings.



The Vice-Chair: The next presenter is Mr Haag. Please introduce yourself and make your presentation. You'll be allotted your full time for sure. Welcome to the committee.

Mr Karl Haag: My name is Karl Haag. I'm adopted, and I'm also looking for my children. They were adopted without my notice. I read the bill. In a very simple way, when I read this bill and I put it in plain English, it tells me, "I'll give you this, but you can't have it, and if you take it, I'll get you." So I can't support this kind of thing. I think we should have something more straightforward.

First of all, on adoption, I think the basic right of a person should be that they have the right to know their parents and their roots. This must be the basic right. I'm quite sure you all grew up in a family. You knew your parents. You took it for granted. You know your children now. You take it for granted. You wouldn't have it any other way.

The Vice-Chair: Not necessarily.

Mr Haag: But do we also have the same right, or are we just something that falls by the wayside? We must have the same right. I'd like to know my children too. I think everybody should have the right to know, even the children.

I was at an adoption rally in North York, and there was a lady who spoke who had adopted a little boy. The little boy is now seven years old. She said that he knows he's adopted and he would like to talk to his parents. Why can't that child talk to his parents? You have this thing in there that people should be able to turn down the request to talk to their children. I don't think that should be. I think once you have a child, you have a responsibility. That goes with it from the time you gave birth. There is a bond between birth parents and children. The bond sometimes is only one way.

This kind of thing has terrible effects on people. I can talk for myself, because it had an effect on me so bad it almost killed me. So I think we should have the right to know our parents and we should have the right to know our children, exactly the same as you do. You take it for granted; you don't even question it. But for us there seems to be a different law, and I don't think that's right. I think we should have the same law and the same rights for everybody. We'd like to know our parents too and our heritage, just the same as you do. So I think there should be no question.

Also, this privacy law is another thing. When I look at the privacy law, it's used by people who try to hide something. If I have something to hide, what do I hide? Something that's not quite on the level. The privacy thing is extended to things that -- I think it's ridiculous. I don't have anything to hide. I don't need the privacy law.

What I'd like to see is the files opened. Let's open the files and lay it on the table so that everybody has the right to see and know their children and the children know their parents, the same as you take for granted. Give us all the same right. Don't question all those things, and don't give people who don't want to see their children the right to deny it. I think they should have to meet at least once. Then they can lay their cards on the table. Sometimes you have to get the ball rolling to get things going. Once they meet, things will be different. Like this little boy, I think he should have a right.

Also the age limit, I think it's crazy. I found out about my parents when I was five years old. It wasn't the greatest deal. I didn't know the full impact. It took me a little while to figure it all out, and it didn't cause a great disturbance. So this little fellow, if he has to wait 11 years -- in 11 years a lot of things can happen -- he may never find his parents, and if it affects him the same as it has affected a lot of us, it would be sadistic to say that he can't do that. So I think he should have a right to know his parents. The same goes for me.

For instance, what interests me in your bill, it says, "birth parents as defined on the birth certificate." My name was not put down on the birth certificate. There was some kind of a game played. It's a very twisted story. I had to find out about the first-born in the lunchroom at work, and then the mother came back 10 years later and the whole thing started all over again. There was another child born. I had to find out 25 years after that child was born about that child, when I looked for the first one.

I would like to know my children just the same as anybody else. They're part of me, they're my soul, and I don't have a right to know. I went to the Catholic children's aid society, and I was told, "You weren't supposed to know." Obviously, they know that I'm the father. There are also people who were involved in this on the street, they also know I'm the father, and yet I don't have the right to know.

I would like to see the file opened. I'd like to see what's up. I'd like to know what happened to the kids. I also think that the kids have been told so many stories about me just to make sure that they wouldn't look for me, because then the whole thing would come out. I think somebody has to hide something because something would stand up as illegal. This is why they try to keep them away from me.

The kids have grown up now. The son would be now 36 years old, and the second one would be 26 years old. If I find them today, all I can hope for is that maybe we could be friends. They have grown up. They have also a tie to their adoptive parents, probably. I know what happened to me; the tie can be very strong. You stick to your adoptive parents also. I'm not trying to cause problems, but I would like to know the truth. I would like to know my kids, and I would like to know the truth about the whole thing. But I don't have that right. I ask myself, "What country do I live in that I don't have the right to know my own kids?" They're my family. That's all I have. They're my only family I have, and I don't have the right to know.

I would like to see the files opened. Just open the files and let everybody see it who is interested in it. I can't see that somebody would look at the files just simply because that's what they want to see. I think anybody who wants to see the files has something to do with it, so I think they should have a right to know, without the restrictions and "Maybe you can have that, but you can't have this, and if you do it, then I'll fine you" and all this. That's terrible. I mean, you wouldn't stand for it. Why should we? I think we should have the same right as you have. You know your parents, and you take it for granted. There are no questions asked. You wouldn't even have it any other way. You never give it a second thought, and the same with your own family, and yet you don't grant that right to us. I feel sometimes like a piece of toilet paper you use and you flush down the drain.

I have tried to find out more. I tried to find the birth certificates. I can't get hold of them. Then I applied to find out if there was a marriage certificate for the mother, because I know that she married again after, and I would like to find that. I applied a year ago, I paid the $30 and I haven't heard yet. I have no rights. I can't find out.

It says there that you have to prove that you're the father. Now, how am I going to prove this unless I can find the kids and I can say, "Okay, let's have a blood test and we'll check it"? I'm sure the kids know it too, but there's so much said. I went up to the street where the mother used to live and I asked around there, and I went into a house there. The fellow looked at me. From his looks alone, I know he knows. I used to go there and I used to see this girl, and then he was involved from the start. When I first met the girl, she was pushed and we bumped into each other and I was going to go after the guy because he pushed her and she said, "No, no, let him go," and all this kind of thing.


Then she wanted a baby so bad and I tried to explain to her and I tried to reason to her. I was only here a year. I didn't have the means to support a family and I tried to tell her, "Why don't we wait a year?" She told me she was 17. I was 22. I said: "Give me two years and then we can think of it. We can't just simply have a family with no way of supporting it."

Every time I saw the girl this thing came up, and finally she was doing it in front of her parents. It was very embarrassing. Then one night she asked me to come over and she had a few friends over. I thought she had a little party, she wanted to introduce her friends, so I walked right into a trap. The friends were there, but the minute I walked in they took off out the back door. We were left alone and it started all over again.

But that night was a little different than the rest of the time. I learned she had a vile temper, and before I knew it she ripped the clothes right off me. I didn't know even what to think.

I saw her for about three weeks after that. That was long enough to find out that she was pregnant. Then one night I was over and she told me she wouldn't be seeing me any more. She was looking at a photograph; she was on the beach with another fellow somewhere else. So I asked her if this was her boyfriend. She said no, an ex-boyfriend.

Then I thought I had said something, I had done something that wasn't right, and I tried to talk to her and I tried to get it back on track. But every time I went to the house I couldn't get an answer. When I called there, her mother would say, "She's out with a girlfriend," or something, and I could never find her.

I went back for six months and at one point she opened the door and she looked like she was pregnant, but it didn't really fizz at the time because all I could think of was, "Why doesn't she talk to me?"

Then I had to find out at work. There was a lady living in the same area and one day we were sitting in the lunch room and she looked at me quite sternly and she said, "You don't care about your kid too well." Then she told me she had seen the mother with a little boy -- blond, curly hair and brown eyes, the spitting image of me. I couldn't lie about this.

I went back to her house. I tried to find out. I tried to talk to her. I wanted to see if she wanted to get married. I couldn't get an answer.

Ms Gigantes: Mr Chair, on a point of order: We need to decide how much time to have the witness make a presentation.

Mr David Johnson: I think, Mr Chairman, we decided that beforehand. He has up to 15 minutes, if he chooses.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. There may not be time for questions. That's the point.

Mr David Johnson: There may not be time. If he chooses to use the full time, that's his prerogative.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. Please proceed, sir.

Mr Haag: What I'm asking is, do I have the right to know my family? Do I have the right? I don't like the idea where you have down "the father as identified on the birth certificate," because it's not always the father. I went to the register and I was told there that this happens fairly often. I also talked to a lady who used to work in the Catholic children's aid society and she told me there were quite a few court cases about this kind of thing. So I'm asking, in a case like this, what rights do I have? Do I have the right too? I mean, I'm not looking for somebody else's kids. I'm just looking for my own.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, we understand that. Well, the hearings are to hear points that you would like to make about this bill. If you have suggested changes, and I know you have many things in your presentation as to making changes in disclosure --

Mr Haag: I'd like to have the files opened completely, with no bits and buts to it. Just open it. Do away with the register. The register doesn't serve a purpose. It's so backlogged and it doesn't tell anything. Some of the kids don't even know they're adopted and people don't know where to look. So let's just open the files and let everybody see the files if they want to see the files, and make sure that people can talk to each other.

If a parent does not want to talk, make sure they have to talk at least once, so that the kids will find out. Each side can lay their thing on the table and it will relieve the tension. Once you get them talking, this may lead to more. But I think we should do much more to bring people together who belong together.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you. We understand your viewpoint on this important matter. Are there any questions at this time? If not, thank you very much for your presentation. We have heard you.


The Vice-Chair: The next presenter will be a representative of Parent Finders from Ottawa. Please introduce yourself and proceed with your presentation.

Mrs Judith Kizell Brans: Good afternoon. My name is Judith Kizell Brans. For the past eight years I have been the executive director of Parent Finders -- National Capital Region, Inc. I am here as a representative of my organization to strongly support Bill 158. I would like to begin by giving the committee a brief description of the work that Parent Finders -- National Capital Region has been involved with over the past 18 years.

Our organization began in 1978 with the purpose of providing assistance, information, support, referral, resources and a private registry to adults who were searching for information and/or reunion with family separated by adoption in Ontario. What began as a small group of concerned adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents meeting in someone's living room has now grown to an organization receiving approximately 2,000-plus phone calls a year, at least 600 written requests for assistance a year and once-a-month public meetings of approximately 65 to 100 concerned persons. The executive donates its time, and funding comes from memberships and donations, though in the past 18 years the city of Ottawa has granted us some small grants.

The membership that I am representing here before the committee includes adult adoptees whose birth or adoption took place in Ontario, birth parents who relinquished a child or had a child adopted in Ontario, birth family members and adoptive parents who are searching for Ontario birth family members of their minor and/or their adult adopted children. Also included in our membership are individuals residing in the national capital region who may be searching in other provinces.

Our membership is not only from Ontario and the national capital region but from other provinces and territories of Canada, from the United States, from Britain, from Finland, from New Zealand, from Germany and from Australia. All of our overseas memberships are people who are searching and/or who have relinquished in the province of Ontario. This bill will affect their lives; it is not just those of us who are living in the province of Ontario.

Parent Finders -- National Capital Region has on file close to 9,000 birth names, birth dates and birth places. We also have access to approximately 32,000 birth name, birth date and birthplace records which are held by Parent Finders' national headquarters in Vancouver. Parent Finders -- National Capital Region is also able to check with another 20,000-plus records which are in the possession of a private searcher who is sympathetic to our membership's searches.

Our membership is very excited about the prospect of the passing into legislation of Bill 158. I would be pleased to be able to go back to my membership in December and explain that the Ontario government has made Bill 158 legislation, allowing them access to an extract of their live birth registration. That would be an absolutely phenomenal Christmas present to give to thousands upon thousands of people.

Parent Finders -- National Capital Region is delighted with Bill 158 as a first step, but would have liked the proposed legislation to have included the enhancements of equal access to identifying information for birth parents, birth grandparents and siblings of the adoptee and to adoptive parents of minors.

We also support the no-contact veto. However, again, we would have preferred one with a time limit and to have it expanded to include adult adoptees, allowing them the same rights as a birth parent.

Please recognize that Parent Finders -- National Capital Region is supportive of Bill 158 as the first step in eliminating discrimination under the law within the Ontario adoption legislation. Personally, as a birth mother, I too am strongly supportive of Bill 158 as a first step in law reform.


Mr David Johnson: I thank you for your presentation. It has certainly been helpful. I just wondered, given the involvement that you've had in thousands of cases, what are the primary reasons? Is it an emotional reason? Is it for medical reasons? How would you break down people's reasons for attempting to find their birth parents?

Mrs Kizell Brans: Knowledge about oneself, finding out what your name was at birth, exactly where you were born, finding out that your birth date actually belongs to you, your birth history; medical reasons are very strong; just to know where you came from, something that people who are not adopted take for granted. It's all mixed in. Basically what a lot of people are looking for is information about themselves, about where they came from. That's basically what they want. They want everything.

Mr David Johnson: That's what I guess I would call an emotional reason, which I'm sure is very strong. The reason I ask the question is because, through some of the deputations, we've been talking about medical reasons, and I just wondered how important that was.

Mrs Kizell Brans: Medical information is vital for the wellbeing of any person, whether you're adopted or not. To know what is in your background is exceptionally important. To be denied that information not only has an impact on your life, but imagine going in for major surgery and going to your doctor who asks you about your medical history and you have to say, "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

Mr David Johnson: Given that, which I can't disagree with, I wonder if your organization then had any suggestions as to how that medical information should flow from the birth parents to the adopted child. I'm thinking of the case of the veto, for example. If the veto is invoked, how should that information flow back?

Mrs Kizell Brans: I think that's been addressed previously, but I would agree that if you're going to have a contact veto, perhaps part of the obligation of a birth parent or whoever is putting on the contact veto is that they supply some medical information to whoever is gathering the information for the government. I understand that was addressed, but I haven't had an opportunity to look at the information that was faxed yesterday. I understand that the children's aid, the adoption disclosure registry, whoever is handling the contact veto, should also be able to gather information and pass it on if someone is not choosing a direct contact.

Mr Hope: I have just basically two questions dealing with your presentation on page 4, number 7 and number 8 of the remarks in the brief you submitted. It's Parent Finders.

Mrs O'Neill: That's the wrong brief.

Mr Hope: I thought maybe I'd be able to get it on the record now. You're not dealing with their presentation then?

Mrs Kizell Brans: No.

The Vice-Chair: I believe this presentation is for next week. It's Parent Finders Ontario and this is Parent Finders Ottawa, so it's a different presentation. Go ahead, though.

Mr Hope: I'm going to ask a question out of the presentation, if that is all right with you. In the presentation of your overall association, if a minor adoptee becomes a crown ward, the ministry is required to notify the adoptee's birth parents of his or her status. What is being required is for the ministry to notify the adoptee's birth parents of the status of the child, and I was just curious why. When somebody puts a child up for adoption and it becomes a crown ward, why would you want to know, if you've given that right away?

Mrs Kizell Brans: My question would be, why not? The parent is still the parent of that child. We do not understand what the circumstances were of why the child went into crown wardship. It could have been because the parent was ill, it could have been that at that particular point in time they were financially unable to manage the child. A parent would want to know where their child is, I would think. You have to look at, why would a parent not want to know what happened to a child they gave birth to?

Mr Hope: My question would be: What protection would be there for the child in an abusive situation? Being warded to the crown, being in an abusive situation, why would you notify a parent of that abusive situation?

Mrs Kizell Brans: Since it is not my brief --

Mr Hope: Okay, but it's coming from a provincial, and usually when you're provincial, everyone sings from the same hymn book. I'm well familiar with provincial organizations and their branches, and they come from the same hymn book most of the time. I'll wait till next week to ask the next presentation. I just wondered why it was here. Why would it be a day in advance for us to read?

Mrs Kizell Brans: Maybe I should clarify that. The name Parent Finders is held by a woman in Vancouver, whose name is Joan Vanstone. She started the organization. If you want to start an organization, you must get approval to use the Parent Finder name, and though we share a common database and we share common principles, each organization works just a little bit differently. We are all in support of equal access, open records, but each organization may be presenting it just slightly differently.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for the clarification. That's helpful.

Mrs O'Neill: Judith, you said you hadn't had time to read it, but it will be the Ministry of Community and Social Services that will be putting the non-contact registry on to its own database. We've had, as others have mentioned, quite a bit on medical information today. You're suggesting that would be the spot where you would suggest medical information also be recorded by MCSS.

Mrs Kizell Brans: I would suggest it would be one of the spots; perhaps the local children's aid or the children's aid that managed the adoption. Most birth mothers usually return to the children's aid where the adoption took place. If you're dealing with a private adoption, you're probably having to go through the registry because the lawyer or the licensee -- what I would probably suggest is that somewhere down the line, in an overview of the legislation, perhaps when they were looking at adoption, what they look at is the gathering of information and finding out how they can make sure that the information is transferred. So that's down the road in looking at adoption as a whole and how licensees and agencies gather their information.

But the ministry, the children's aid, right off the top of my head; as to others, I haven't had the opportunity to delve into it and do a little investigation so I can't comment further than those two suggestions.

Mrs O'Neill: Is your opinion that the non-contact veto is the situation in which the medical information would and should be recorded by some government agency?

Mrs Kizell Brans: I think so. Even though there is a non-contact, I think the majority of people would be willing to supply and should be able to volunteer some of the more basic information like heart, diabetes, stroke, any genetic disorders that might be helpful. I think that should be part of the no-contact veto platform just in order to ensure the medical safety and health of private individuals.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): I think one of the obligations that we have here on this committee and in health, on every committee in fact, is to consider some of the downsides of any piece of legislation, and there's rarely a piece of legislation that's introduced that doesn't have at least some downside. Now the downside that I see here that I think we've got to consider, and it doesn't necessarily overwhelm the legislation at the end of the day, to my way of thinking, is the right to privacy of the birth parents.

Now there's going to be a no-contact provision found within Bill 158, which will give some assurance to birth parents that in fact they won't be contacted if they don't want to be contacted. One of the things that concerns me, though, is this need to know your history, as you so eloquently described. It can be so primitive, so powerful, so consuming. I think it could also be overwhelming. I wasn't here for the first presenter but I understand she said that she would ignore a no-contact order.

You've had, I understand, fairly extensive experience in these matters, but can you give us some idea of what incidence there would be of violations of no-contact orders? We have to anticipate these things so we go into this with our eyes open.


Mrs Kizell Brans: You are always going to have a percentage of any population which is going to violate any legislation or act. It's very difficult to get inside someone's head to say why this particular person would break a no-contact veto. If they have the medical information, if they have a name, if they have a valid reason for no contact at that particular point in time, the assumption being made by the majority of people is that that would be sufficient at that particular point in time. Even with my training as a counsellor, I wouldn't want to step out and say why someone would break it. Why does someone break any other legislation? We won't know. Some people's desire to know is so powerful --

Mr McGuinty: I want to just take you up on that point, but this is different from other legislation. We're dealing with a very, and understandably so, emotional issue, and it can drive people to do things they may not otherwise be inclined to do.

Mrs Kizell Brans: Again you're asking me to comment on why someone other than myself would break a contact veto. Why would they break it? Because of their desire to know the circumstances of their birth, to be able to be connected to someone else, because they are by themselves; for any number of reasons. If we went around this table, I'm sure each one of us could come up with a reason why someone would break the contact veto.

There is no doubt, I think, in anyone's mind that somewhere along the line someone's going to break the no-contact veto. Someone's going to do it. Then we may have an answer to the question.

You're right, it is emotional, and when people get emotional, highly emotional, sometimes they do irrational things. But you also have in place in the legislation the fine and other legislation covering harassment, stalking laws, that would protect the person who is being contacted through a no-contact.

Again, I wouldn't want to say specifically, "These are the reasons why someone would break it." They're emotional. When people are highly emotional, they sometimes do irrational acts. They may regret it later, but they've done it. And we're dealing with adults. We're not dealing with children here. We are dealing with the adult community.

I'm sure that's not an adequate answer for you, but it's the best I can do at this particular point in time.

Mr McGuinty: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation. We were pleased to have you.


The Vice-Chair: The next presentation will be by Ms Laugher. Welcome to the committee. Please have a seat and introduce yourself for Hansard and proceed with your presentation.

Mrs Jeannine Laugher: Mr Eddy and members of the committee, my name is Jeannine Laugher, and I'm an adoptive parent who is in full support of Bill 158. This bill would amend the Vital Statistics Act to give adult adopted persons access to all information contained in their original statement of birth, without requiring anyone else's consent. But it's also important, in my opinion, for adoptive parents to be provided with the same information to share with their adopted child.

I understand that this bill will also establish a no-contact register to be administered by the registrar general. I disagree, however, with section 57.1, which states that an adoptee who violates a birth parent's wish not to be contacted can be fined up to $5,000. This proposal, in my opinion, is unfair to adoptees in that it singles them out with harsher legislation than for that of the general population with similar convictions. We have laws which govern such matters as stalking or harassment. It's hardly necessary to impose special legislation to deal with this issue. The already existing laws should suffice in dealing with whatever problems, if any, should arise from such a situation.

As an adoptive parent, I had to collude with a dishonest system in order to adopt a child. The rights of adoptive and birth parents who sought to change information to protect their own interests robbed their children of their rights, two very precious rights: their identity and their right to be dealt with honestly by the adults involved with the adoption. It's time that we stopped protecting the rights of adoptive and birth parents at the expense of children. They are not chattel; they are human beings with the same rights as the rest of the population.

Why then did those with whom we entrusted our children agree to go along with such dishonesty? It's time to correct this injustice and to do it without further delay. Give these adoptees their birthright to know who they are.

Mr David Johnson: I just wondered, from the presentation, do you really believe in the veto clause, in the no-contact veto?

Mrs Laugher: Yes. At this point in time, I think it's necessary in order for this legislation to go through. Perhaps in years to come we could become more open-minded about it, but I think the right of birth parents to a no-contact at this point in time, given the fact that we are asking for the change in the Vital Statistics Act, is necessary, that we have this in place so this legislation will go through.

Mr David Johnson: The reason I ask is because your primary concern seems to be with stalking or harassment.

Mrs Laugher: Well, I'm concerned in that I feel we are singling out a segment of the population in a way we don't single out the rest of the community in similar situations. In other words, if a spouse were to harass or stalk or if a partner were to do the same thing, it seems to me there are laws already in place for people who act in a way that is not a lawful way to act, not a right way to act, and I don't believe that this should be part of the legislation in the sense that, to me, it seems harsher than for everyone else.

Mr David Johnson: Let me put words in your mouth, and I'm sure I'll be wrong, because whenever I do this I'm invariably wrong, but it appears to me as if you feel that adopted people should have almost the right to contact their birth parents. They should not be able to stalk or harass, but they should have the right to contact their birth parents.

Mrs Laugher: I think, given the information that they have, it's up to them to make that decision. I think that certainly, yes, they should have the right to attempt to contact their birth parent. However, it's up to the birth parent whether they're open to that or not.

Mr David Johnson: Now, when you talk about a dishonest system, you say that as an adoptive parent, you've had to collude with a dishonest system in order to adopt a child. Could you be more specific?

Mrs Laugher: I think every child has a right to the name of their birth parent, where they were born; this is very basic information that everyone should have. As an adoptive parent, to pretend that a child has your surname and that whatever happened before no longer exists is very dishonest. I firmly believe that. In fact, in my opinion, we regressed somewhere along the way in that when we adopted our children, they did have a surname. Now they're a number.

Mr David Johnson: It's the philosophy of the system that you're saying is dishonest then.

Mrs Laugher: That's right, and as I said, up until -- well, in 1970, when we adopted, certainly we had the surname of our children, and that's no longer possible.

Ms Gigantes: Ms Laugher, thank you for your submission to us. I've had a long interest in this subject because I'm an adopting parent of a daughter who's now 27, and I've always believed, as many of the witnesses here today have said to us, that it is an important element of life for an adopted child to be able to get as much information as possible about the natural parent. Often it's only one parent who's identified.

When we last had a discussion of this nature in this Legislature, around 1987, as I recollect, the emphasis then by people who didn't want to see change and see the improvements we got in the 1987 legislation was on the need to protect the family of the adopting parents. Clearly the emphasis has changed now, and clearly when we see concerns raised around changes to the existing situation, what we're talking about is providing some element of protection to the natural mother. That's the discussion we've had here today, in any case.

I must say I have a great deal of sympathy for that, because I think we are making an assumption in some of the discussion we've heard here today that women conceive and have children and give them up for adoption and may later in life not wish to have contact somehow as a matter of convenience or as a matter of stealth or as a matter of not wanting to disturb an existing relationship.

But I think many women conceive and give birth in situations where the parentage of the child is of enormous distress to them. We know that a lot of women who are victims of incest bear children, that many of them become psychiatrically disturbed because of their family situation growing up.


I think we may be going too far at this stage to say to ourselves soothingly, "Well, it's just a matter of convenience," or "It's a matter of lifestyle," or "The immediate family of the natural parent doesn't know." There may be real grounds why a natural mother would find it intensely distressing to have to revisit the way in which that child was brought on to Earth.

Mrs Laugher: I agree with what you're saying, but I think you're stating a case for a very small segment of the population.

Ms Gigantes: That's true. Well, we don't know, I suppose.

Mrs Laugher: Does one put aside the rights of the children involved -- all the children involved -- in order to protect the rights of a small segment of the population? I don't think so.

Ms Gigantes: Well, do we know how small a segment it is? I don't know that we do.

Mrs Laugher: Perhaps not, but I think the situation you described -- of course I'm making an assumption, but I think it's a correct one -- the extreme example you gave I think would be a minority. If you're talking about the number of birth parents who would not be open to this, I can't speak to that, I wouldn't have the statistics, but if you're asking me to maybe speculate as to the example you've given, I think that would be a minority, a very small percentage.

Ms Gigantes: I would expect that you're right and that in fact most of the women involved in giving up children for adoption are not bearing children through incest, but I don't know we can say it's an insignificant number. I must say, when it gets right down to it, I have some real hesitations about saying in principle I'm going to let go of the part of the legislation now or in the future that would say to such a natural mother: "No, you can always be open to contact. You don't have a right to say no contact. You don't have a right to say you don't want to revisit."

Mrs Laugher: That's right. And as I said before to Mr Johnson, I'm not speaking to that piece of the legislation. If that is what it would take to get this legislation through, then I would support that, because it is a beginning.

I also feel, as I pointed out before, that it seems to me, though, that fining children such an exorbitant amount of money puts the children in a special category, and that does concern me. Not the fact that if they were to harass or stalk a parent I would go along with that, no, of course not, but that they would be dealt with differently, I do object to that.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation and answering the questions. We appreciate it.


The Vice-Chair: The next presentation will be by Ms Jackson, please. Welcome to the committee. Please introduce yourself and proceed with your presentation.

Mrs Debbie Jackson: Good afternoon, members of the social development committee. My name is Debbie Jackson. I'm here to speak to you today in regard to Bill 158 and its impact from my perspective.

I was born in Toronto, August 17, 1956. I was adopted at two and a half months of age by wonderful adoptive parents. I had a very good home. All three children in my family, who were all adopted, were each told at an early age about our adoption.

The opening of the now-sealed adoption records in Ontario is of extreme significance to people like myself who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a genetic and cultural no man's land. I have no idea if my heritage is English, Scottish, Irish, French, German etc. All I have been told is that my birth mother was Canadian -- nothing on her heritage, background, where her family's roots originated, whether she came from a rural or an urban background, what part of Canada she lived in. I don't have any idea of my birth mother's or birth father's medical history or background. My two teenage children have no idea of what one half of their nationality is.

As adoptees, we are the only group of people who are denied access to our original birth records, information everyone else takes for granted. When I tell people that, as an adoptee, I'm not entitled to my original birth certificate, they're incredulous. They shake their heads in disbelief. The secrecy involved in past and present current adoption practices is an insult to our intelligence. This secrecy has caused far more harm than it ever did good.

The implementation of Bill 158 would enable adoptees such as myself to a less embarrassing and less time-consuming search. Many adoptees are able to find their birth parents without having access to this information, but it is a far more difficult process. At the present time, in spite of having been registered with the ADR for close to three years, I'm still facing a seven-year wait for the ADR to do my search. In seven years, my birth parents could very well be deceased. My birth mother would be 58 years old now.

In my case, my birth name was Patricia Maxwell Smith. I'm reasonably sure my birth mother's surname was Smith, but I do not know what her first name was. All I know about her is that she was 20 years of age when I was born, she was a Canadian, she was Anglican and she was employed by a US airline as a stewardess. Can you imagine trying to find somebody 38 years later with so little information?

I've spent a great deal of time and money in my search for my roots and I've repeatedly encountered brick walls and barriers due to the secrecy involved to protect the confidentiality of all parties involved. Many misconceptions about adoption exist. Many people don't realize the confidentiality and secrecy surrounding society's attitude towards adoption in the past has done nothing but cause a lot of grief and pain for the adoptee, the birth parents and the adoptive parents. It's now proven that openness is essential in the process and that the reunion process is both beneficial and healing for both the birth parents and the adoptee.

Another point people don't realize is that the adoptee was the only party in the adoption triangle -- which consists of the adoptee, the birth parent and the adoptive parents -- who was not given any choice in the matter. The adoptee was the chattel or the goods in the adoption process. Where the birth mother had the option of making choices and the prospective adoptive parents were given choices, the adoptee had no say whatsoever in the matter. The adoptee was handed over blissfully innocent and unaware of what crucial life-altering changes were about to take place in his or her life.

Even in adulthood, the adoptee is still being deprived of his or her basic rights, the right to know what most human beings take for granted: to know the person who brought you into this world; to know who is the person you are genetically, historically, physically and emotionally connected to; to have some idea of family history; to have an idea of our past. It's been said that in order to know where you're going, you must have an idea of your past, something that we, as adoptees, have been denied. We're still being kept in the dark even as adult, taxpaying Canadian citizens.

Adoptees often find it hard to envision that we were actually born to a real person. It's almost as if we were dropped out of the sky. We find it very difficult to have a real sense of identity. The not knowing the truth is more difficult than even finding out something negative.

The time is long overdue for the province of Ontario to open our adoption records. A change in current adoption laws and the unsealing of Ontario's adoption records are necessary to stop treating adoptees as second-class citizens.

I'd like to add that I am in support of Bill 158. I feel that the no-contact clause is a small price to pay for having access to our original birth records.

Any questions?

Mr O'Connor: I appreciate you coming before the committee. I know we've talked over the telephone about this issue. There are always some concerns when we deal with something of this nature, and the no-contact clause I guess you're willing to accept. We heard from our very first presenter, who said that even with something like that, regardless of that, she felt strongly that she was going to go out and seek out her mother, her birth parents.


I just wondered if you'd want to comment on that. I know for us it's hard to understand because we're not in that situation and don't feel that emotional tug that is there, and it's real. When we had some discussion in the Legislature, one of my colleagues, in response to some of the discussion, started shouting that this is the end of the adoption process, that people will never look to making that decision of putting up a child for adoption. I just wondered if you might want to comment on that as well.

Mrs Jackson: Unfortunately, I wasn't here earlier to hear the other speaker. I don't know, all I can say really is that I feel you have to respect the person's privacy. If they choose to exercise the no-contact option, then I feel that's something we have to respect, and I most certainly would. But as Judith was just saying earlier, there may be the odd person who does this, but I think most reasonable people would respect that.

Mr O'Connor: If there were a form to be filled out, and I'm not sure exactly how this would be envisioned in the no-contact veto provision here -- you talked about the lack of your genetic and family history. I guess that's part of what draws on you and tugs at your heart.

Mrs Jackson: Oh, yes.

Mr O'Connor: I wondered if you would see some of that being something that would be discussed with the birth parent when she signed the veto that might ease some of that tugging that must be tremendous to live with.

Mrs Jackson: Personally, what I would like to see in this case is that if birth parents do decide to exercise the no-contact clause, they should be required to submit a detailed medical background. I think that would only be fair, really. At least it would give us that, because right now, at the present time, I have no medical background whatsoever. In fact, I'm fighting with the hospital that I was born in. They are telling me they have no record that I was born there and yet I was there for the first two and a half months of my life because I was quite premature. I was two pounds, three ounces when I was born. I was 12 weeks premature, so I definitely was there. Medical history is a very important thing to me. I have two teenaged children too who would like to know. If ever something were to happen to one of them, it would certainly come in handy, not to mention the annoyance when you've visiting your doctor and you have a routine physical or something and he says: "Well, come on. You must know something." You have to keep on saying, "I'm sorry, doctor, I don't know."

The Vice-Chair: Any other questions at this time? If not, thank you for your presentation. We appreciate it.

The next presenter is Mr Rioux. Not present? If not, we have one additional presentation to be made in camera. However, we will proceed and have Mrs O'Neill speak to the point that she wished to previously, before going in camera for the last presentation.

Mrs O'Neill: If I may ask Mr Martin what he was presenting to us today, Mr Chairman, was that a verbal report and a verbal opinion?

Mr Martin: That was a verbal report, a verbal opinion.

Mrs O'Neill: Okay. The reason I brought this forward is that over the weekend there were two people who came to me and were quite concerned about Bill 158. They were concerned about the no-contact veto and I had nothing to assure them that anybody other than the legislative counsel to this committee had ever examined it. In this province we have such a body, and I feel, as preliminary to this and to allay fears or state basic rights or to verify what this bill really does, the no-contact clause would be passed by the commissioner for his opinion -- his opinion only. The government may or may not take the opinion, but at least we would have it.

As I say, I'm very aware of the protections and exemptions around adoption information. They're there and they're exempt. This may be that simple an answer: Because this is an adoption bill it is fine. But we're starting a whole new registry. I am very impressed with the work that's been done on both sides, particularly by Consumer and Commercial Relations, because this is a whole new area for them. The way they presented yesterday, I have utter confidence that they've thought of lots of things. But I would like to take advantage of every, what should I say, resource we have in this province to examine the bill as closely as possible. So if the government members are willing to submit it for an opinion to the actual commissioner and if he would be willing to send something in writing, it would certainly make everybody's job easier.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Martin, we'll leave the request with you at this time?

Mr Martin: Sure. It was particularly the no-contact clause.

Mrs O'Neill: That's the only thing I feel really needs examination. We're getting different opinions today that we should open it maybe more than once. He may even want to comment. We've worked with him before. He sometimes has opinions that he's not asked for. That's fine with me on this.

Mr McGuinty: On a different issue, Mr Chair, I was wondering if either research or Mr Martin might have some figures as to the incidence of breaches of no-contact provisions of a similar nature in other jurisdictions. I think that would be of some assistance to us.

Mr Martin: Legislative research may have some.

Ms Alison Drummond: The New South Wales Law Reform Commission that one of the witnesses referred to, and that was supplied to members of the committee, says in its executive summary on page VIII -- I'll read the passage: "Compliance with the contact veto system is very high. Although there were rumours or suggestions of breaches, a careful examination of the evidence revealed only one incident that appeared to be breach of a veto." I'll see if I can find any further information, but I had seen that.

Mr McGuinty: I'm just wondering, one incident out of how many? It doesn't say?

Ms Drummond: It's not clear from that. I can see if it's clear elsewhere.

The Vice-Chair: We'll have a further report on that and a response later.

Mr David Johnson: Since we're talking about the no-contact, I have a few questions that perhaps could be answered. Maybe they've already been answered, since I've only been on this committee today.

As I understand it, there would have to be an offence and a conviction before the $5,000 fine would set in. I'm not a lawyer, so maybe this is self-evident to all the lawyers in this room: What would constitute an offence, to start with? In other words, what constitutes a contact? Is that defined? These are rhetorical questions perhaps. If they've already been answered, fine. You can answer them now or you can answer them in your subsequent report, which I gather is coming.

Would they have to go up, knock on the door and say, "Hello, I'm your adopted child," or do you just watch the person from afar, or do you have to make written contact or any contact whatsoever? Is that defined, I guess, is one set of questions. Another set may be, who would lay the charge? Would it have to be the person who was contacted? Would it be the local authorities who would have to lay the charge? How would that work?

Maybe the third set of questions gets into speculation. I assume this would have to go to court for a conviction to be laid, so a judge would have to say that yes, a contact has been made. I'm just speculating on how a judge would deal with something like that. I guess it would get down to speculating on what a judge or a court would consider to be a contact and how that would work, precisely. I'm just kind of curious to have those sorts of questions answered, to see what sort of process would be involved that a person would go through.

The Vice-Chair: You're adding several matters to the point that Ms O'Neill was making, and it's taking up further time. The questions are registered.

But I had an indication from Ms Belford, who is the policy analyst for children's services branch, who wanted to comment a few minutes ago. Would you care to comment now, and would it be in response to any of Mr Johnson's inquiries as well?

Ms Joan Belford: I won't respond to Mr Johnson's inquiries directly, although we have some information on some of those.

The Vice-Chair: Perhaps later, now that those are noted.

Ms Belford: We could do that.

The Vice-Chair: Please proceed.

Ms Belford: I want to correct a statement I made yesterday. Yesterday, when the freedom of information issue came up, I said that in the early stages of looking at this legislation we had asked the commissioner to look at this legislation. In fact, it was the director of the freedom of information and privacy branch of Management Board of Cabinet I had asked to look at it, and not the commissioner. I alluded to the wrong office yesterday, so I wanted to correct that for the record.

The Vice-Chair: You are allowed to correct your own record, so thank you for bringing that forward.

All right. The questions from Mr Johnson are noted.

If it's in order now, the committee will meet in closed session to hear the last presenter. The committee will conclude following that.

The committee continued in closed session at 1741.