The House resumed at 8 p.m.
House in committee of the whole.
CHILD WELFARE ACT (CONTINUED)
Resumption of consideration of Bill 114, The Child Welfare Act, 1978.
Mr. C. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, I speak to rise to the amendment -- or rise to speak, something like that. Anyway, here I am.
I was waiting for that, everybody usually claps. Even at the breakfast table I like clapping, but my family has given that up.
Mr. Nixon: Are you up again?
Mr. C. Taylor: Yes, I’m up again. They allowed me only 10 minutes this afternoon. Let’s get to the point at hand here.
This, again, is one of those amendments that have been with us for a period of time throughout the summer, the fall, through committee and now before this House. It is one of those amendments which is not without emotion by the participants, by these people who are putting forth the amendment. It is not without emotion for the participants out there that are wondering what we are going to do -- those future people that may be in, as it is referred to, “the adoption triangle,” those that have been through it, those that may be within the grandfather clause and that may be coming forth.
Let’s look at the different areas. I’m sure many of the words spoken here tonight and previously on the matter may not change our minds on the subject; but let’s put forth some of those. I’m sure the thoughts and the words will not be original; they have been repeated many times before, they have been put forth by different people studying the subject, both as scientific as it can be on the subject and both in the anecdotal form.
I guess when I looked at some of the documents on the subject and listened to those people that appeared before our committee this past term while the House was not sifting, the most telling thing I found as an indictment against the process was a book by a Dr. Sorosky that is probably one of the leading books on the subject, called The
Adoption Triangle. He starts out at the beginning of the book with a disclaimer that says: “To safeguard the privacy of the adoptees, their birth parents, and their adoptive parents all identifiable personal details and names have been changed.”
Here is a book -- one of the leading books one of the leading authorities -- saying that we should have this openness in the adoption situation; yet at the outset of his book he puts that in there and hides everything back under that veil of secrecy which he so clearly is trying to penetrate for all other people, but those people so basically involved in this situation want to still hide behind that secrecy. I should think if they wanted this openness they would be in the forefront to put their names right up -- as somebody says, put your money where your mouth is. Here, again, we have those very people getting back into those hidden veils of secrecy.
Again, from the same book, in the introduction: “Throughout the ages adoption has always been a vortex of emotional controversy. Hundreds of books and papers have been written on the subject and yet few statements can be made about the adoption process with any authoritative, scientific clarity.” It’s that authoritative, scientific clarity which I leave with the legislative members of this House. It is without that that they’re asking us to put forward an experimental process in this piece of legislation, an experimental process that lacks any type of scientific clarity or even authoritative clarity. It is, again, with this anecdotal procedure that one wants us to legislate for.
Again, when we look at this anecdotal procedure, it is based on so very few subjects and anecdotes. We look at the numbers the authors have used I in their scientific study. They get down to the use, in one instance and in one study, 38 birth parents -- as the term is used in some of these circles -- as compared to the natural parents. From 38 instances we draw a conclusion that there should be openness because they have approximately 38 people, all of whom are not what we would call satisfied customers of the situation when it is completed.
There again, we go to other nations, some of which have just recently entered into this openness. Would it not be a wiser step on behalf of this Legislature and this province to watch what might go on in other countries that have carried on the procedure to some greater length, or maybe let them experiment --
Mr. Makarchuk: This country has been watching other countries for a long time, hasn’t it? We’re always watching, not doing.
Mr. G. Taylor: -- and not be in the forefront in this matter, which is so lacking in clarity, both scientifically and in any other form of clarity to really be on a sound basis to put forward these amendments, so that one can be solidly, affirmatively for such legislative changes.
Let’s look at the natural parent. I said these thoughts are not original. They come from many sources and they have not got to my mind and my lips. What happens to the natural parents at the time when they put up a child for adoption, as the words are often used? Do you use the adoption process as an alternative, if you open it up, to the thoughts and theories that are put forward that abortion might increase where you get an openness, and this may come back on the doorstep of the individual who is making a decision possibly at the time when the child is put up for adoption. It may be that they are unmarried; it may be for economic standards; it may be for age standards; health. Maybe for some other reasons the pregnancy has been created, such as rape or incest or many other situations. This child is then put up for adoption.
There, again, the natural parent has an emotional decision to make at that time. Also, if you allow for this openness there is the theory that that emotional decision will come back to sit on the doorstep of that individual some 18 years later. Why do they give up the child? For many reasons; those reasons I have set out.
There is, at that time, in theory and in psychology, a rejection of that child as it is looked upon in the psychological term. Later on, we see that child coming back into the life. There may be again a second rejection even with the safeguards you’ve in the system; there is a second rejection or a possibility of a second rejection of that child.
There is also the feeling that the natural parent can start upon that new life that the parent wants as a result of removing, from that situation they’re in presently, the child into the adoption situation. That new life can then be destroyed, maybe emotionally fraught with problems at a later date. There is always put forth, too, the thought that it may be a blackmail situation later on where there is openness. Even today where there is lack of openness. there is always that possibility that haunts those in the situation that somebody may use that information for purposes other than the satisfaction of an emotional curiosity later on in life.
There is the trauma of giving up that child. That comes back to the individual. There is the problem of the mother and the father in the situation; what fathers may be brought into the situation because their names appear on the birth documents in some situations. Will it be that maybe the father tries the power play and says: “Heavens to Betsy, don’t put my name on that document. I don’t want it to come to rest with me later on.” Then you get, again, situations that can be used for extortion or other purposes at that early age. Possibly, maybe the putative father in certain situations would not then put forward money to assist the mother and child at an early age or even as they extend along should this possible openness come out onto the forefront at some later stage.
Let’s look at the adoptive parents. Again, I put forward these pieces of information with as much, I guess, anecdotal and research reliability, I think, as some of the other persons put forth their information. I have spent some considerable hours phoning, writing and discussing these matters with people in those different positions, being the natural parents, the adoptive parents and, in some situations, the children who have been adopted both at young ages and earlier ages in their lives.
Let’s look at the adoptive parents who put out the love for this child and, in some respects, turn the professional parent. They sometimes, I’m sure, put forth a greater exertion into this job of parenthood than maybe some of the natural parents we see day to day in our society. Here again, it’s the government’s contractual relationship that they have entered into with these people: and I grant it, there is the grandfather clause in here, but there is also this government’s contractual relationship that we have had that these items will be kept secret.
What about the selfishness, and that there is in the adoptive parent, that says, “I do not want to share again this child with anybody else. I have crown up with this child. I have given this child.” or as the case may be, children, “everything that I could possibly give as a parent. Now, even though that child is age 18 and now an adult, I do not want to share that child with somebody else”? That is a normal and natural feeling.
Some can have the security and with their emotional ability can withstand that more than some other areas and some other individuals. But there again it is a concern that we as legislators might consider in puffing forth this material. Again, they have that feeling of rejection that the child had earlier in life and maybe has had throughout its maturing years; it had that feeling of rejection by its natural parents. Here again, the adoptive parents have that feeling and it may be such an emotional feeling to them that they may enter into the hands of psychiatric people because they have been rejected or have faced the possibility of rejection.
When somebody sits back and says, “Here, I’ve given 18 years of love and affection”; there will be some, surely, who will sit there and say, “Also not only love and affection, devotion and sacrifice, but I have given money; money that that natural parent should have put forward but yet I have expended that money.” That’s a very cruel position to be possibly looking at but it is one that I’m sure must enter some of the minds of those individuals who might say, “Hey, just a minute. Now that you want to see that natural parent, I would also like to find out who the natural parent is too. I have a little bill here that I would like to have repaid for those 18 years. The love and devotion I gave is not any longer sufficient; I now want to get the dollars back.”
Or do they come to government and say: “Just a minute now. You are opening up a certain amount of openness” -- and it is not without thought that this may go through their mind -- “I would like to be repaid, because you have asked me to be a caretaker parent -- a babysitter or whatever other label you want to put on that adoptive parent -- for some considerable number of years. Therefore, I want a recompense from the state.”
Or do we enter into a state-operated situation where nobody wants to become the adoptive parent for a period of 18 years, with the possibility of termination for any number of reasons when the child reaches the age of majority.
We have then the other feature of the triangle that is used, the child. That child who is now 18, what is that child’s reason for his desire? Is it curiosity? Is it emotion? Is it medical? There are many reasons why that child wants to secure that information. Possibly that is why it should be open and, therefore, the child should be able to get that information.
At present we have a certain amount of openness for cause. Maybe we should have a greater amount of openness but for a greater amount of cause being shown -- not just the filing of a fee and some consultation with the different participants. Maybe they should be required for a period of time to go to a halfway house where the requirement would be factual, hard evidence of a required emotional style, with medical evidence to put forward that one desires that information for the well-being and health of that adult child at that time before that information is given out.
What about the fantasies I know that are put forward that the children think about? “Boy, would I be happy if Howard Hughes happened to be my father.” Or the fantasies as they reach the age of 18, 17 or 18:
“How happy I would be if I could leave that father and mother of mine who have disciplined me at the time when I am spreading my wings the most. I am now 18. I’ll find out who my natural parent is. My natural parent will do a heck of lot more for me than you are.” Think of those emotional problems that come into a situation when that type of thinking goes on. Surely that type of thinking goes on in different children. Even in natural children with natural parents it goes on; they wish they could have other parents. We are trying to prevent situations such as that.
When the child gets to that stage, when he is seeking out this information, and we provide a mechanism for the child to go through that system, there is again, as I mentioned earlier, that second rejection. He puts his name into the hat and says, Find my natural parents.” Then the natural parent says, “Sorry. I don’t want to see that child again.” Which is going to be worse, the curiosity or finding out that his curiosity is again cut off at a stage when he desires it for his emotional well-being and we send him back down the tube of emotional trauma?
Again, is there a search? I can see the search possibly for the love of a natural parent which some say is there; that blood is thicker than water. Naturally, when you seek out your natural parents, you may find that that love is there; but, again, it might not be there.
There is the make-up of the family as we’ve got it. I can understand that child, when he’s reaching age 18, looking for something more -- something more than just this legal shred of tie. He’s looking for natural blood relatives. Maybe within his own family, the relatives other than the adoptive parents have had no interest in that child by always referring to it as “the adopted child.” So now it is seeking out something stronger, or at least a hope of something stronger, than this legal relationship that has been created by statute.
There are many reasons for the child seeking out this information.
I found it strange -- this may get back to the legislative problem that we have tried to deal with once this session, and that is the age of 18. It is the age of majority in this province; it has been changed slightly for the drinking age, but what I found in all my inquiries is that age 18 was not a very good age of maturity at which to supply an individual with this type of information. Surely if we have some reservations about supplying and allowing certain individuals to do certain items -- surely the drinking of alcohol -- are we again to allow this same child this type of information, again by this style of procedure to get a second rejection at that growth period in that child’s life when it should be all-important? I mention it only in passing, but each person I asked, no matter what part of the triangle they were in -- be it the natural parent, be it the adopted child, be it the adoptive parents -- none of them came back with the thought that 18 was a very good age.
That gets back to a greater issue than this particular one, but some of them strangely enough -- and I hear the member for Carleton East (Ms. Gigantes) talk today about her changing in thoughts on the abortion as time went -- some of these people too have had changes of thought over their period of time, to a point of inquiring, to the extent that none would give out any information, some would give out some information. Again, I emphasize though, that all of it was for a later period in time than age 18. That presents us with far greater difficulties than what are presently here, but that is another one.
Let’s look again, as we must in today’s economic situation, at the fact that there is going to be, with the amendments put forward, and although it is probably not as great as the emotional one, there is an economic consequence to the government and the province of Ontario in setting up this procedure. Albeit we have not got the actual figures, but there is going to be, when you start an investigative process, be it even just a registry, there will be some cost.
Again it is difficult to measure that Cost against the happiness that may be created; it sometimes may be difficult to measure that cost against the sadness that may be created by the situation we are putting forth with these amendments. The Children’s Aid Society workers -- and I assume that’s who most of them will be when they talk about counselling here, counselling services; again the amendment doesn’t say who will be providing those counselling services, although one might consider it to be the Children’s Aid Society workers. We had, throughout the period of time --
Mr. McClellan: It says the Children’s Aid Society; it will be the Children’s Aid Society.
Mr. C. Taylor: Fine. Then if we narrow it down to the Children’s Aid Society, what I found through every brief, whether it was on this particular section or on other sections, throughout the period of time -- doctors, professionals, non-professionals -- everybody seemed to be concerned about what might go on a report when that report was going to be made public for some purpose. Again there would be guarded reports if that procedure was to be followed.
Here again we’ve got more openness; the same professional people will be providing some of the information -- be it medical, be it the history, or otherwise -- and again how much will be on that report, how much counselling will be done, how much guarded counselling will be done in respect to this situation -- hedging, not sufficient, insufficient, not quite professional qualities that one might want.
Again, which counsellors are going to do this? Are all social workers competent in this field? Is some case going to need the highly complicated counselling of a psychiatrist rather than just a social worker? Is somebody’s desire to find this information out -- who goes through the counselling procedure, be it the natural parent or the adopted child -- are they going to need and who is going to make that assessment, are they going to need extremely delicate professional psychiatric and scientific counselling before this goes forward?
I hear it commented upon so often that there are so few here in our adoptive process. If I can look at the statistics by many of the organizations, there are not that many adopted people, there are not that many people who are going through the adoptive process that have arrived at age 18 that really want this information. Am I, as a legislator and the other people in this building -- for those few people that have what may be described as curiosity -- are we going to put a system into place that could cause many emotional problems on many different parties? The members on the opposite side of the House -- Ross, you many times are the first to get up --
Mr. Chairman: Order. Would the honourable member please refer to another member by his riding.
Mr. G. Taylor: What’s your riding, Ross?
Mr. McClellan: Bellwoods.
Mr. C. Taylor: Bellwoods, that’s it. I’ve heard the honourable member for Bellwoods exclaim and criticize this government -- where the Children’s Aid Society workers are involved today, even when we have one case that goes wrong, the entire system is criticized. Again I have this fear, that if one case goes wrong here and we have one person with deep mental anguish and problems resulting from this procedure, you will be probably one of the first to disclaim the procedure and say it should be revamped and probably never should have been put together. So that’s where I worry about that. This government has reservations about changing a system that will create even one problem. Heaven knows we have enough problems at times without just one more -- and this is one of those less-then-objective measurements.
When I read through all the material on this, there were quantitative words that were used so frequently in all the material. Such words as “many,” “the majority,” “few,” “among some,” “most” -- never a scientific amount and never anything more than those rough qualitative words to describe a system, or to describe the benefits of other systems that are in place, the benefits of having openness.
Similarly, if you’ve got many that show a pleasure with the system, a happiness out of the change, an emotional happiness or an enlargement out of the system being open, then when you say “many” there has to be the corollary that some are not satisfied, some are totally dissatisfied and there are problems with the other part of those statistics.
You can’t even say when they are putting this material forward that 99 per cent of the operations were satisfied. They could always only break it down with their material; and with the Parent Finder’s material that has been supplied to us -- in their brief to the committee -- it was always hedged with “many,” “majority,” and it was never as solid as I would like it to be to support such an amendment.
There is also out there the belief in the public -- that we have not yet got to that public that these changes are coming along or that there is a possibility. We have a concept of adoption -- that is, the public knowledge of it -- that it is private and secret. We have yet to tap or survey or receive information from that great mass of people. Even the statistics put forward by the Community and Social Services Ministry are not very telling as to the amount of people interested in this that it should be changed, that there is an overwhelming, compelling reason for the change. Maybe not in all our legislation we need that reasoning, but in this situation there is not an overwhelming compelling reason to change any of the law as it happens to presently be.
I also find it interesting that there was in some of the groups putting in briefs, suggestions of conflicts of interest by ministers -- because they administer certain pieces of legislation in this field that they have a conflict of interest. I found that totally unacceptable, that they would say somebody who administers a particular piece of legislation has a conflict of interest to even vote or speak or discuss the situation. I should think that they would have the most interest. They are the ones who are going to have to eventually administer this or any other act.
One cannot get a very good scientific background for this piece of legislation. We can dwell on the point, as many have, that you are going to vote your conscience -- that the Edmund Burke letters are a disguised method of saying, well this time I’m going to vote my conscience no matter what my constituents say.
On this one, one can vote his conscience and probably that of his constituents’, other than those who are interested for some particular reason, and maybe for their own feeling because they have had great relief out of this; therefore, other people should have great relief as a result of finding out who their natural parents are.
I can see where, when we have a situation such as this, the next stage after making it open is to go into the licensing of parent-finder groups, and the children-finder groups, and then into the setting up of standards for parent-finder groups and counsellors. Then we have a trade, a business -- professional parent finders and professional child finders.
There probably are people who use any means to find out who their natural parents are and where their children are. I can see that in our society. I’m not saying I condone it, but I’m sure there are many procedures used that are less than legal or less than moral. Yet that conquest has to go on.
If we get this first step here, although it is put forward as experimental -- let’s open it up a little and see how it works -- I can see that long range we’ll have professional groups who will go out and do this procedure as a profitable operation charging enormous sums. I suspect then we’ll be getting into the licensing and qualifying position of saying whether those people should or should not operate. We might even get to the point where we have to set up funding for those people who are dissatisfied with the servicing, such as the travel industry and others.
I make some light of that, but that’s the way I can see this thing going. So with all of those suggestions, I don’t think I can support the amendment from the member for Bellwoods. His putting it forth is laudable. It shows his concern on the subject and the concern of the people who have contacted him. But there is a greater concern for those people who have not put forward their position, for whom we have to speak, as opposed to what we can put forward with the scientific information. Sure, if the information had been greater, the numbers had been greater, we would have some greater concern for putting this forward.
It is not fair to label members of cabinet who may not want to speak on this subject tonight, saying that it is because some of them may be adoptive parents; or some of them have a position of administrating some of the social legislation in this field and that they would thus put themselves into a different position and not vote on it as they think is best for the people of the province of Ontario and for those people who have gone through this system or who may go through this system, and who may become either the natural parents who put their children up for adoption, or the adoptive parents -- it is not fair to say, therefore, they would not vote true to their conscience and what they think is for the betterment of this province.
Those are my remarks on this amendment. I would not support such an amendment in this form.
Mr. Blundy: This is a subject with which I have wrestled for some time. You, Mr. Chairman, and many other members present, will recall that in the early part of this year, back in the spring, I had been approached by many people on this subject and I asked the minister, in the House, what he was going to do about this, if he had anything planned. I know that many people were exasperated with the government and with the minister for showing no leadership in this matter. Even when I asked what was planned in the way of disclosure to adoptees. the minister had a very brief answer which conveyed nothing in terms of understanding of the situation, either to me or to many of the other people who were concerned.
I have talked to many of the people who are concerned and I have read very carefully as much as I could on this subject and I am now going to be speaking in opposition to the amendment. I do so with very mixed feelings and I am doing it because I feel there are too many unknowns in the situation for me to come out categorically in favour of such amendment.
First of all, I believe that in families that I know where there has been an adopted child taken into that family there is just as much love and affection and understanding as there is in the home where there are only natural-born children. I believe that adoptive parents sometimes feel they have to do just a little better. If they are not number one, they have to fight to be number one and they do a little better.
I know that in my own family, I don’t have any adopted children myself, but one of my family has and the oldest boy who has been adopted has never to my knowledge raised the question of his natural parent. He, of course, knows he is adopted.
I can understand how some of the people who have been adopted have a natural yearning to knew something about their roots. I can understand that. Really, when we look at what is happening in practice in the province now, many of the adoption agencies are providing a good deal of information to the adoptive parents when an adoption is being made.
I checked this out and I was surprised to find out that they are providing a great deal more information now than they ever had before, but the actual persons and the actual names are not disclosed. From the standpoint of the adoptee I can understand that desire, but I don’t know that he would always be happy with what he found out if the amendment were passed.
As far as the natural parent is concerned, no natural parent, particularly a mother, is going to give up her child unless she has very good reasons for doing so. Having had that wrenching experience of having to give up her child to adoption, I think it would be unfair to place her in a situation where 18 or 20 years later she would have to relive that very wrenching experience, and which might very well make problems in what otherwise is a perfect family unit.
As for the adoptive parents, I believe there is a certain degree of problem there as well with this amendment. The adoptive parents can, as I have said before, be excellent parents and show great love and care for their adopted child. But we see many rebellious teenagers today and I can see where a rebellious boy of 15 or so says: “Wait until I am 18. I will find out where I came from,” creating a great deal of problems in a home, creating a great deal of anguish with his loving, adoptive parent and not knowing really what he was getting into.
This isn’t a question where you can put clown figures in one column and figures in another column and add them up and say this is obviously the right way to go; it is a situation where you have to use feelings and understanding and consider all parts of the situation from the standpoint of all parties in the situation.
I have read very carefully all the information that has been sent to me by the Parent Finders Incorporated. They are a group who are, I am sure, very anxious for the passage of this amendment. But as I have said, I have talked to other people and I have talked to children’s aid society workers and I have come to the conclusion that in my conscience I feel it would be better if we do not change the situation. In view of the fact that so much more information is given now than it was even 10 or 20 years ago, I believe there is not quite the need for the change that some people would indicate.
With those few words, I would like to urge everyone to look very carefully at the fallout from this action that might take place and I personally will vote against the amendment that’s before us.
Mr. Bounsall: Mr. Chairman, as a member of the committee hearing all the submissions to the committee on this particular amendment, and particularly being on that committee and seeing all the various draft forms that this amendment went through, it causes me very strongly to think that I can’t understand why anyone would want to vote against this amendment in the form in which we now have it.
It’s moved quite distinctly from an amendment which gave almost total rights to the adult adoptee to discover his or her roots, through to what we have before us tonight, which represents in fact a very small step forward over the position which we have in Ontario at the moment. It’s hard for me to understand, as I said, why anyone, faced with all of the safeguards we have in this amendment, would be in opposition to it.
What we have done here in the amendment is caused for at least the next 18 years four persons to have to give theft consent before any information is passed on to the adult adoptee inquiring. Both of the natural parents if they can be found, and the search must be made, and both of the adopting persons, where any and all of those four are alive, must give their consent. If there’s any one of those four at any time who says, “No, I am not in favour of the information being given out to the adult who is searching for it,” then that is the end of any possibility of that information being transferred to that adult adoptee.
I don’t see how much more of a safeguard we can build into the very strong and heartfelt feelings for adoptees who wish to find out, not in a state of idle curiosity but on the part of the adult adoptee following the very strong drive and urge to discover where his or her roots are, what theft past has been, to safeguard it so that this is not done frivolously or without a great degree of thought having gone in it. It’s going to be 18 years plus, because the amendment of course requires that after this act is passed it applies, in case of approvals of the natural parents, only for adoptions which would occur after this act is passed.
So it’s at least the next 18 years before four persons are to be consulted, all of whom most give their consent. I understand from Parent Finders Incorporated that the average age of persons contacting them to determine their natural parents is 32. We are really looking at on average the next 32 years, if this amendment is adopted, before persons will not be required to give their consent.
The thing which strikes me most about this amendment is that it brings into Ontario some consistency to the method of operation of the children’s aid societies which are being contacted by adult adoptees in order to discover who their parents were. At the present time, depending upon which children’s aid society you approach in Ontario, you get a response varying all the way from a very abrupt no, a real brush-off in the sense of their saying, “We don’t think this is a good idea for you to do this,” and “It’s a policy of our particular local children’s aid not to hand out any information or encourage you at all,” to those who are very sensitive and as helpful as they possibly can be in the situation.
I see it as a great advantage in clearly laying out, as this amendment does, what is the role of all those employees of children’s aid societies in Ontario. This is very carefully laid out in this amendment as well. They are to perform a very key counselling role. When they receive an inquiry from an adult adoptee, they are to carefully counsel that adult adoptee as to the problems, emotional or psychological, that are likely to arise as a result of theft inquiry.
It is the children’s aid society which then does the search to determine the whereabouts of the natural parents. It is the children’s aid society worker who is charged with the work involved in the case who will be in contact with both the natural parents and the adopting parents and who will be there to provide counselling to the latter as to any inherent dangers or what might occur, based on past practice, when the natural parent or parents and adult adoptee are reunited.
By this amendment, careful step-by-step assurance is given that there will be counselling at every stage. As this is written, for the next 18 to 32 years plus, if any one of those four parents, as a result of being contacted by the children’s aid and informed, although in the case of the adopting parents they will be in ready and constant communication on the topic with the adult adoptee, should say no, then that is as far as it goes.
This amendment is such a small step forward. It certainly would rationalize the inconsistencies which now exist among children’s aid societies across the province. I could go on at some length, as I did, in committee, about my own personal views in the matter and the psychological drives which cause adult adoptees to wish to discover their roots. It certainly is a heartfelt thing and not just a case of idle curiosity on the part of the adult adoptee.
We all remember the very absorbing television series, Roots, and some of us have read the book. It illustrates -- it has not given rise to applications by adult adoptees to determine who their natural parents were, that desire has always been there -- but the movie and the book illustrate how important it is for most persons to discover what their heritage has been. I know several adult adoptees whose almost sole purpose in determining who their natural parents are is to discover what sort of medical problems their natural parents have had because of the questions that are asked them when they go for medical treatment in terms of their family medical background problems, which some doctors feel is important as some sort of a guide in determining what sort of treatment or what sort of problem may well arise with that person medically.
It’s for that as well -- a very practical reason -- that the adult adoptees would like to determine who their parents were, the raison d’être being not idle curiosity at all, but the very practical point of what is their medical background history on their parent’s side.
I will say that I find it very hard, since I have been a foster parent myself of three teenage daughters, and experienced each of these daughters coming into our home at age 15 and staying with us until they reached the normal age of leaving, and becoming quite attached to each of them; at the same time, realizing, as any adult and parent should realize, that you can’t play the parent role forever with your own children or foster children or adopted children. You cannot be parents forever.
You must recognize that at some time -- and it occurs at various ages, but usually around age 18; it could be 17; it could be 19; it could be 20 -- that person assumes in every respect, emotionally, their adult responsibilities and wishes to fly the family coop and set up a more independent existence for themselves. It’s a bit of a hard thing for every parent to accept; but this happens. It’s a part of the growing up that parents go through, the recognition that in the later teens the children, whether they’re natural, adopted or foster, in fact, are going to no longer be as dependent upon us as they were and, in fact, are going to take up an independent existence.
I, therefore, find it rather difficult, from my own personal experience, to appreciate the arguments made about what damage and emotional problems this is going to give rise to for the adoptive parent.
If such a problem -- a fear of being supplanted, if you like, in the emotions of an adopted child who is now an adult, by their discovery of and contact with the natural parent -- if that is a fear of an adoptive parent, that adoptive parent does, indeed, need the counselling of the children’s aid society, which they will be certain of getting if this amendment should pass and their adopted son or daughter applies to determine who the natural parents were.
It’s an overly parental and protective attitude, if after one’s adopted son or daughter reaches age 18 -- and the average age, as I said before in the debate, is 32 when these adult adoptees start the search in earnest for their natural parents -- some sort of parental feeling is so strong that they would feel somehow threatened --
Mr. Gregory: It’s called love.
Mr. Bounsall: There shouldn’t be any decrease or increase of love. We’re not talking about love here. One doesn’t stop loving one’s adopted son or daughter, one’s own son or daughter, or one’s foster son or daughter just because they have a natural urge to find out something more about themselves. That adopted child or foster child does not love the adoptive or their foster parent any less because they are finding out something about their background.
Any person who fears that, any adult who fears that who is an adoptive or a foster parent or a natural parent, is exhibiting an unreal fear and a real sense of insecurity. That’s something which, in fact, they should be taking treatment for if at that advanced age, when their adopted son or daughter is 18 plus and, on average, aged 32, they’re having problems with dealing with that interest on their behalf What are they losing? They’re not losing a thing.
In fact I would think that under this section, for those adoptions that have already taken place, if there has been a natural open relationship between the adopted child and the adopting parents, that there would be virtually no adopting parents giving the answer “no” to the children’s aid society when they are asked if they have any reason to object to their adopted son or daughter determining, if the natural parents are willing, the identity of those natural parents.
I could go on and repeat myself in various ways giving examples, which is not my intention here tonight. I would just wrap it up by saying that with all the counselling that is provided in this amendment, with all the safeguards that are built in here -- and it’s not simply open ended rights for an adopted child to find out who its natural parents were, but one in which consent must be given throughout, I think this is a very carefully circumscribed amendment.
I’m disappointed that the government and the ministry could not accept this amendment and make it part of this rather positive revision to the Child Welfare Act. If this is defeated tonight, what we’re left with is the same unsatisfactory situation prevailing at the moment in Ontario where one children’s aid society is as co-operative as it can be and the other one is as uncooperative as it can be and there is no laid-down set of rules about their having to go out and search out and get permission from as many as four sets of adult persons before information can he handed out.
We do not have at the present time a clearcut method of operating and we have different responses from different children’s aid societies and different responses from different workers within those children’s aid societies. On balance, they aren’t very cooperative in the province of Ontario, and this would be an amendment, if passed, which would clearly indicate that they must be cooperative but they must provide as much counselling as they possibly can to keep any emotional problems that would arise down to a minimum.
I think it’s a very fine amendment. It doesn’t go as far in extending rights to adopted children to determine their roots as I would have it, but I can see that it’s a reasonable one and a very small first step. I think the members of this Legislature should take this very tentative step in allowing adopted children, via this very circumscribed method, a route clearly recognized of being able to contact their natural parents, should that be their concern.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Chairman, I’ll be very brief but I do have a few comments to make. In a brief that was presented to the standing committee on social development, it was indicated that the Provincial Secretary for Social Development did have a conflict of interest in that she headed the policy field in which the Ministry of Community and Social Services was responsible for the legislation involved in this particular area. Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, at this time, I should inform you that I do have another conflict of interest, if it appears that way to some of my colleagues in this House, for I have two adopted children. One of them is sitting in the Legislature this evening.
I have great concerns about how we are so willing to interfere with the lives of thousands of families across this province without really being sure of what it is that we’re doing. I refer to the thousands of families who have lived in security in the sense that natural parents were assured, at the time that they gave up their child for adoption, that that confidence would be maintained; and assurances were given to adoptive parents that that confidentiality would be maintained.
I know very few adoptive parents who have not been very open with their children in informing them right from the beginning that indeed they were adopted.
Maybe we were very fortunate, because we lived on a street where perhaps two thirds of the children were adopted. There were never any problems, nor was there any discussion about children being different because they had been adopted.
I worry about the kinds of counselling that is being suggested that would be given to those adult adoptees who come forward. I wonder on what basis the counselling would be given. What kind of information would those counsellors have? Would they have all of the information? Would they have the background of the natural parent and why that natural parent decided to put the child up for adoption? I like to believe that no child is put up for adoption without a great deal of heartache -- perhaps not just on the part of the natural parent, but perhaps on the family of that natural parent who is forced, through circumstances to put that child up for adoption.
Long before I became involved in a political sense, I was very involved in my own community in many of the social services agencies. In all that time, I have never been approached by an adopted child or an adopted adult suggesting that it was very necessary for them to make contact with their natural parents. But during those many years I have been approached by families with a daughter who was pregnant, looking for some direction on just how they could cope with the problem. Many times I have advised, along with backup support from professional people, that in the best interests of the child, because the mother was so young, that child should be placed for adoption.
I know the trauma that those young teenagers have gone through. It isn’t something they forget very quickly. Sometimes it takes years before they can reestablish themselves and develop new relationships, and perhaps marry and have a family. Since becoming the provincial secretary, I know of the hurt of some of those young people who have found out their identity, who indeed have found out through those agencies that are prepared to give out that confidential information. I know the trauma that some of them have gone through. I hear from their parents. I bear from some of the psychiatric services where these children have had to attend.
Mr. Martel: Table the documentation.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: I can -- quite easily.
Mr. Werner: Do it.
Mr. Gregory: Don’t be silly, don’t be so ignorant.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Chairman, I think that we change too quickly because we are pressured into it by minority groups -- minority groups often with vested interests -- and we don’t look to all of those thousands of people who are very happy, very pleased with the arrangements that were made, the contract that they entered into, and I feel very certain that a great deal more has to be learned before we can proceed to be so quick to suggest that it’s in the best interests of everyone concerned to provide this kind of disclosure.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, it’s very difficult to sit in this Legislature and to hear the words of the member for Scarborough East and not to be touched by them, mainly be- cause one knows that she is speaking from first-hand information, and as I go on maybe I should, as the expression goes, hoist my flag. I’m going to support the amendment and I’ll try to give my reasons for it, but I do want to say to the member for Scarborough East that I listened very carefully to what she said.
Perhaps the whole basis upon which I’m supporting the amendment is because I believe that it’s a way of balancing some rights in this issue and I feel, and I believe very strongly, that as she just explained them, the rights of adoptive parents, the rights of the birth parents, the rights of the adopted child -- and in this legislation we’re talking about an adopted adult, not a child -- are all deserving of some respect. I must say to the member for Scarborough East that I took her words with much deeper meaning than I did those of her colleague from Simcoe. I felt that he was grasping at straws somewhat and asking for a degree of certitude that is probably not possible in dealing with human relationships.
I think that most of us in this House are mature enough and have had enough experience with one another to know that whenever there’s any kind of a human relationship, whenever we examine the various social contracts, we can never have that kind of absolute certitude and that if that were required I doubt if we would ever pass any legislation in this House, because what we’re faced with is drawing together all of the information that is available to us. Hopefully, we consult with the people who are going to be affected by it, and then we make the best possible decision we can.
I would like to hope that this is one of those kinds of issues on which we will make the best possible decision we can, given the information that we have available to us. I would make the point that as I understand it. and my understanding is based entirely on second-hand information, I have talked to adult adoptees, I have talked to adoptive parents and I’ve talked to some birth parents who have given up their children, and so I must go by the information that they’ve given me because I haven’t had the direct experience that the member for Scarborough East has had.
I think it’s wise for those in the Legislature who are not privileged -- and I use that word privileged -- to sit in on the committee and to have struggled through the evolution of the position we’re at now, to try to understand and try to know something about it. As most of the members are aware, at the present time, with minor exceptions, we have a position in this province at the moment of no disclosure. When we first started out, when the first amendment was brought into the committee, it was to the absolute other extreme of the spectrum, it went to total disclosure with no limitations whatsoever. We struggled with that one, because obviously we were dealing with very extreme positions.
Among others, I was one of the ones who brought in some of the changes which are new incorporated into this amendment and those changes, I believe, do take into consideration the rights and the positions of all the people concerned with this. Because it seems to me that if we stay where we are now, where it is for all practical purposes no disclosure except for very unusual circumstances, then what we’re saying is that adult adoptees have no rights.
If on the other hand, we had gone to the position of full disclosure with no limitations, then in fact what we would have said was that birth parents and adopting parents have no rights. I would like to suggest to my colleagues in the House that the position we’ve taken right now recognizes the rights of all. I would echo comments that have been made earlier that in many ways it is a small step forward and in many ways it might even be a greater protection than what we have at the present time. Because I would just draw to the attention of the members in the House that section 80(1) at the present time reads that the records shall be sealed up, but the last two lines say, “except upon en order of the court or the written direction of a director.”
As I understand that, it means that the information disclosure could take place without any consent whatsoever of the birth parents and without any consent whatsoever of the adopting parents. I don’t know what the criteria are to make that particular section come into play, but nevertheless it’s there and it can come into play. I would like to suggest to those members of the House who have expressed their concern about any disclosure that in some ways -- and I’m not trying to play games here -- what we have in this amendment is more protection than what we have right now.
We’re clearly saying that we recognize there has been a social contract in this province for, I don’t know how many years -- 50, 100, whatever it happens to he -- and that we are respecting that social contract. No one is unilaterally wiping it out. What they are saying is it’s time. And I don’t know what’s a better time; maybe it was five years ago, maybe it’s five years in the future, I honestly don’t know. But I would sense that this is just as good a time as any to make that one small step forward.
I would also suggest that we are protecting the rights we had guaranteed under the social contract, because what the amendment clearly says is that for all of those adopting procedures that took place prior to this change in the act, if it’s supported, then no disclosure can take place unless all the parties concerned give their consent. It then goes on to say that from now on, “disclosure cannot take place unless the birth parent, who has the right,” for the reasons that have already been described here, “to maintain her anonymity" -- she has that right, and that right remains in the bill. Since we’re talking about adoptions that would take place from this point on, and we’re talking about disclosure only to an adult, then we’re a long way clown.
I would like to suggest to the members of this Legislature that some time in that intervening period well be coming back and taking another look at this, and we may change it again. I don’t know, but we may. So it really is a fairly safe and a fairly small step.
I am a little bit surprised when the reference was made that the only reason that adult adoptees want this information is out of curiosity. The record doesn’t speak to that The record clearly shows that in this province and in other jurisdictions, less than 10 per cent of adult adoptees are making any real effort to find their birth parents. Less than 10 per cent. And of those, in England -- where, granted, they’ve only had three years’ experience, but at least it’s something to look at -- fully 80 per cent only wanted to have the information, they didn’t want to make an actual contact. That information was part of their being, part of their psychological and emotional makeup. Surely, we’re only talking of a small number of people, I grant you that, but are we going to say no just because it is a small number? Even if it were one or two or three, if we really believe in the principle of rights then it would still apply. I don’t think the numbers factor is important at all.
I am going to support the amendment. I don’t think it’s a major step forward. I think in some ways it could be. It could be better than what we’ve got already now. At least it will be fairer. As it is now we don’t know what the criterion is, what the judgement is. We know, as already expressed, some children’s aid societies would give out the information anyway. It just seems to me to be too haphazard, too loose. If you get to the right place at the right time you get the information; if you don’t, tough luck. I don’t think that’s the way we want to run this operation. This is fairer. It’s more just. It’s only a small step forward. I think that we’re mature enough in this province to fry It.
Mr. Martel: I would like to start by asking if the adoptee has any rights. Surely the core of this thing is the adoptee. I’ll come back to that. I just want to start with that.
I want to turn to the minister’s statement. I think they were a little dishonest, from this point of view.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Mr. Martel: There is experience in four countries: Israel --
Mr. Chairman: I ask the member to withdraw that remark.
Mr. Martel: I withdraw the remark, Mr. Chairman. It was a little misleading, let’s put it that way.
Mr. Stong: It was from the heart and that’s what counts in this.
Mr. Nixon: Misleading is just as bad. An hon. member: Misleading is unparliamentary too.
Hon. Mr. Grossman It wasn’t misleading. It was not.
Mr. Martel: I’m sorry if my friends -- it’s an emotional issue.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order.
Mr. Stong: It was from the heart.
Mr. Chairman: Order, order.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Would you please ask the honourable member to withdraw that statement about my statement being misleading? Does he have any proof of it? I’d like to see the documentation of that.
Mr. Martel: If I can proceed I’ll prove it.
Mr. Martel: She asked me to prove it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Are you going to withdraw?
Mr. Chairman: I would inform the member that the word “misleading” is unparliamentary and ask him to withdraw the statement.
Mr. Martel: I withdraw the remark.
Mr. Chairman: Thank you. You may proceed.
Mr. Martel: I’m a little disturbed that one can come in here and say there is no experience in this field of giving knowledge to the adoptee. In fact, there are four countries -- we obtained the material which was supplied to us -- the minister is aware of it -- from the Ombudsman. It indicated the length of time this act, or a similar act, has been in place, in England, Scotland, Israel and Finland for, I believe, 20 or 30 years, at least -- 1932, I believe. That’s not much experience, mind you. Neither is it in Scotland -- 1958, I believe. That’s not much experience to go by, either. England is only 1975.
But there is experience. That’s what irritates me. The second statement that irritated me is if you’ve got documentation which indicates that people’s families are being destroyed and people are being destroyed by learning the truth, you should table that documentation.
The minister tried that when we debated Bill 114 in certain sections. We said to the minister, “Please, if you’ve got some information -- not pertaining to this but on another section -- we just ask you to table the documentation on which you make your statement.” I say to the provincial secretary if she has some documentation which can substantiate her statement, I would like to see it. Maybe it will help me to understand her position.
The things I have seen to date do not corroborate her position, and that is what disturbs me. If one reads the report by the Ombudsman or if one reads the material and takes the time to find out, it is not there. But some people are so biased they think Parent Finders is some malicious group out to destroy families. That is not it at all. They take the studies and documents from the States to some degree, as they did before the committee, which show that just the reverse occurs from what the minister has said. That is what I find so disturbing.
If she has some documentation, then for God’s sake let her put it on the table before we take the vote. I understand it is an emotional issue and all of us get worked up by it. But let her not try to win her case if she hasn’t got the material to substantiate it and is simply doing it on emotion. It is too serious a problem affecting those hundreds of thousands who have been adopted to go by emotion. Table the material. We are prepared to delay the vote. Let her give us the proof on which she makes these statements. That is the least she can do. If she can’t do that, she should withdraw her statements.
It is not a new issue. I have been involved in this issue since 1971 or 1972. We didn’t come to it in haste two weeks ago. My friend, the late member for Nipissing (Mr. R. S. Smith), and I pushed for this in 1972-73. It is not new. Ontario, as it is wont to do so often, continues to drag its heels or its feet or whatever you want to call it.
I remember going to the predecessor, Mr. Brunelle, who wanted to loosen it up a little hit to make it more equitable, to make it more convenient and to make it easier. He obviously was obstructed too because he couldn’t budge it. He was obstructed by certain people within cabinet who would not even take a look at the thing seriously.
The scuttlebutt I get back is the minister threatens to resign if a Tory votes for this amendment. I understand by that she is very serious about it. I respect that seriousness hut I expect her to document her statements. As a minister of the crown who gets up and makes that type of statement, she has a responsibility to put the material on the table so that the rest of us in this Legislature can determine if there is reason why we should change our vote. But the minister is obviously not prepared to do that.
She gets up and makes two statements that I find offensive. She says we are not moving with this with any experience behind us. We are. We are moving with the experience of four countries. The minister says no. Does she refute the documentation that was prepared by the Ombudsman?
Whether that be the case or not, there are facts; in the years since those bills were introduced there are many years of experience in fact.
Mr. Lane: Is that from the gospel?
Mr. Martel: I am not saying it is the gospel, but I am saying those bills were passed in those years and this procedure has been followed in four countries; so we have experience.
What we are trying to do is maintain confidentiality. My friend from Kitchener-Wilmot explained it well when he indicated that all parties are protected, more so than under the present act, because at least there would be uniformity in application across the province, which isn’t the present case.
It is a complex problem. We are dealing with three sets of individuals, if I can put it that way. There is the natural parent who of course -- and I understand it -- has the fear of it coming back to haunt later on once they have gone through the trauma of surrendering a child. I understand it extremely well. I do happen to be a parent of four children.
There is the fear of the adoptive parents that the child might not like them as much when he reaches the age of 18 -- but, you know, he might not like his natural parents at 18. By the time the child reaches maturity, and that’s the age we are talking about for him to get this consent, he’s no longer tied to the apron strings even in the natural surroundings and the prospect of less love for the adoptive parents is ever the same in a natural surrounding. It can apply to natural parents as well as adoptive parents but adoptive parents, we are told, have that fear. I don’t know, so I am not going to argue that that isn’t precisely the case, but I want to come to the real person involved in this situation.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: They are all real.
Mr. Martel: The real one, the real real one, the person it’s all about.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: You made a big mistake. They are all real.
Mr. Martel: Harry, control yourself. Control yourself, Harry.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Look who is talking.
Mr. Martel: Do you want to get in? Do you want to get in?
Mr. Warner: Take a sabbatical, Larry.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Mr. Martel: What about the child who has become an adult and who wants to know his background or her background? They have fears too. I am sure they have fears about what they might learn. I am sure they have fears and frustrations that are even more -- I am trying to find the appropriate word -- more of a compelling urge on them than in the natural setting because they have got the adoptive parents to contend with, and I use the word “contend” advisedly, but they also want to know what their real background is, where they are from. Are there diseases involved? There’s any number of questions.
So when I say the real person at the core of this, you know, if you didn’t have adoptees you wouldn’t have the problem. We wouldn’t be here tonight trying to struggle with this complex piece of legislation, so I am saying at the centre of it us the child who ultimately becomes the adult and who wants to know, because he can’t know until he’s age 18, what it’s all about and where his roots really lie. What we attempted to do as we went through this legislation very carefully, we drafted and redrafted I think at least four times, five times possibly, to try and get a consensus to meet the fears that were expressed primarily by the Conservative members, and some by the Liberal members, because our original draft went a little further than most would go.
So we all moved. We moved to tighten it up somewhat and we moved to try to meet the fears expressed by members at that committee, and the minister knows that well. We moved in a direction which would require consultation with trained people. In fact, I think it was suggested we take six months at least to put it in place so that we could work it properly, because we don’t want to harm anyone in this province.
What we said is that the adoptees would go to the children’s aid society and in consultation would indicate that they wanted to know who their natural parents were. When we reached that stage the worker from the children’s aid society, in an appropriate manner, not on the telephone or by a hock on the door when the rest of the family might be in attendance, but in a very constructive and in a very sensible and in a very proper manner, would make an approach to the parent or parents involved. If it’s one, you only approach the one, so that the background on the trial and its relationship to that individual in the new married life wouldn’t be affected. There’s no guarantee of that today. There just isn’t, because some children’s aid societies give out more information than others.
What we are saying is it would be uniform and you would protect the individual from the rest of his family learning, if they were trying to conceal it from the rest of their families, in a very appropriate manner. Surely we can do that. Surely there’s enough intelligence in the people who are employed to do that in a discreet fashion so that the rest of the family is not made aware that there might have been some problem in somebody’s life in the past.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: How?
Mr. Martel: How do you do it now? Some children’s aid society at the present time gives out some information and somebody can show up. The other way you would have workers trained, skilled in making the necessary approach to the individual involved, and if we can’t teach that much, there’s something wrong with our educational system, let me tell you.
By the way, the adopting parent would also be involved in the process. So what we would do is guarantee that there would be no disclosure at any time to those people who had made a social contract many years ago; that would not be jeopardized one jot, even less than is now the case. Because if the natural parent said, “No, I don’t want to,” of course it wouldn’t be revealed. The natural parent would not be revealed under any circumstances. It would be scaled again as is presently the case.
But if they said yes, or, “Give me some time to think about it,” then we make it easier for the reunion. The documentation that was given to us -- I think out of 179 or 180 cases the Parent Finders had, most of them were overwhelmingly successful. I don’t think they have had any scuttlebutt on even one.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Have you got the documentation?
Mr. Martel: Yes, I have, and they are sitting in the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: All 180?
Mr. Martel: All 180. If you want to check the evidence that was presented before the standing committee -- they were there, they made their presentation, and they indicated that there was not one unpleasant situation in those 179 reunions.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You have got the 180 oases --
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Mr. Martel: I can get them if you would like. And I will put them on your desk if you want. When do you want them? Don’t play red herring.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Any time you can get them.
Mr. Chairman: Order. This isn’t a question and answer period. Will the member for Sudbury East continue and address his remarks to the chair? Order.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I should have had it before you made the argument.
Mr. Warner: Before the beer in the ball park, Larry.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Chairman, I’m really upset at the position taken. There has been a long discussion over this. Not two months, not two years. My experience goes back to the time I first became critic for this party -- that’s 1971. It isn’t new. It isn’t new at all. The government has not moved one jot, despite giving some indication over and over again that they were prepared to make some positive move. Seven years later we haven’t moved one jot. It is really, really disturbing.
I think we have to end the present practice. I think we have to make it easier, if all parties want a reunion of families. If they don’t want it, particularly those who would fall under the aegis of the old act as it existed up until the time this amendment might be adopted, would have that protection if they didn’t want to be disclosed. They would have that guaranteed from here on in. Surely we have to look at from here on in, at the same time. We are not going to continue this same nonsense, are we? That we are going to have adoptions and we are going to continue to give a guarantee that the parent will not be known, so that we continue the problem that plagues many people who are adopted? Surely we are going to do it openly now.
I’ve listened to your propaganda about telling children that they are adopted, and it’s great stuff and it’s the proper thing to do. Then you turn around and shot the door to them if they want to find out. Even though you have told them all along that they are adopted. If they want to find out who they are --
Hon. Mrs. Birch: They know who they are.
Mr. Martel: No, they don’t. You don’t understand, they don’t.
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Oh yes, they do.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: She doesn’t understand, eh, Elie? Think that one over Elie, think it over.
Mr. Martel: That’s right, she doesn’t. I’m sorry, she doesn’t understand. They don’t know who they are. How can they? If you don’t know anything about your biological background, how can you understand who you are, or know who you are? You can’t be that obtuse.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: You’re an expert and she’s not.
Mr. Martel: I am not expert.
Mr. Gregory: You sure are not.
Mr. Martel: The only expert around here is the beer-in-the-ball-park man. One doesn’t have to be very bright, my friend, to understand that if you don’t know your biological background you really don’t know who you are, you really don’t.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: How many generations do you know?
Mr. Martel: How many generations do I know, what?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Of your background.
Mr. Martel: Of my background? What’s that got to do with it?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: It has everything to do with it. That’s what you are talking about.
Mr. Chairman: Order. Would the member for Sudbury East please disregard the interjections?
Mr. Martel: That takes me right to the principle of the bill.
Mr. Stong: There’s a little digression here and there.
Mr. Martel: Because of the interjections that are from the 18th century. Maybe, in fact, I’m giving you too much credit. It might go back further than that.
Mr. Gregory: He can probably trace that far back.
Mr. Martel: I’m glad he can. He’s a blue-blood. The rest of us are just ordinary mortals.
I really want to conclude by saying that the person at the centre is the person who wants to know who he or she is. That should not detract from any feelings they have for their natural parents or, particularly, for the adoptive parents.
I think if the minister threatens to resign if you Tories vote for the amendment, be that as it may. I don’t think that sort of emotionalism should be allowed to come in here. We should be dealing in granting people the rights to which they’re entitled.
I’m saying to the minister we can’t continue to go the route we’ve gone from this day on. We must change. It’s my understanding that the present legislation will change nothing. That’s just exacerbating the present situation. It’s sad. It’s sad that we can’t make any progress.
You, as minister, should be the one leading the fight for this change, not blocking it -- leading the fight to make this very minor change, making it easier for people to learn their true identity.
I would ask the minister, as a minister, to lead that fight; and if the provincial secretary wants to resign, so much so. No one in this august building is irreplaceable. No one. If that’s your decision, I’ll accept your resignation tomorrow morning.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I don’t want to take time from the honourable minister who is carrying this bill through. I trust he will have his allotted time on this subject before we conclude our debate.
I trust you will see fit to do that, Mr. Chairman. It’s awfully important that he does. My remarks can be very brief, and will be very brief.
I don’t think I’ve ever come in to the House and got caught up into the debate more than I did this evening. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard more compelling testimony than the member for Scarborough East just put to the record -- indeed, as did our colleague from Humber today, when he spoke about the importance of all of us having a chance to speak on many of these extremely important issues we have been debating today.
I think all of us over the years have given this particular subject matter a great deal of soul-searching. Therefore, all of us speak from the heart. This isn’t a debate in which you would expect us to attempt to put forth logic. I think it’s much more important that we project our emotions.
I make no bones about it; when the crunch is down, I will trust my emotions much more than I will trust my logic. I think it was a great disservice, if I can be so harsh on the member for Sudbury East, to suggest that the honourable minister, the member for Scarborough East, would mislead this House on such a vital subject. I know he withdrew that remark, but I am convinced that she spoke with such emotion that it was a great injustice to suggest anything --
Mr. Martel: Present the documentation, Harry. That is where it came from.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- that it came with a great deal of conviction on her part. That never should be related to misleading this House.
To speak more particularly to the amendment, I personally believe that decisions are made -- I am, I guess, old enough to realize that much of life is not fair -- but decisions must be made for better or worse, and we must go on from that point of decision.
Mr. Martel: And perpetuate unfairness.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that if this does pass, and I’m confident that it won’t, that if the member for Scarborough East should consider resignation -- and I’ve just consulted with her, she isn’t, nor am I -- but I’m sure that we both feel the same way about this issue.
Mr. Warner: It would be welcome.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I only really stand to put on the record the same thoughts that she put forward, and therefore I won’t take the time of the House to repeat those remarks.
One question I would put to the member for Sudbury East on his remarks. He suggests that he can knock on the door in a very sensitive manner, or he can find that approach. It isn’t always the knock that comes that will be the problem, it will be the worry of a knock that doesn’t come that will have an untold effect; the knock, my friend, that you will never understand because you will never know. You and I will never know, but there will be literally thousands who will be waiting for a knock. It may very well never come, but nevertheless the reverberations of that “un-knock,” if I can put it that way --
Mr. Martel: They are waiting for it now.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- will be heard, will be felt, will be worried about, will destroy relationships; and we’ll never even study them because no one will put that on the record.
That’s the great problem. We can’t study the whole problem. We can study a portion of it. We can study it from the three perspectives that you talked about, but we can’t study --
Mr. Cooke: How will it destroy relationships?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- the emotions that are never put forward to the record from I those people who have gone through a life with a shadow, that they do not want to have front and foremost, but that is there. It’s a cross that they bear. All of us have those kinds of crosses in our lives, but I see no real value in putting that shadow on so many lives. I think it’s far better in our life --
Mr. Martel: They expect it every day now.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- if we will make a decision, go forward from that point of decision and live a full life, as so many would without worrying about some of those other things.
Mr. Martel: It’s there every day now.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I thank the minister for allowing me to make these very short remarks, but I just want to again say that I thought it was a great privilege to sit in this House and hear the depth of the emotions. Let us I never turn aside those kinds of emotions. Let us listen to them carefully, because I believe unconditionally that that’s the tune that we should all hear, that which is in our hearts.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Chairman, I’m rising to speak in opposition to the amendment as it has been proposed. I find this, as other members have, a very difficult decision for a legislator to have to make, because I as well have heard the strong arguments made on both sides of this question, and those arguments often times are very emotional.
As a matter of fact one of the most interesting and compelling arguments that was made to me was made by an individual who bad sought and had found her biological parent, at least one of them, and had as a result written a book, or is at the present time working on a book talking about that experience. She obviously felt very deeply about it.
On the other hand, I have listened as well with a good deal of interest to those parents who have adopted children and who have made a very strong plea for the legislation to remain as it is at the present time.
I think I start from the base that the biological parents have ceded their rights and privileges to the future adoptive parents and in that concession is included the responsibility for the child who is put up for adoption.
The adoptive parents then, of course, are responsible for the proper raising of that child and they experience, I suppose, the anguish, they fight the different battles, they endure the sorrows that are part of parenthood, particularly of adoptive parenthood.
Parents of adopted children, it seems to me, have enough problems to contend with in light of their special family circumstances without having to deal with threats from children that at the age of 18, they will seek out their birth parents unless a certain course of action is followed. I realize it is a three-party agreement and the amendment before us does not make it as easy as some would or do suggest.
This form of let’s call it semi-blackmail or a kind of blackmail, could be extended to the biological parents once their identity is established, even though it may be only one of the parents whose identity is established and even though they have given consent.
Some will say this cannot happen; the safeguards are there. Indeed, there are safeguards built into this particular legislation. However, I would suggest that even the initial visit from the social worker to the biological parent or parents, particularly if it’s to one parent who has married again or married for the first time and established a new family life, to find out whether permission would be given can cause a disruption in the new family situation into which the biological parent has entered. This can be a tragedy which is felt throughout a lifetime.
I also look at the situation where there are two, three or more children with the same biological parents who are adopted by the same adoptive parents. When one reaches the age of 18 and manages to gain the necessary permission from all concerned to seek out the identity of the biological parent, I realize it’s a remote circumstance, but this information may be transmitted to the younger children still under the jurisdiction of the adoptive parents in certain circumstances. So I look at that as being an important ramification of this particular amendment.
Everyone in this Legislature recognizes health records should be kept and kept up to date to alleviate any fear that the adopted children might have a hereditary disease. This seems to be the main fear they would have in terms of health. These records of course should be non-identifiable in terms of the biological parent.
As a teacher, on many occasions I had parents who had children whom they called “chosen children,” come to me and make their plea. Naturally, I was not involved as a member of the Legislature. I was a member of municipal council but had no jurisdiction in this area, but many knew I had an interest in the political field. They made the plea that whatever arose in the Ontario Legislature, would I make representations to those who are there, would I do anything I could to prevent the foot in the door the amendment proposed this evening would allow.
I recognize the amendment. I appreciate the fact the amendment has been worded in such a manner as to tighten it up and alleviate many of the fears these parents might have had. I know many of them see it as only the foot in the door, as the initial step which would result eventually in a wide-open situation as we move along and want to “improve” on our legislation in the years to come. It’s a very difficult decision, but for this reason, I stand this evening in opposition to this particular amendment and will vote in that manner.
Ms. Gigantes: I don’t have much to contribute to this debate, although I care about it very much. I can only give what the member for Oxford said the member for Scarborough East gave, testimony. It is important to remember when the member for Sudbury East was speaking that he called upon the member for Scarborough East to provide documentation. I can’t give documentation nor did I think the member for Scarborough East gave documentation, which was the point my colleague, Mr. Martel was making.
I can, like the member for Scarborough East, give testimony. My testimony comes in the same way as hers. I have one adopted child. In thinking about this issue for many, many years -- my adopted child is now 11. When she was very small I began to think about the whole question of what she would need to know about her natural parents when she got older.
I remembered well the days when I was growing up, in the late 40s and early 50s, being aware of stories -- and we all remember them from our own neighbourhoods -- of children who were not told that they were adopted and who learned by accident, by whatever means, and the pain, the agony, the upset that went with that. That attitude towards adopted children has passed, and I’m glad.
We have found -- and I’m sure the member for Scarborough East will corroborate this -- as adoptive parents these days, in more modern times, that it’s quite possible to have an excellent family relationship, to have a full parent-child relationship, with the full beauty of all the agonies and all the joys of that relationship, while telling the child the truth from the earliest possible moment of rational incorporation of the truth on the pad of the child. We have moved forward at least that far. It is my opinion that it is time we moved forward a little farther.
My own feelings about the need of children in this situation to find out about their natural parents came from my own curiosity. I remember well, when I was 11 or 12, starting to begin to wonder where my father’s and mother’s antecedents had come from. What sod of people were they? How did they make their trades? How did they make their way in the world? Where did they live? Who did they marry? What were their religious views? To learn those things was a great joy at entering early adolescence.
One of the most wonderful things that I remember about my relationship with my mother, now deceased, was her ability, her interest, in being able to provide me with that kind of information. I don’t think I was very unusual. I think there’s a time, I, as an 11- or 12-year-old wanted it, and I think most children do. It has certainly been my experience with my own adopted child that I haven’t been able to give her the information that I think she would like to have had in stages over the past few years. Nor will this legislation allow me to try to help her to get that information, to try to reconcile herself with what she knows about herself but hasn’t been able to identify in any way about herself. I felt it in myself. I feel it in my own child. One of my closest friends was adopted, and I feel it in her. She knows nothing about her background, and she has expressed it poignantly as a hole that she feels about her knowledge about herself. I can really understand that.
I have had to think about it myself, as has the member for Scarborough East, but we have come to different conclusions about it. But I think times are changing.
I was delighted to hear an interview with Joseph Messner, who is the director of the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society, on the local GBG station about two years ago. Among other things, be mentioned his interest in seeing a mechanism developed so that the whole process by which adopted children could eventually learn more information about their natural parents and perhaps even be able to get to meet them if that seemed appropriate.
I remember having a personal feeling of gratitude for a man in his position, with his experience, who would say something to which I suppose there would be some objection by some people. But the people who would object under this legislation are protected, in my view. In fact, when my colleague the member for Sudbury East talked about the rights of the adopted child, I tend to think that this amendment seems too restrictive in terms of the rights of the adopted child.
I personally feel that it would be a benefit for a child to be able to learn in stages information about natural parents, the same way that we allow children to find out other things in life -- the facts of life, for example. When the child is ready to ask the question, then the time is appropriate for giving answers and the level at which the question occurs is in some ways the level at which the answer is given. But not to be able to give any information is a real problem.
I sense in the discussion that we’ve heard from some of the members present a view that I feel is past, or should be past in this society in Ontario in 1978 -- still a sense somehow that children are yours; almost in a proprietary sense that what you love, you also own, and that the relationship of love can be destroyed if there’s not somehow a control in terms of where that love is directed, whether it can be spread, whether the love of a child can be focused on more than one person.
Somehow there is this narrow controlled view that an adoptive parent, for example. will be losing something should the child learn to love eventually, come to know, learn to appreciate, learn to forgive -- and that’s important -- learn to forgive the parent who gave up the child. I think that view has to pass; I think it’s time for this amendment.
I hope not only that this amendment will pass but that in the future we are going to be able to look on these relationships with a great deal less sense of the lurking shadow, may I say, the shadow that we talk about, the fear, the foot in the door. There’s some- thing almost creepy about expressing the feelings surrounding these relationships and the threats to these relationships in these terms.
I think we’re old enough, as the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) expressed it, I think we’re mature enough now at least to be able to deal with an amendment phrased in these terms. I support the amendment.
Mr. Chairman: Does the minister wish to make some comments now? There still are some other speakers, but this is committee and you’re certainly welcome to if you wish.
Hon. Mr. Norton: My concern, Mr. Chairman, is that if I don’t speak at this point, while there’s still a little time left, I may not get an opportunity to say anything.
Mr. Chairman: I would say to the minister, I’m not aware of any time limit. The chair wasn’t given a directive of any time.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I understand that --
Mr. Chairman: When we run out of speakers, or we run out of questions on --
Mr. Warner: There is no time restriction.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Chairman, I thought that there was at least some sense of understanding that there would be a --
Mr. Nixon: There is nothing out of order if you’re speaking now.
Mr. Stong: Don’t take up too much time.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Perhaps I could speak now, Mr. Chairman, and then if there are subsequent speakers and there’s some time left perhaps I could speak again. I will try to --
Mr. Warner: Okay, that’s enough.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I will try to confine myself. I will be brief in my remarks at this point, in any event, Mr. Chairman. I think from the remarks of the honourable members on all sides of the House this evening it is obvious that we are dealing with a very complex and a very delicate issue. The member for Sudbury -- West? East; no, I’m sorry I’m not sure. I’m never sure which direction you’re going in --
Mr. Martel: I always go the same way: left.
Hon. Mr. Norton: -- or facing; Sudbury left, that’s right -- indicated this is a matter that has been under discussion and concern for several years around the Legislature and around Queen’s Park. Probably his observations tonight are as indicative as anything of the very fact of the complexity of this issue.
It’s one that can be addressed from a number of directions I suppose. One might attempt to look at it in a quantitative sense; I’m not sure that is a valid way to approach it. One can discuss it in terms of the experience, whether it be the experience of other jurisdictions or whether it be anecdotal experience from one’s own life or from other people one has known in the community. Those are of some value I think in terms of assisting an individual in frying to determine what is the most responsible course for a legislator to take when faced with a complex issue such as this.
I think one can also look at it from a qualitative point of view, and by that I mean one which does attempt to assess the question of the rights of the individuals whose lives are involved in a consideration of any change to the current status of the rights of the individuals.
But I do think we make a mistake when we try to focus upon one individual in what is referred to as the adoption triangle in isolation from the others, because it is a complex, intertwining of relationships and of rights.
I believe that those who seek the identifying information about their biological parents, particularly the group known as Parent Finders, present some very compelling and very convincing arguments; arguments that are really very difficult for anyone to deny in isolation, because they are expressing some very heart-felt and legitimate concerns that I’m sure we all have in various times in our lives.
If one does speak with adoptive parents who may have similar views or different views, likewise one hears equally compelling arguments and concerns expressed from people whose commitment is no less, from people who in many instances have committed a good part of their lives to the individual who has become part of their family. But they do, as human beings, have reservations in some cases, some concerns -- legitimate ones -- that cannot be denied, we can’t overlook those.
In addition to that then, we have the person we hear very little from -- and I think it’s obvious why we don’t. That is the biological parent, or parents perhaps in some cases. That is the individual in the triangle from whom we don’t hear, except in a few rare cases; and from whom we won’t hear, except in those few rare cases. Bemuse those are individuals who, in most instances in the past, entered into an agreement if you wish, whether it was formally recognized as an agreement -- a social contract perhaps, and that term has been used by me in committee and I’ve heard others make reference to it tonight -- a social contract that was presented to them in some form or another when they were making a very difficult and, I believe, often painful decision, as to whether to give up the rights that they had as natural or biological parents and place that child for adoption.
I do not wish to get into an anecdotal discussion of that, but I would just point out that I am not speaking entirely from a vacuum, because I spent :a good period of time as a guardian ad litem to minor unwed mothers in courts, and worked with them and their families through that very difficult process when they have to face those decisions.
Recognizing that we are not going to hear from those individuals, I think we have, as a Legislature, to be concerned about protecting what they may well perceive and what we might perceive as the rights that they have as the result of this social contract.
I think, and I’ve acknowledged before, that the amendment that is presently before the House goes substantially beyond -- closer I suppose to recognition of rights than did the original amendment that was presented, but I suggest to you that it still falls short.
I suppose the point on which it is most obviously falling short is that it seems to me the biological mother, who may well be contacted and in fact would be contacted as is made mandatory under this legislation, by an employee of the children’s aid society, may feel very well that very contact is an infringement upon the original social contract, for this reason: Surely even though 18 years has passed, or much longer in some cases, I suspect -- and I can’t speak from first-hand experience and none of us can really speak very clearly from any anecdotal experience on that, but knowing how painful that original choice was and what the understandings were that were given, I think that we as a Legislature have to think very long and very hard before we say: “We have waived those rights. We have decided, 20 or 25 years later, we are going to change those rules. We will contact you and you will have to make those decisions. We may reopen some wounds, but you have to make those decisions again.” I am not sure we should be approaching that at this point in time. I am concerned about that.
I am concerned about the anxiety that may be created in the lives of many individuals -- perhaps not their whole families; their families may be exposed to the consequences of that kind of personal anxiety. There may well be many individuals from whom we have not heard and from whom we will not hear who face tremendous anxiety, I suspect, if they understand some of the potential consequences this amendment will lead to.
I am talking about one in the complex triangle. I focus on that individual because those individuals are not speaking for themselves. That doesn’t deny the validity to the arguments on behalf of the others. It merely points out how extremely complex and perhaps potentially destructive for some individuals that is.
I haven’t got documentation. I could produce some. Someone earlier in the debate said, “Do you know of any destructive ones?” They were citing statistics on all the positive ones. Yes, I know of some destructive ones anecdotally. I have heard from certain medical practitioners of some very destructive ones which have led to the necessity for some psychiatric treatment because of unfortunate experiences in attempted reunions that may well not have been prevented by counselling.
I know, from my discussion with the former minister from Nova Scotia, why Nova Scotia had second thoughts on their original position and made modifications because of some very unfortunate anecdotal experiences. I say anecdotal; they were not anecdotal for those individuals who were involved.
Concern has to be expressed in this House for those individuals who are living their lives with a sense of security based upon a social contract that may have been entered into many years ago. If they cannot have the confidence in that social contract, how can we expect them I to have confidence in anything else that we do in this Legislature today in terms of those kinds of assurances? I don’t know. I say it is very difficult. I want to reiterate it is especially difficult to be talking about that individual, knowing how difficult it is for those adopted children or adopted adults who have a desire, a perceived need, for that information.
I really don’t think we know enough about the consequences at this point. We can look at experience in other countries. One thing I would like to point out: I have looked at the experience in other jurisdictions -- I stand to be corrected -- and I can say this. I have not seen that kind of qualitative study of what the consequences might have been for individuals.
I have seen quantitative information about how many people apply in the first year, how it tapers off and what the levelling off point might be. I have also not seen any qualitative information that would assess things like the impact of that knowledge upon the decision-making process, as one of my colleagues mentioned earlier tonight, of an individual who was facing the need to make that choice as to whether they placed a child for adoption or not, or whether they sought some other route. We don’t have that information. I haven’t got that information. I am not sure it is ever possible to have it made available, whether the social scientists can even develop that kind of information. It, too, would probably be speculative and to some extent anecdotal.
Mr. Martel: Why not go through the 180 cases to see what the experience is, what the results have been?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I am not denying there are 180 cases and many more that may have been successful, but there are other cases that are not reported. They are not the cases you see on the front page of the Globe and Mail.
Mr. Martel: You said there were no qualitative studies. I am suggesting there is the information for a qualitative study if you want it.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Hundreds of thousands, Elie, have gone the other way.
Hon. Mr. Norton: There is no great advantage in getting into a quantitative argument. You can argue there are 180, I can speculate there’s 3,000; that gets away from the fundamental argument which is the question of the social contract, the fact that the citizens of this province who have been party to such a social contract ought to be able to have confidence that we are not going to start changing those rules arbitrarily at this point in time, at least until such time as we have more information about those issues -- that may not be central, they are not issues you are going to resolve with statistical information about performance in other jurisdictions, but rather by those questions that relate to the qualitative experience, the values and so on; and we are not yet at that point.
There’s one final thing I could comment on and I hesitate to raise it but I think it is a relevant issue. I don’t wish to make it central to my argument, I don’t think the decision on an issue like this should be made on this basis alone, but cost is one of the implications of the structures that would have to be set up under this legislation. There are very substantial costs in the operations children’s aid societies would be required by this law to undertake --
Mr. Warner: Don’t reduce your argument
Hon. Mr. Norton: Listen, David, I already have qualified it and this is not my argument. This is a bit of factual information it wouldn’t hurt you to have.
Mr. Warner: Then don’t make it, you were doing fine up until then.
Hon. Mr. Norton: At a time when we, as a society, are struggling through difficult economic circumstances to ensure the provision of services to children, we should think in terms of the priorities. I ask you to consider the additional expenditure of approximately $1 million, which we don’t have and would have to take from some other area.
Mr. Warner: How much?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I would guess approximately $1 million for operation in the first year.
Mr. Warner: Is that about a tenth of the cost of Minaki?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I would point out to you that it would be necessary to make some sacrifices elsewhere. I ask you to weigh that in your priorities in terms of current action. As I said, that is not central to the argument. The fundamental thing we must bear in mind is the question of that social contract and the confidence people ought to have in this Legislature that we do not in any way arbitrarily alter that so as to change their lives many years after they have entered into it with the assurances we have given them, or our predecessors in the Legislature have given them.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The member for Lincoln.
Mr. Hall: I want to make a few brief comments on this amendment. I am an adoptive parent, and right away I find myself in a different position. I feel somewhat ill at ease for my child and myself because of our special circumstances. I am not going to speak in any detail because I would obviously be discussing a single specific personal relationship and out of respect for the privacy of my adopted child, I choose not to do that. I would consider special circumstances where, on application for medical reasons, a judge would be allowed to determine the need for disclosure.
After all these years during this debate rye heard a lot of new terms, such as “the adoptive triangle,” “social contract” and “right to know.” Ali of them are pertinent and valid, I suppose, but they are terms that never entered into the feelings in our home. My wife and I have merely tried to treat one child like another, and offered love to that. and security -- and discipline too -- as we have attempted to raise our children, like untold numbers of parents before us.
In a general context, as a parent of both natural and adopted children, while I am deeply interested in their welfare and mental well-being, in my judgement and gut feeling -- without getting into the specifics as I have listened to them and discussed them in the House this week -- considering on the one hand the potential benefit and on the other band the possible heartache and difficulty, I am not convinced that there are sufficient good reasons for disclosure, and I intend to vote against it.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief. I think this evening’s debate has been very good. I have enjoyed it very much, I think the issues have been aired, and I have certainly learned a lot. However, I haven’t changed my opinion. In the committee I voiced the opinion that I would be voting in favour of the amendment and that I was somewhat disappointed that the amendment had been watered down. I still feel that way.
While this evening we are discussing the issue of parents’ rights and children’s rights, in this case I think I have to come down on the side of the child. While the natural parent has had to go through a lot in order to give up the child -- and I know that from experience, because I worked at the children’s aid society and I worked with parents; in fact, in many cases I had to take the role of removing the children against the parents’ will. I think I have an understanding of what parents have to go through when their children are being removed from them, either through the courts or voluntarily. It is not easy, and it is not something anyone does without a great deal of thought and a great deal of agony. In some ways I admire the people who are able to do it, because it does take a lot of strength to recognize that somebody else can care for your child better than you yourself.
But, while the parent has gone through a lot of agony in order to give up the child, I also think that parent still does have some responsibility to that child. The responsibility, I think, is that at some point in that child’s life, when he or she grows up and becomes an adult, they should have an opportunity to meet once again, so that the child’s need to know what his roots are can be fulfilled.
It is a very real need. I don’t think some of the members who have spoken this evening understand the need. It is a real need. It is not something that indicates there is something wrong with the child or something emotionally wrong with the adult adoptee.
It is something that is natural. Just put yourself in the position of that child or that adult adoptee, not knowing who your natural parents are, or here you have come from, and I think you can maybe have a small degree of understanding of what these people have to go through.
When I began working at the children’s aid society in Windsor, two or three of my friends happened to be adopted. The first thing they did when they found out that I was employed by the CAS was to call me up and find out if I could discover who their parents were. Of course, I couldn’t; but that demonstrates to a small degree what the need is and how adult adoptees feel about the issue.
I don’t want to talk at length. The only other thing I want to say is that I think the amendment, basically, will make the policy of the government consistent all across the province. I know that even in Essex county the two children’s aid societies have very different ways of handling this situation right now. At one children’s aid society it is easier to get information; at the other children’s aid society it is almost impossible even to get health information.
I think the only thing this amendment will do is make the policy consistent all across the province.
It’s a very small step forward indeed on this issue. Before I leave this Legislature I hope to see the day that an amendment will be brought in for full disclosure.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I would like to speak very briefly to the subject. Having spent almost 25 years in the field of child welfare and social development, I would very much like to support the views of my colleague, the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Mr. M. Davidson: You’re copping out.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I’m not copping out at all.
An hon. member: Twenty-five years of opposition have come to an end.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Twenty-five years of experience.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I think this is a question that transcends party lines.
Mr. Mackenzie: Now I know why your staff was glad to see you elected.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: We’re all very much interested in the rights of the child and especially in the forthcoming International Year of the Child, but I do believe that there are some other circumstances here, some factors, that also ought to be taken into consideration. My colleague, the Minister of Community and Social Services, has referred us to some of them.
One is the question of the social contract. We not only have to concern ourselves about the rights of the child, but also the rights of the adoptive parents. The whole question of confidentiality, in which that social contract many years ago was engaged -- that was the arrangement, that there should never be any divulging of any intimate personal questions or information -- now, at this point in time, to suddenly change the rules and laws in midstream would be a violation of that very important social contract.
The other thing is that I certainly think the child has every right to know certain things about certain vital statistics, certain vital facts about its background, its ethnicity, questions of medical history, questions of social history, other very important questions. All that information is now, under the present law or circumstances, available to the child. The child can know the ethnic background of the parents; can know if there is a medical history which could impinge upon the future or the wellbeing of the child. All those facts, all that information is available to the child. There is only one piece of information which is not available and that is of course the question of who are the parents.
We have also in our new family law legislation tried to erase -- and I hope, and I think we should all be grateful for it -- the stigma of illegitimacy, that you are something different because you are adopted. The whole new family law thrust is that as an adopted child you have every right that a normal child has. For us, at this stage in time, to raise questions again, to differentiate, to create difference certainly would militate against that particular thing.
Mr. Mackenzie: You will have to cut it off, Reuben.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I think also we should be quite cognizant -- and it’s something we should be very concerned about -- of the possibility, the potential for abuse of opening up this kind of information, which up to now has not been -- I know, wind it up, friend. Okay. We will.
Mr. Cooke: Read the amendment.
Mr. Warner: You haven’t read the amendment. You are a great minister of subculture.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: But the potential for abuse --
Mr. Grande: After 25 years in the field we were expecting a little bit more.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: We shall not run out of time. I would only like to say that, frankly, there are thousands of reasons -- I’ve heard them all tonight, out in the other room -- why we should, in fact, not support the amendment. If I had hours to speak on it, I would be able to make a much more convincing case. But I would simply say, d I o not support the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Chairman, I’m wondering at this point, since we’re getting close to the normal time of adjournment, if we could have an understanding in committee at this stage.
There are only three members who really want to make some brief remarks in order to get their position clear on the record. They are the members for York Centre (Mr. Stong), Armourdale (Mr. McCaffrey) and London North (Mr. Van Horne). Once these members have had an opportunity to put their points of view on the record very briefly, and if we could agree with respect to some type of a bell, we might complete this particular matter, since it has been such a complete debate in itself.
May we have concurrence at least to allow the members for York Centre, Armourdale and London North, in that order, to get their brief comments on the record, and then perhaps we could ring the hell and wind this up?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Could we agree to a short bell?
Mr. Martel: Mr. Chairman, I would indicate to the government House leader that I’m prepared to stay beyond 10:30, provided the bells start ringing at 10:30.
Mr. Nixon: Let’s try, eh?
Mr. Stong: Mr. Chairman, I will try to be as brief as I can. What I would like to say, first off, is that there has been a concept introduced into this debate called the adoption triangle. The direction that one’s arguments takes depends on who is put at the top of that triangle, whether it’s the adopted child, the adoptive parents or the natural parents. I might say that I address my remarks based on three firm convictions.
First, I really believe that the member for Scarborough East (Mrs. Birch) and my colleague from Lincoln spoke directly from the heart when they addressed this problem. They spoke in such a way that would indicate their concerns as adoptive parents and that we must never lose sight of those concerns.
I must also say that I believe we are living in a time when people are looking to find their roots and their natural beginnings. Perhaps the real issue of this whole bill narrows itself down to whether we have a right to refuse all knowledge or a right to refuse all approaches to adoption, or whether, in fact, we have simply a right to refuse those who ask the question, “Are you really my natural parents?”
The term “biological” really disturbs me. I refuse that terminology, because it demeans what I believe a woman goes through in nine months of pregnancy. I don’t think there is a male in this world who really understands or appreciates what a woman goes through when a life begins in her and develops within her for nine months and, after that nine months, when there’s a live child born, a child is given up for adoption. I think that’s something we must remember.
I prefer to put the adopted child on the top for the simple reason that we are looking towards and respecting the rights of a child to find his background, as has been so often referred to in this House tonight. I think that’s an important consideration. I draw on my experience of two families, one family that has adopted a black child and a family that has adopted two native Indian children. Those children, in my mind, have a right to go back to determine their ancestry; they ought to be proud of their ancestry. If this legislation does not go through, we stand in the way of those children to go back behind the scenes to find out exactly that proud heritage which we uphold and which we think they should have.
Mr. Speaker, I know that time is getting short. I had a lot more to say, but I must say, simply and briefly this: that in supporting this legislation all we are saying is that a person has a right to refuse to divulge information, but not a right to refuse to be asked to divulge that information. I think that is significant.
Ms. Gigantes: Well said.
Mr. Stong: We ought to be prepared to give the child the right to ask the question and not refuse him that right. That’s simply it.
Mr. McCaffrey: I had not intended, like others perhaps, to speak on this debate tonight. Let me just say two or three things in the short period of time we’ve got. My daughter is adopted. She is seven years old. As often happens, my wife and I were fortunate that within a matter of months of adopting our daughter, to make one all by ourselves at home. So we have one of each, if I can put it that way.
My wife, who is here this evening, has taken an excellent leadership role in this whole sensitive and complicated topic about the fundamental rights of an adopted child to know as much as they can about their biological parents. Our daughter who is now seven, will know that she is adopted -- it’s a very happy word in our home, et cetera -- and will know everything that we know about her natural parents.
If, however, we were not so inclined, I still think that our daughter, at age of 18, has a fundamental tight to know everything there is to know about her biological parents. Having said that --
Mr. Mackenzie: Now comes the but.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order, the hour is 10:30.
Mr. McCaffrey: Having said that, I am going to vote for the government in this because I think there are a couple of small details, maybe it’s the registry -- I’m surprised that all of yon people on that committee couldn’t come out with a better compromise -- I’m going to vote with the government.
Mr. Mackenzie: Talk about compromise. Mr. McCaffrey: If the amendment is defeated I will undertake to work with others to come back with another one at some time.
Mr Mackenzie: Remember the OHIP committee.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order; do we have the unanimous consent of this committee to continue? Agreed.
Mr. Van Horne: Members of the House, I have had the pleasure of sitting on the social development committee as a representative of our party and as the vice-chairman of that committee during its deliberations of Bill 114 and the various amendments brought to it.
I would have to submit to you that it was a demanding experience on all. Each person who took part in that debate and who again is taking part in debate in committee today, and on Tuesday, brings a slightly different perspective. My perspective is that of a person who spends 22 years in both secondary and elementary schools, as a teacher and a counsellor, most of the time as a counsellor. I would have to say that my feeling here, in having dealt with young people who love their adoptive parents and yet who want very much to find out something about their biological parents, it is for those people that I have considerable empathy.
I don’t for a moment speak disparagingly of those people who have adopted. As a matter of fact, I commend you and I admire you.
I admire, too, those who have had to give up, for whatever reasons, their child for adoption.
In addition to sitting on that committee, and I challenge those of you who were there or those of you who have taken part in the debate to be honest with yourself and ask how thoroughly have you researched the problem. I have spent some time personally, in the last month, going through every text that I could lay my hands on. I have in front of me just a couple of them. Psychology of Exceptional Child and Youth, by William Cruickshank; Development Characteristics in Human Relations in Education by Caplan. I could go on and on, I tell you there is hardly a text on the shelf of this Legislature or of the library that has very much evidence to give to any of us about the feelings of the adopted child. If we as legislators don’t somewhere along the way say they too have rights, they will forever remain in darkness.
I support this amendment.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The member for St. George.
Mr. Martel: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. We have made a certain agreement and I’m not prepared to go on any longer. If there are other people who want to speak then in fact we’ll take the vote on Tuesday next.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Are there any members who wish to speak further on this amendment?
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Chairman, if it is the government’s feeling that we should preclude debate in this matter, then I will yield. But it does seem to me that those who wish to speak on the debate should not be harassed by backbenchers over there who don’t want to hear.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Well let’s come back on Tuesday then.
An hon. member: Where were you all night? You weren’t here.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I think it’s very unreasonable for the member for St. George to try to impute any concert on the part of the government, as she hasn’t been in her seat for a very long period tonight, she has just arrived. We did indicate earlier tonight that to the best of our knowledge three or more members wanted to speak in the House. The committee agreed to extend the time to allow those three members to speak. The member for St. George has now arrived and she now wants to speak in this debate. She has gone out of her way, in her usual way, to try to blame the government for frustrating debate. I would point out that notwithstanding the fact that many members have at great inconvenience come back from many assignments to be here for a vote which could now be called, if the member for St. George wants to speak I am quite prepared to move that the committee rise and report and allow her to hold this legislation up until next Tuesday.
Mrs. Campbell: I don’t suppose it is important at all. As far as I am concerned I will be happy to yield to any arrangement that was made when I wasn’t here. But I want it to be understood that I have been here, in and out, during this debate, waiting for speakers who were ahead of me.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. McClellan has moved -- Dispense with the reading of the motion?
Mr. Stong: Dispense.
The committee divided on Mr. McClellan’s amendment which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 32; nays 55.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Are there any other amendments to this bill?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Chairman, I have four more amendments.
Mr. Warner: Not tonight, you don’t.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Welch, the committee of the whole reported progress.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Welch, the House adjourned at 10:49 p.m.