Monday 28 November 1994

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

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


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

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

*Carter, Jenny (Peterborough ND)

Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC)

*Gigantes, Evelyn, (Ottawa Centre ND)

*Jamison, Norm (Norfolk ND)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

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

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

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

Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND)

*Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND) for Mr O'Connor

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

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

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Ministry of Community and Social Services:

Belford, Joan, policy analyst, children's services branch

LeClerc, Bob, planning coordinator, registration division

O'Brien, Pat, assistant adoption registrar, adoption disclosure register

Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations:

Hartman, Judi, manager, special projects, office of the registrar general

Sills, Nancy, legal counsel

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Doug

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

The committee met at 1535 in room 151.


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

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

Mr Martin, would you like to make some opening comments? As committee members understand, today we are going to be having a technical briefing. I know you have arranged for officials from the two ministries involved to assist us in that, but if you would like to make some opening comments, please do so.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Yes, Mr Chair, I want to thank you for this opportunity to --

The Chair: We'll provide water and cough syrup as you go along.

Mr Martin: Yes, I beg your indulgence. I'm in the middle of a flu-type condition. Everybody's moving now. Had it not been for the fact that this is a private member's bill that I am sponsoring that I need to be here for today, I would be still in Sault Ste Marie, with a very valid excuse in that everybody is snowed in up there and only the crazies got out. So myself and Bud Wildman and a few other hardy folks are on our way.

I wanted to thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to have this piece of business before your committee, the standing committee on social development, and to thank the members of the opposition who supported it at second reading to get it to this point.

Also, the tremendous support and effort from the ministries concerned, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the minister, and particularly the Minister of Community and Social Services, Mr Tony Silipo, who has been very anxious to get this bill moved forward and has worked with me in a very proactive, constructive, positive way to get us where we are today. This leads me to be quite optimistic, given a good going-over of it at this level, that we will in fact be successful in getting it through the House so that we might, in this day, change in a very significant way, for a very important group of people out there in our province, their ability to access information that is vital to their growing and participating fully in the communities in which they live.

I am not going to speak at length about the rationale and the reasons behind bringing this bill forward; I did that. As I look over my notes and Hansard from Thursday, May 12, 1994, when we brought this bill forward in the Legislature, I see that I covered just about everything and anything that was possible to cover by way of a history of the current legislation, what's happening in other jurisdictions and some of the philosophic underpinnings of why we've done things the way that we have in the past and why it's so very important that we now change and do things differently as we move, indeed, at this very important time in our history towards the end of a century and towards the beginning of a new millennium.

We've seen a lot of change in our society and in our world over the last few short years which speaks of freedom and dignity and empowerment of people, and certainly in my mind this is just one small step in that whole process of giving people what they need to become all that they have the potential to become.

I am thankful today to have with us staff to speak in perhaps more technical language and detail re the bill itself and how each ministry will have to make some changes in order to accommodate some of what we're asking.

I did at the last meeting of the committee suggest that we would have amendments for the committee. I apologize that we weren't able to get them out to you as quickly as I had hoped we might, but we had a bit of a technical glitch in that the legal counsel dealing with this bill up to now, Margaret MacKinnon, who had done an excellent job, retired last week and turned this piece of work over to Cornelia Schuh, who is diligently working as we speak to put the final touches to the package that will be brought forward by way of amendment to this bill. I'm hoping that we'll have it here this afternoon before we finish so that we can distribute it and people can have a look at it, and we can --

Ms Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre): We've received it.

Mr Martin: Okay. You may have received it. I wasn't aware of that. If you have, that's great.

Ms Gigantes: The amendments.

The Chair: If I may, we did receive those today --

Mr Martin: Okay. That's super. It works even better than I had thought.

The Chair: -- while the snow was blowing.

Mr Martin: It was while the snow was blowing, yes. That's right. We often think when we go home from this place that everybody stops working, but obviously they don't. It's good. So the amendments are out there and you'll have a look at them.

You will notice in looking at them that they are of a technical nature. They do not in any way interfere at all with the intention of the bill. The amendments are done in order to streamline the process and speak to what each ministry will be expected to do under the new regime.

Basically, if we were to put a simple philosophic or system spin to it, the Ministry of Community and Social Services is going to do the people piece of this, and the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations will deal with and handle the processing of information.

The bill in front of us today amends the Vital Statistics Act to give adult adopted persons access to all the information contained in their original statement of birth without requiring anyone else's consent. The bill also establishes a no-contact register to be administered by the registrar general.

A birth parent who does not wish to be contacted by an adopted person who obtains the birth parent's name from the statement of birth may make that wish known by having his or her name entered in the register. The fact that the birth parent does not wish to be contacted will be communicated to the adopted person when the statement of birth is issued. A person who wilfully violates the birth parent's wishes is liable to a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill also amends the Child and Family Services Act to provide that counselling for adopted persons, birth parents and others who may be affected by the disclosure of information about the adoption must be made available, but is no longer mandatory.

In order to allow birth parents sufficient time to register a no-contact registration, adopted persons will not have access to the information contained in their original statement of birth until one year after the establishment of the no-contact register.

There's just one last point I'd like to make before I pass it on to members of the opposition parties to comment and then to open it up to a technical briefing from ministry staff, and it's this: Certainly as I've spoken to people about this piece of legislation, the only area of concern that seems to come up, and I don't think it's really that significant but I just wanted to mention it, was how this bill and why this bill has come forward, and the process that it is going through. It's coming by way of a private member's bill as opposed to coming directly out of a ministry as part of the government's agenda.

For me, that's not what's important here. What's important here is that this bill is before the Legislature and that it is driven primarily and in any meaningful and significant way by those who are affected directly by the legislation that covers this area of activity. It is they that we serve in bringing this forward and doing all we can to have it hopefully move expeditiously through this process, make its way back to the House, be passed at third reading and ultimately get royal assent.

So we will in the next few days hear more eloquently than I could ever pretend to present why this bill is so very important to the province and to the folks out there who are affected by it. They will come before us for the next three days, tomorrow and next Monday and Tuesday, to share with us from their experience why this is important, and I, as I'm sure do you, look forward to hearing their story.

The Chair: Just before asking Ms O'Neill and Mr Jackson if they would like to make a few brief opening comments and then going to staff from the two ministries, I neglected one thing at the beginning. Just to make this all legal, we need to have the draft report of the subcommittee approved. I'm sure, Mr McGuinty, you would like to so move.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): I certainly would, Mr Chair.

The Chair: All in favour? Agreed. Thank you. We are now official and we can proceed.

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Bill 158 has finally come to the committee and I presume then it is going to be part of the government's agenda. I presume that it's also going to be passed before the end of this session, because we don't know whether we will be coming back into the Legislature or not. Those are all things I can only trust, because I'm a member of the opposition.

I feel quite strongly that Bill 158 is but a beginning. Indeed, some of the things Mr Arnott passed on to us today indicated that. I also feel that Bill 158 has much in the way of complexity attached to it. It is going to be a very difficult bill to get into gear. I hope that all of the provisions that have been made -- and no doubt, I think, the presenters will bring more problems, from the time Bill 158 was presented, to the amendments and then to the explanation of each of the amendments. It is a very complex situation.

I would be less than accurate if I didn't say that I still have some concerns about Bill 158. I certainly will be supporting it both here and in the House, but I have still some reservations. I think individuals, however, with the bill, will have a new level of empowerment in some cases, and they have been waiting a long time. The waiting lists will be shortened and I think that's good. I do feel, however, that those waiting lists will likely be shortened at the cost of individuals; at least at the financial cost of individuals.

I think that the birth parents still have many rights that are not attended to here and I think that will have to be clarified as time goes on, and it won't be part of Bill 158. But at least we have adoption on this government's agenda, as we were promised for a very long time before this government ever came to power. So let's hope that we can work our way through this, that by next week we will have clause-by-clause and that it will be completed before the House rises next Thursday. That's my hope.

Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): I very much welcome the opportunity to participate in this piece of very important legislation. I feel it is long overdue, as has been indicated. I don't wish to suggest that the chances for success of this bill are limited, but the question was raised by Mr Martin about why a private member's bill route was chosen. Both Ms O'Neill and I have attended meetings directly with the minister, and again in estimates as recently as a month and a half ago, where the minister himself indicated this was not a priority for his ministry or his government.


So although I do not in any way question the motives or the good intentions of Mr Martin, I have still several lingering concerns about the level of commitment. I had hoped that in the opening statement Mr Martin may have indicated with a higher degree of certainty that he has talked to his House leader and that this is a piece of legislation which has some priority for the government.

I rose in the Legislature last week to question the government on why, during Adoption Awareness Month, November, as we close that month out, the Premier and the two ministers involved chose not to make an official statement in the House. This 11th-hour responsibility fell to Mr Martin, who has expressed his interest in this subject but specifically did not make any statements about Bill 158, about the government's commitment. I can't think of a better opportunity than when one acknowledges the importance of adoption and adoption rights in the province of Ontario, so I have expressed both publicly and to Mr Martin that I had hoped --

The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Jackson. A point of order?

Mr Martin: I guess it's not a point of order. Mr Jackson, I did consider in my statement making some note of Bill 158, but I was told by those I rely on for their advice that that's not the purpose of members' statements, to lobby for support or make mention of one's private members' bills. So I chose at that point not to do that. I just thought it would be important to tell you that.

Mrs O'Neill: Bad advice.

Mr Jackson: I suspect that is a particular point of naïveté that shouldn't exist in someone who's been here for four and a half years, but if that is what you choose to spin, that is your business. I could give you an arm's length of statements by both government and private backbenchers that contain that. However, you might be forearmed with additional advice from this individual or others, especially if they have anything to do with the House leader's office.

Anyway, I was suggesting that perhaps the government might at the outset clarify a very important question with respect to whether this bill has likelihood to get to the floor of the Legislature for third reading. My colleague Ms O'Neill has made reference to the fact that it is the government's stated intention for this Parliament to prorogue on December 8. The reason I raise that question is particularly because if there is absolutely no hope of that ever getting on the table for a vote, then we may be rushing unnecessarily the final amendments to this bill.

We don't want to put the adoption community into a position where they are being told, "My God, in the interests of time, you've got two days," which really amounts to less than two hours and a bit on each of those days, "to participate in some public input because we have to make this magical deadline," and then find that this magical deadline really doesn't exist.

I think that is a legitimate question in committee, Mr Chairman, and would seek your guidance and clarification, because we will hear people who will come before this committee over the course of the next three meeting days, many of whom have not seen the amendments which the government has prepared, which in and of itself is rather extraordinary. That's fine that they chose to do that, but I'm hopeful that they would have shared those amendments with those groups that are affected that will be coming forward.

But I will be rather dismayed to learn that the government has proceeded with amendments on the eve of public hearings, all with the notion that we must speed the process up really quickly in order to get it on the floor of the Legislature, only to find out that these groups were (a) neither consulted nor (b) would have an opportunity to respond to the amendments before the item is tabled. So I will be asking the Chair for clarification on that point.

Mr Martin did indicate that in fact this bill is driven by them. He was referring to the adoption community, "whom it serves" was his direct quote, and so I would hope that he could clarify that those groups have in fact had an opportunity to have an input in those amendments prior to the public hearing process.

He said, "Hopefully, we'll move quickly and pass third reading sometime," and that word "sometime" doesn't give me the kind of comfort nor do I suspect it gives the adoption community the kind of comfort it's been looking for. They've expressed incredible patience on the part of their agenda with those of us in public life in the last decade, and I think if this is to be done in a timely fashion, then it should in fact get to the floor for third reading in a timely fashion.

I can only say that both my colleague Mr Wilson and I are anxious to participate in this process. I, unfortunately, will have a replacement for tomorrow and will revisit the committee activities for the following week. If I could, Mr Chairman, seek a clarification on those two points that I raised, I think that's rather essential because that will guide the committee in terms of its time.

The Chair: If I might at the outset just indicate that, in terms of the amendments, in fact the clerk faxed or mailed them on Friday to those individuals and groups who had been in contact with the committee. So to the extent that we were able to get those out, we have done so as quickly as possible.

Mr Jackson: Mr Chairman, my specific question was, if the government had consulted I was aware that the clerk immediately -- in fact, some of the groups received them before we as members of the committee did. I'm not offended by that. I'm trying to determine if the government acted unilaterally or if the government can indicate which individuals it consulted with these amendments. I haven't even physically read the amendments at this point because they only arrived to my office today.

The Chair: Yes. I appreciate that, and I just simply for the broader record wanted to indicate what had happened with those. With respect to whom the government and/or Mr Martin may have consulted, and the likelihood of whether this will be dealt with in the House before we rise, I would assume that as we go forward Mr Martin will comment to the extent that he has anything to add to that. I think we have to go forward with our schedule, and if Mr Martin has anything further he can add in answer to your questions, I'd certainly give him the time to do that, but that is up to him.

Mr Martin: Just a couple of things: One, the amendments are very much of a technical nature and affect simply the delivery of this whole new set of circumstances by the government so that it is as effective and efficient as possible. We didn't feel it was necessary to go out and do a full consultation with the folks. What we want to do with this is to deliver a package that takes away some of the frustration that is there now for folks, and really, as the folks from the ministries will attest when they speak, they are very much of a technical nature.

The second question you asked: Is passage of this, I guess, guaranteed? I would think that's a bit naïve a question in this place, don't you think?

There's a process that we all work through here at Queen's Park, and in over four and a half years I've certainly learned that we go through one step at a time. If we work hard at it and do our homework -- and certainly I've worked hard at this piece, and the fact that we're here today around the table and all of us supporting this I think is probably testimony to that. We probably wouldn't have gotten this far, as you know, if there wasn't some indication from the folks who are responsible -- House leaders, the various ministries -- of at least a degree of support to give me the comfort and to give us the permission to be here and to be looking at this piece of legislation today.

I can't guarantee passage of this through either this committee or the House, because I don't think any of us can. However, the fact that we're here, I think, is a good sign and that we're not having anybody come forward, at least that I'm aware of, who has some very major and strong objections to this thing I think is an indication that we should expect we'll probably be successful in this.


Mrs O'Neill: Mr Chairman, that whole statement just makes me very nervous. I really do not see how we can ask people to come here in good faith from long distances -- some of the people are coming from my riding -- to this committee in the next two weeks and not know that this is going to be on the House agenda either Wednesday or Thursday of next week. I hope that you as Chair will take this and ask if this is on the agenda of this session of Parliament. Really, if we can't have that guarantee, this is a farce, and this would be a terrible subject to have in that position.

We have asked for these hearings all through last summer -- never happened -- even earlier than that, and we couldn't get this on the agenda of this committee. Now even the government members are not able to tell us whether we're going to deal with this before Christmas. I don't know, and neither does anyone sitting here know, whether we'll be back in this Legislature again. And to be told that nobody can guarantee anything when this government has a majority -- is it a free vote? I think the government members better say that as well if that's going to be the case.

I cannot see the people who have spent years and years on this subject coming forward not knowing what's going to happen to this bill. I hope you will be able to write and ask the government House leader whether this matter is on our agenda in the Legislative Assembly for third reading next week. He likely will know that as early as this Thursday.

The Chair: The Chair, as always, is in the hands of the committee and I can speak to anyone about anything if the committee so directs. I think we have probably expressed the views on that and we should at this point --

Mr Jackson: Mr Chairman, there is a matter that deals more with my own personal privilege than it does -- but still it impacts on this. The other piece of unattended business before this committee is my private member's bill regarding the proceeds of crime. The Bernardo murder trial is currently before the courts and the Ontario Law Reform Commission is recommending to the Attorney General that there be a proceeds-of-crime form of legislation for Ontario. That could have been, and perhaps should have been, on the agenda, because my private member's bill, I believe, preceded Mr Martin's.

I was led to believe that the government was going to take this legislation and move it forward. We have, by the government's own decision --

Ms Gigantes: Stop talking. Let's do it.

Mr Jackson: Well, Ms Gigantes interrupts and suggests that maybe we should get on with it and stop talking.

I did indicate that this flows from a matter of privilege because, without getting into the details of the Bernardo case, there's millions of dollars of profiteering that's potential here and I was led to believe that, in the best interests of the adoption community, we were going to have some degree of success proceeding with this legislation. Having bumped profiting-from-crime legislation, which was on this committee's agenda, in favour of adoption, which I accept, now I'm led to believe that there are no guarantees in a half-snicker on the part of the proposer of the bill. I am rather distressed and, frankly, quite angry. I indicated this is a matter of privilege.

Mr Martin: Mr Chair --

The Chair: Would you complete your point and then we can discuss that.

Mr Jackson: Well, I cast this --

Ms Gigantes: You don't know human nature when you run into it --

Mr Jackson: Ms Gigantes has become an expert in all matters before this committee. I simply wish to indicate that if there is no or limited chance of this bill coming before the House, there are hundreds of individuals who, I am sure, if given proper notice in publication, would like to analyse and contribute to the reconstruction of this bill. My point was that the shortness of the time frame given to this committee is a function of the government's desire to be out of here by December 8, and both Ms O'Neill and I have indicated that's a very short amount of time to do justice to an important issue. If it's not going to hit the floor of the Legislature by the 8th, then we may not do justice to a bill that requires a more fulsome -- she has several of her constituents from Ottawa travelling a great distance who have serious concerns about this bill. That may not be of concern to Ms Gigantes -- or maybe Ms Gigantes is concerned about that -- but I frankly feel we should have gotten some clearer indication that even the House leader for the government had encouraged the member and whoever is the subcommittee chair for the NDP on this committee in order to indicate that this was a priority for the government. All I have to work with is Mr Silipo's statement in the Legislature and before the estimates committee that it is not his government's priority. That's all I have to work with.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr Martin, did you wish to comment?

Mr Martin: Yes. Just suffice it to say, Mr Chair, that we wouldn't be here today if the House leaders hadn't agreed to bring this forward and to allow us the four days that we have, and I would hope the members opposite would work with their caucuses and their House leaders to make sure that this thing actually gets back into the House and does get approved, because that's part of the process here. That's been my experience, Ms O'Neill.

I'd also like to say to Mr Jackson re his smirk comment --

Mr Jackson: It's your smirk.

Mr Martin: It's a lot of crap, that's what it is. I got out of my sickbed this morning in Sault Ste Marie to be here today, and I've worked very hard at getting this piece of legislation to this stage and it is not with any degree of smartness or smirkiness that we all sit here today, I think, in support of this. We recognize how strongly felt the emotion is out there in the adoption community, and we're willing and wanting to do everything we can to move it forward.

As far as his own bill is concerned, I think that's, in my mind, completely out of order here. That's not what we're dealing with. There was an opportunity at subcommittee. I was ready to talk about his bill, but it wasn't brought forward. I don't know where it is or what it's about or where it's going, and I don't know why he raises it today.

The Chair: I think, as we saw in accepting the subcommittee report, we have set out our order of business and the next matter on that order would have been Mr Jackson's bill, so that we set this process out. I have to say that the members have expressed their views on this in terms of it being dealt with this session, and I'm sure Mr Martin and others will take that back to the government House leader. But in terms of moving on, I think we do have representatives from the two ministries and we should proceed to their technical briefing.

I want first of all, on behalf of the committee, to thank you for coming today. I think we thought there would be some usefulness in really having a sense of just what exists out there today and then how this particular bill, with the amendments, would change that. If you like, one of the things we're after today is a kind of public education and education of ourselves on just how the system functions.

It has been noted that the representatives from Community and Social Services are going to talk about the people part, and from Consumer and Commercial Relations about the process part. I want to hasten to add that it's not because we think those of you from Consumer and Commercial Relations are not any more "people" people than are the people from Comsoc, but perhaps with that in view, what might be the best way to proceed, Mr Martin, would be if we asked the representatives from Community and Social Services, if that is the way you sort of have organized your presentation.

If you would go ahead and provide us with the information that you have prepared, then we'll open it up to questions and we can take it from there. Does that fit in with what you thought you were going to be doing? And if you would also please just identify yourself when you go to speak, for members of the committee and the television audience and for Hansard, we'd appreciate it.

Ms Joan Belford: I'm going to start off this afternoon. My name is Joan Belford. I'm from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. I have with me my colleagues Patricia O'Brien, from the adoption register itself and John Calcott from our legal services branch, as well as my colleagues from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.


I've been asked to explain to you what the current system is for adoptees to find information about themselves and for birth relatives to find information about the adoptee. I'm going to go through that fairly briefly and then tell you a little bit about what we think the system would look like if Bill 158 goes through.

The Chair: Sorry to interrupt, but just so I'm clear, this document which we have in front of us you will come to in terms of how it would change.

Ms Belford: That's the next one. This one's in the middle of your package.

The Chair: Oh, right. Okay.

Ms Belford: I also have a written description and some statistics here that I can distribute later, so you shouldn't need to take extensive notes as we've got it copied out.

The Chair: Fine. The Chair is a little slow on what was in his package.

Ms Gigantes: I wonder if we could ask that this material be distributed now, because some of us can take a look at it so that we'll be able to ask a question while you're here; your time with us is precious.

The Chair: Fine. Please go ahead.

Ms Belford: Okay. The adoption disclosure register which is in existence now, and is also known as the ADR in many circles, is the mechanism by which an adult adoptee and a birth relative can gain information about each other. Both the adult adoptee and the birth relative in our current legislation may have non-identifying information that relates to the adoption. At the present time that's already allowed in the legislation, and that non-identifying information for the adoptee would usually include information about the birth parent. The nature of, "Well, your birth mother was 19 years old, she was a student, her social circumstances, financial circumstances, would not allow her at that time to keep you," -- etc. The kind of information that the birth relative would get would be that the child was placed with a family; father was a professional, mother was a homemaker, they happened to have two dogs and a cat, they lived in a rural or a city environment, that kind of thing, but no identifying information and no combination of information that could be put together to identify people.

The adoption disclosure register was set up in order to enable people to get more information than that if both parties consent. It is disclosure that works on mutual consent.

I'm going to go down the left side of the chart first. The adoption disclosure register is a unit that's set up at 2 Bloor Street West. There is an application form for it and a way of indicating your interest in entering it. The adult adoptee over the age of 18 may voluntarily register in that and a birth relative may also register in that. A birth relative, for these purposes, is defined as a birth parent or birth grandparent or birth sibling, and it doesn't matter whether the sibling has been adopted or not, they're eligible for this information, over the age of 18.

If both sets of these people register and we can match them up -- a match is identified -- as we go down the left-hand side, we then contact those people to tell them that the other party has registered and is interested in contact. The current legislation requires mandatory counselling to say to people, "This is what's involved in this situation; these are the kinds of things that you might expect," to try to give people some information about what is likely to happen should they try to get together. This is mandatory before any identifying information can be released. This is provided by either our own adoption unit or by any of the children's aid societies. We have 55 children's aid societies across the province which also can provide this kind of service.

Our counselling is done by telephone, in person or by letter. We've more recently started to provide more of the information by letter as a means of speeding up the process, because one of the things that we've been hearing from the adoption community is that they prefer counselling to be at their choice and to be there if they need it, but not to be forced on them if they don't need it. So the counselling we do at this point is very much of an informational nature. We'll go further than that at the request of the person receiving the counselling, but it is primarily informational in nature.

On the basis of that mandatory counselling, both people must sign informed consents to the release of adoption information and must formally enter the register. At that point, the identifying information is released to each of the parties, and the people can then proceed to reunion. Sometimes we can facilitate that for them, if they want to. They have the information where they can get together by themselves, if they want to. If one of the parties is outside of Ontario, it is our responsibility to find an appropriate social service agency in the other jurisdiction that can provide the mandatory counselling before that information can be released, or we can do it ourselves by long-distance telephone.

On the other side, on the right-hand side, if there is no match identified -- I have some statistics for you on both sides of this that I'll give you in a minute -- if only one of the parties is registered, there is now a differential in how those two parties are handled. If it is the birth relative who has registered but the adoptee has not, that is the end of it for the birth relative; they must wait for the adoptee to register. However, if the adoptee registers and the birth parent is not registered, the adoptee can request the ministry to do an active search for the birth relative. They may ask for us to search for any of the designated birth relatives. In most cases, they ask for their mother first and sometimes, if they can't find the mother, will go on to the father and sometimes a birth sibling. Some children who were adopted a little bit older and know they have birth siblings will ask for the birth siblings right from the beginning.

When we do a search -- our adoption unit does that -- we have access to some information but not all government records. For example, we don't have access to welfare records, we don't have access to health records. We do have Ministry of Transportation records and a few other records, and we do have access to some of the marriage and death records at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. We work quite closely with them to try to track down the people.

If we find the birth relative, then the birth relative has a choice at that point. The contact with the birth relative would be quite discreet. We are aware that many birth relatives have not told anyone that the adoptee exists and the contact is quite discreet. The birth relative at that point, after some counselling or asking questions, whatever, may deny that they are the birth relative. They may acknowledge that they are the birth relative but they're not going to provide any information. They may choose to provide updated information, give updated medical information, updated information about the rest of the family but say that they will not release any identifying information. Finally, they may fully enter the register. In that case, they would proceed as if we had a match over on the other side.

There are a number of cases where we can't find the birth relative or we know that the birth relative is deceased, or the birth relative is located and found to be mentally incompetent. At that point, our registrar of adoption information has the discretion to release the identifying information from the original adoption order only. That's information that's as old as the adoptee is, so it's somewhat out of date. Any information that we've gained in the process of our search is not allowed to be released at that point.

I have a couple of statistics here.

The Chair: Several members of the committee had some questions. Do you want to wait until we have finished this section and then come back? All right.


Ms Belford: I don't want to give you a lot of statistics, but I want you to understand what is going on with this register. There's no fee for any of the services of the register at this point.

We did a survey in 1990 about people's satisfaction level with the current process and what we found was that people who had actually been through the process were quite satisfied with it. They found the counsellors sensitive and helpful and found the process quite satisfying. However, the waiting lists were considered to be intolerable, the length of time that one has to wait.

At the current time, and this is as of the end of the month of October 1994, the number of adopted persons who are on our register is 23,779 and the number of birth relatives registered is 16,160. Altogether, we have nearly 40,000 names on the register. Some of those people have been matched; we've had 7,417 matches. Each match involves at least two of the people on the register; in other words, there are sort of 15,000 combinations there. Most of those would be an adoptee and a birth relative, although sometimes it's a person with another adopted sibling, which can sometimes happen, and sometimes it's one adopted person with more than one birth relative. It's not an exact correlation, but approximately 15,000 of those 40,000 people have got some level of satisfaction, so there are another 25,000 people there who have not had their needs met.

The total number of search requests that we've received in that time is close to 17,000 -- 16,926. Of those, 5,772 are completed and 287 have been withdrawn. As you can imagine, it takes a considerable amount of staff time to do a search. Some of them are done very quickly; we can find the person quite fast. But others take a long time before we can give up on those. At this point, we have 10,867 people waiting for searches.

Our average number of applications: When we first started this system, we felt that there would be an influx at the beginning and after that the number of applications would go down. That hasn't happened. The number of applications has been at least steady and in fact continues to climb. We're receiving an average of 392 applications per month now.

As of October 1994, our waiting period for initial processing is -- we're doing it on the same day now. We've improved on it, we're doing better on it, but it still takes up to one year at the moment -- it will probably be reduced to about six months within another month; we've just put some more staff in there -- people are currently waiting one year right now to identify whether or not there is a match. That involves a process of going through our records.

When we've got two sets of circumstances that look like they might match, then we've got to go back to the actual records and check out whether there is enough identifying information to make sure those people actually do match. So the waiting period just to find out if there is someone waiting to meet you is a year, and the waiting period for a search to begin is currently six years.

Ms Gigantes: The application that you're accounting for here is an application for what? Is that all applications? Does that include non-identifying information or does it include only people who want to register or only people who want a search? Who does it include?

Ms Belford: Which chart are you referring to?

Ms Gigantes: The material that you just handed around, to which you've just been referring, the average number of applications received per month -- applications for what?

Ms Belford: That's an application to be in the register.

Ms Gigantes: So that doesn't include anybody who simply is asking for non-identifying information?

Ms Belford: No, that's another workload. With most of the people who are asking for non-identifying information, the workload will be at the children's aid society level, because those are the people who have the records.

I forgot the health/safety/welfare searches. In the middle of that diagram, there are health/safety/welfare searches. Under the legislation, if any person, and this is either an adoptee or a birth relative, has a significant concern that requires immediate contact with the other party, then under the health/safety/welfare clause we can do an immediate search for that person. When we do that, if we contact the other person, ordinarily what we need primarily is information, and it's usually medical information that we need. In some cases it may be that actual contact is needed; there may be something like a bone marrow transfusion or some rare blood kind of situation. But in most cases it's medical information that is needed.

Pat just gave me an example today of a person who had been adopted who has given birth to a child with a genetic defect. They are now considering whether they ought to have another child or not and it's really critical to know what the birth information is in order to do that. We would move that ahead on the health, safety, welfare clause and look for that person ahead of other people.

Ms Gigantes: Can I ask one further clarifying question on this information?

The Chair: Please go ahead.

Ms Gigantes: You've referred to the waiting period for researching, and that's after the application has been processed. It takes, on average, a year for the research to begin. But then it says, "Waiting period for a search to begin." Where is the gap there? You get the research done and then what holds up -- just the backlog?

Ms Belford: The research will identify whether or not there is a match. If there's a match, then that can start down that channel and proceed there.

Ms Gigantes: But the research itself doesn't take a year? I'm trying to understand what you're indicating here.

Ms Belford: It's taking us a year. Because of the backlog we have, it takes us a year to get the initial information, get it processed on the computer and identify whether there's anybody who looks like a match and then start going through the records.

Miss Patricia O'Brien: The research that we're talking about with an application --

The Chair: Sorry. Can I just ask if you would be good enough to introduce yourself for Hansard.

Miss O'Brien: Sorry. I'm Pat O'Brien. I'm the assistant registrar working in the adoption disclosure register.

The research that we're referring to there with the new application is researching our ministry records to find out, in the case of the adopted person who's registered, who were the adopted person's birth parents and that kind of data which goes on to the database in order to identify a match. The search is when we go beyond our records and actually go out literally looking for the person, the birth parent, say. We would then do an active search to try to locate the person, where the person is today, so we can contact the person and ask if they want to enter the register.

Ms Gigantes: I'm having difficulty moving from the point where the processing has been done, where there's no backlog, to the point where the research begins, where you'd know right off the bat whether there was a name or not on the register.

Miss O'Brien: I'm not sure I know exactly what you're saying, but when an application comes in now, we can put the information that the person has put on the application -- the person can only put half of it on because they don't know the other half -- into the computer and perhaps it will show immediately that there is a possible match and the other party is registered. If that shows that way with that minimal information, we will immediately proceed to check it out further and maybe that will identify a match. If --

Ms Gigantes: No, I'm lost again.

The Chair: I'm sorry. Perhaps we could come back. As you can hear the bells ringing, we have to go up to the House for a vote. It's not going to take us too long, but if you would kindly wait, we will be back. The committee stands adjourned until --


The Chair: Yes, you can leave your stuff. We'll be back in a few minutes. The committee stands adjourned.

The committee recessed from 1629 to 1642.

The Chair: The standing committee on social development is back in session. I think I can assure everyone that that was our last vote for the day, so hopefully we won't be interrupted. Perhaps we could pick up again where we left off. Might I ask, Ms Gigantes, if you perhaps, just for all our benefit, could restate the question, so we can get back into the substance.

Ms Gigantes: I think our experts have a handle on my question. My gap in understanding falls between the processing and the period of wait for researching to begin and, once researching is undertaken, why it takes six years. In other words, I'm trying to understand what it is that's creating -- aside from the backlog, what actually happens in the research?

Miss O'Brien: The first thing is the volume of applications. They pile up because the staff can't deal with as many as come in. They have to manually research these records. The old records that we have dating back to the early 1900s are not computerized in any way; they're on microreel. First of all, they have to go back through a series of index cards that are on microfiche, depending on the era where the things are. It's a very labour-intensive situation. They go back, they think they've found the right record from what information they have, they get the microreel out, they go through it and if they're lucky the record is right there where it should be. If they're not lucky and it's not there, then they have to go back to square one and start over again.

We also get in applications from people which are incomplete, so they have to go back and get more information from them. We get applications from people who think they're adopted but aren't, which we find out after we do some researching. We get applications from people who were adopted in another province, and when we look through our records and can't find anything, it's then that we'll go to the registrar general's office if the person was born in Ontario, because it will have a copy of the order from another province.

So it's the fact that the old information is not easily accessible -- you have to go through a number of steps to locate it -- plus the fact that we have suffered from lack of staff.

Ms Gigantes: Has there been any improvement in terms of the experience of using those records? In other words, as the experience of the ministry builds up using the records, is it possible to get those records into a shape that makes them easier to use?

Miss O'Brien: We've looked at that. We've looked at bringing them up to speed in terms of technology. It's not cost-efficient. It's just too much. I think the staff who have been there for some time are better able to spot difficult ones more quickly. They're able to sort of zero in on where to look for what we call the hard-to-finds. But I think what we have done right now is brought in a lot of extra staff to get through this backlog and to try to get it to a point where the permanent staff will be able to cope with what is coming in the door within a couple of months.

Ms Gigantes: When you say, "We're beginning research" --

The Chair: Ms Gigantes, sorry, can we just have the last --

Ms Gigantes: -- and you say, "We're beginning a search," what's the difference between those two things?

Miss O'Brien: Between a search and the research?

Ms Gigantes: Yes.

Miss O'Brien: The research is when the application first comes in and the adoptee has put on their adopted information. The staff person, when they get the application, goes back to the old records. They find out who the birth parent was at that point. That information gets on to the database, and it may show a match or it may not. If it doesn't show a match, then the application sits there.

The search is when we actively go out and look for, say it's the birth mother of the adoptee. We would then start with the records of the registrar general. We'd go through that. We'd try deaths, marriages, current addresses, MTC, that sort of thing, and hopefully find the location of the person today, make contact.

The Chair: Sorry. We've got two presentations, and I wonder if we could just go forward and complete the Community and Social Services and then we'll take any further questions on that part and then we'll move over to Consumer and Commercial Relations. But with the interruptions we've had, I'm afraid time is marching on.

Ms Belford: Okay, that's the basic system as it exists now. I'm now going to talk briefly about how we think the system would look if Bill 158 goes through.

Under the proposed system, this is very much a cooperative effort of the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and in particular the Ontario registrar general, otherwise known as the ORG. In this scenario, we have divided the work primarily so that MCSS deals with the people -- the inquiries, the questions, any counselling that's going to be done -- and the registrar general will deal with the processing of the applications and the matching of files and issuing of files. In this scenario, people would first probably come to us. Anybody in the general public who has a question about what's going on, any adoptive families, any of that kind of question, would come to our adoption unit and we would have counsellors there who would deal with that.

When we talk about the birth parents, under the legislation that is proposed the birth parent would have the right to lodge a no-contact notice, which is a notification that this birth parent does not wish to be contacted. Under the proposed legislation, the adoptee would have the right to the information that's on his original birth registration regardless of whether the birth parent approves of that or not. That would be done without question to the birth parent.

Now, on that original birth registration, the most pertinent information, it would have the name of the birth mother at the time that the child was born, her address at that time, her occupation, if any -- in many cases it was student -- and the name of the hospital where the child was born, and it may have the name of the birth father if he was registered. There aren't all that many of them where they are registered. I think we estimated, what, about 15% at the most -- not very many. There could be some other bits of information, a bit of information about the birth. The one thing that might be relevant to the adoptee is that it would say on that information whether this is the first birth to this young mother, and if it wasn't, that may give the adoptee a clue to go looking for a sibling somewhere.


But basically it is information that is as of the date that the child was born. So it's as old as the adoptee is when he comes to look for the information.

That may give the adoptee enough information to be able to find his birth parent and it may not. Much depends on how big a town he was born in, how unusual the parents' name was, whether or not he's able to follow through a change in name. Many of the women change their names at marriage, and this does not give them access to marriage records or death records. So there are still some obstacles in the way. But sometimes by using street directories and information from people in the town and whatever, they can be able to track things down.

The birth parent can come to us and say: "I don't want that person to contact me. I don't want the adoptee to contact me." The birth parent will come to us and ask us, "What do I do about this? What does a no-contact notice mean? What are the implications of it? What's involved in filling out the forms and making the application," etc, and we would try to explain to the person what that means and what the implications are.

The implications for the birth parent are that the adoptee would be prohibited from contacting the birth parent directly or indirectly. However, the no-contact notice can only apply to a person who is named on the original birth registration. So it can only apply to the birth mother or the birth father if named. It doesn't apply to aunts, uncles, cousins or anyone else in the family, and one of the things that we would be doing at our office is saying to people: "You have this option. You can place the no-contact notice. You may also wish to enter the register. You may have more control over the situation that way by having an intermediary in the relationship, if you want to do that." However, we would help them understand the implications of what they're doing and help them complete the forms if that's what they need to do.

We would be setting up a 1-800 line and we would have counselling staff available. We envision that the children's aid societies would also be able to help out with people in this regard, so that would make it available in more places and for people.

Now, one of the things about the birth parents is that many of them do not want to do anything which will identify them, so they don't want to go to people in person. They would be happier talking on a 1-800 line. They don't want letters of confirmation going back to them or they don't want anything that would identify them. So there has to be a way they can talk to us more or less anonymously at least at the beginning, which is the purpose of the 1-800 line.

When we get an application from a birth parent to file a non-contact notice, we would send that over to the registrar general. We haven't worked out all the details yet about how we would do that, but we envision sending it in batches specially marked, because with the volume of material and applications that the registrar general gets, we want to make sure that these receive attention immediately. The registrar general would then go through their files and try to match up the application of this birth parent to the birth registration it connects with. When that has been done, they will notify us that that has happened and we will have it confirmed, so that if a birth parent wants to phone somebody to check -- "Did you find the file and was it correctly matched up?" -- it would be our office they would get in touch with.

I'm trying to follow along with the handouts we just got today, and it's talking here about "birth relatives (grandparents, siblings, and persons `as if' birth parents)" -- and I don't know what that means -- "still can indicate contact interest," even if there's a non-contact.

Ms Belford: That's through the existing adoption disclosure register. I'm glad you brought that up, because I should have said right at the beginning that we envision the adoption disclosure register continuing to function for birth relatives. Birth relatives will not have the ability to make contact through the new proposed legislation, so the register would continue to exist for them. It would continue for those persons who find that it isn't enough information for them to locate their birth parent and they still need the assistance of a search, and it would also continue for the purpose of the health/safety/welfare searches when something has to happen quickly and we can do it faster than they could.

Mrs O'Neill: What's an "as if" birth parent?

Ms Belford: It's a person who may have raised a child as if it was their own child and eventually the child was placed for adoption or --

Miss O'Brien: The other time we've used it is if a birth mother, say, is deceased and her sister contacts us and says, "My sister had a child and is now deceased; I'd be very happy to meet that child." We have a number of maternal aunts or paternal aunts who are registering in that way. It's somebody who can give the adopted person the family background the birth parent could have given had the birth parent been alive.

Mrs O'Neill: But there's likely nothing legal in the way of guardianship that that person possesses?

Miss O'Brien: Not necessarily, no.

Mrs O'Neill: So you have to take their word or --

Miss O'Brien: We ask for some kind of identification to show the relationship to the birth parent.

Mrs O'Neill: Thank you.

Ms Belford: The adult adoptee will be applying directly to the registrar general for their original birth registration, and if the registrar general go to their files and they find that there's nothing there to indicate that a no-contact notice has been filed, the registrar general will simply issue that original birth registration. Our counselling services would be available to the adoptee if he has any questions or any issues that he wants to raise, but we envision it as being a fairly straightforward process. The adoptee applies there, they get the birth registration and they go on from there to do whatever they want to do with it.

However, if when the registrar general checks their files they find out that a no-contact notice has been filed, they will still issue the original birth registration to the adoptee but they also will notify the adoptee that a no-contact notice has been filed. We are preparing a standard piece of information that would go out with every one of these notices that would say: "This is what a no-contact notice means. It means you can't contact people and this is why."

We also envision asking the birth parent to write down the reasons why they don't want contact with the adoptee and allowing the adoptee to have that information. The experience in other jurisdictions has been that where a birth parent gives those reasons, it is more likely to be respected. If a birth parent is saying something to the effect of, "My husband and my family don't know that you exist, this has been a family secret for many years, my life would be shattered by this," then people tend to appreciate that more and will avoid the contact, or at least experience in other jurisdictions has shown that. The adoptee also is reported in these other jurisdictions to really appreciate seeing something that is in the birth parent's own handwriting.

Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): Could I just ask a question? I guess two questions. One is, is there no computer-linking capability between the registry and the registrar general's office?

Secondly, we've received a number of letters asking that the proposed legislation be amended to treat all three parties equally, that being adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents. Do you want to just comment on why the proposed legislation doesn't go all the way to meeting that request and why you're still keeping the current separate registry for at least one of the parties, the birth parents?

Mr Bob LeClerc: My name is LeClerc, from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I'd like to deal with your question about the linking of the databases.

The records for adoption are sealed. They are not in any sophisticated technological form. It would not be possible to computerize them. It would not be cost-efficient. There are over 200,000, I understand, adoptions on record. So when we get a no-contact notice, the office of the registrar general will have to search through these records manually, find the match and make the match against that record, but it's not possible to share the whole record with Comsoc and automatically do the kind of matchup that would be nice in a modern, computerized environment.


Ms Belford: In regard to the second question as to why the bill only goes as far as it does, a number of options were discussed at the time we were first considering this legislation and the decisions were made at the political level as to which options would be pursued. Each level gets a little more complicated. When we did the consulting with some of the advocacy groups and the people working in this field, I couldn't honestly say there was universal agreement on anything.

The one on which there was the closest to universal agreement was changing the counselling component from mandatory to voluntary, and that was very highly accepted. The next level of acceptance was the proposal more or less as it is now, that the adoptees would get the right to their birth information. When you go to the level of the birth parent getting information about the adoptee, it's impossible to give information about the adoptee without also releasing information about the adoptive family, so you get another set of actors contained in that.

The other complicating factor in that is that some of the children who were placed for adoption came from abusive families and there would be further policy questions raised then about, would there be classes of people you would screen out from having access and would the fact that a family was abusive 20 years ago mean that they still represent any kind of threat to the family? There are a number of more complicated policy issues that would have to be considered in going to that extent. There are also a number of other complicating factors that come up with -- there was a whole range of options that were presented, and the final decision was made at the political level as to which option would be pursued at this time.

Mr Jackson: Just for clarification, what do you mean by the political level?

Ms Belford: Well, I believe Mr Martin made the decision about what he was going to pursue.

Ms Gigantes: Can I ask of other members, just to follow on that --

The Chair: I appreciate that and I know as we go in there are many questions. I want to allow as many as I can but just say to members that we will want to reserve at least 15 minutes for the Consumer and Commercial part. I chatted with the officials beforehand, but just so you're aware, not yet but at some point I'm going to have to jump back in.

Ms Gigantes: If we have 200,000 records which are not in computer-friendly form, are we changing the way we collect those records now?

Miss O'Brien: In our unit, the placement of children has just now gone on line on computer.

Ms Gigantes: What about at children's aid societies?

Miss O'Brien: The placement is registered through the children's aid society to the area office, which now has the capability of putting it right on line to us. So that will replace the old index cards we used to have to flip through to find a record. That's very new, but that will help in 18 years' time.

Ms Gigantes: That's great. Thank you.

The Chair: Mr McGuinty, did you have --

Mr McGuinty: Not directly, Mr Chair, but I'm afraid the time will go on and I won't have an opportunity to ask this. I guess the first question I have is some consideration of the reaction to an adoptee when they encounter a no-contact notice. I'm not fully acquainted with this issue, but the people who have written to us to date express a very strong desire to be able to contact birth relatives. I'm wondering how strong that is, and is it so strong as to be unreasonable for us to expect that they will be able to abide by a no-contact notice?

Ms Belford: I'm afraid we can only answer that on a speculative basis. We will have to see what the experience is in Canada. We can only go on the experience of other jurisdictions.

I think, as some of the members said earlier, this is a limited bill; it is only going to a certain extent at this time. Adoption is evolving, and I think it's going to evolve further in the next few years. There have been tremendous changes in it in the last 20 or 30 years, and there are probably going to be many more.

We are recognizing that the adoptee who is faced with a no-contact notice may be very upset and stymied by that. That is why there's an arrow going back to the Ministry of Community and Social Services for more counselling that would be available to adoptees who receive a no-contact notice.

Again, the experience in other jurisdictions is that this has been respected to a high degree. The adoptees have an overwhelming desire to know, or at least the ones who are looking. I think one of the things we have to keep in mind here is that we don't really know how many people are going to use this; I think a lot of people will. The highest uptake they've had in the initial year in any of the jurisdictions that we've looked at so far has been 11%, and we're predicting 15% here as a bit of a safeguard. But as much as they have a deep desire to know, they also have a deep-seated fear of rejection. If they've got an indication that the birth parent does not want to contact them, then they have to deal with that as well. Are they willing to risk everything, more or less, to be rejected again?

Sometimes the reason that a birth parent may not want to see the adoptee may be enough in itself. We have some situations where the birth and the whole situation was not a very pleasant memory for some of the birth parents who are involved here. Sometimes when an adoptee understands those reasons they may not want to pursue it further.

I think we're going to have to wait and see what happens when this goes through. We know what's happened in other jurisdictions, but Canada is not entirely the same as everybody else, so we can't tell completely.

Mr McGuinty: This is my final question. You've been involved in searching for birth parents. They can be found virtually everywhere. Have you been able to project as to what percentage of our birth parents will be made aware that this legislation, if it becomes law, is now law, and that if they don't want to be contacted they have a period of time within which to do that? How many are we going to hit? How many are we going to be able to cover?

Ms Belford: We're planning a communications campaign to try to get that message out to as many birth parents as we can so that those who want to file that kind of notice can do so.

Mr McGuinty: Will it be a Canada-wide campaign?

Ms Belford: It will be Ontario-wide to start with. There will be notices to all of the other provinces and any of the border states. We are going to use the members of the adoption community to get that message out as far as we can. We're expecting that there will actually be a fair amount of publicity about this legislation, should it go through, that will be picked up in a number of jurisdictions and that will cover that, but we will have official notifications that are going to all of our counterpart agencies in all of the other provinces and the States, for sure. There are some key people that we're in contact with in Australia, New Zealand and Britain whom we will certainly make aware of the legislation. To conduct a Canada-wide campaign is just prohibitively expensive. It will certainly be extensive in Ontario, but to go Canada-wide is prohibitive.

The Chair: I'm sorry, but my mind is on the clock. Perhaps we could just complete your part of the presentation, and then I'll ask your colleagues to --

Ms Belford: I think I've pretty well covered the way we've seen it. We have a much more detailed comparison of the current adoption disclosure registry and what would happen under Bill 158, which is in the package of material we gave you today, but I think it would be sufficient for you to read that.


The Chair: We can come back to further questions, but for the record I'd just like it if we could get the officials from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to set out their part of the puzzle, and then we can all come back to the full issue.

Ms Gigantes: Put me on your list for after.

Mrs O'Neill: And myself also.

The Chair: Okay. Again, if you'd just be good enough to introduce yourself.

Ms Judi Hartman: My name is Judi Hartman. I'm with the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, office of the registrar general in Thunder Bay. We have this much snow this morning, so I'm very glad to be here.

Joan has already generally described the how, the process by which this bill would be implemented should it pass third reading, royal assent and proclamation. I think it's important just to go back to a point Mrs O'Neill made earlier; that is, it is a very complex bill in that it deals with two different ministries, two different statutes and a community or a group of stakeholders who've been frustrated for a very long time.

We've worked very exhaustively over the last while to try and work out how it would be implemented, how we could get people the information that they want and need as quickly as possible. That is what led us to the amendments that Mr Martin circulated to everybody last Friday.

The intent of the bill as it was originally drafted has not been changed in any way by the amendments. The amendments that we've suggested deal strictly with administrative matters, technical matters that allow us operationally and practically to get this going as quickly as possible after proclamation. Things like where the birth parent would go to for information, moving that over to Comsoc allows us to get on with the business of moving the paper and getting people the information that they want as quickly as possible.

The office of the registrar general, as I'm sure many of you are aware, isn't resourced to deal with the increase or the volume of queries that will probably result from the implementation or the proclamation of the bill itself. So Comsoc has graciously said that it's willing to talk to people and educate people and communicate all of the roles and responsibilities to anybody who asks, and we'll get on with the business of matching up the no-contact notices with the original birth registrations and then handling the applications from the adult adoptee.

In your package today, there is a description of how the amendments are reflected in the original bill. If you look at it, the title is "Comparison of Bill 158 and Recommended Revised Language." I won't go through each of them individually, but suffice it to say if you look down the right-hand column, there is no change in substance whatsoever; clarifications, some change in form, just putting words in different statutes that allow us the flexibility to do the actual business of releasing the documents.

I'll give you a for instance. We need to unseal all of these 250,000 records. Now, there's a question: Do you unseal them one at a time as people apply or do you try to get a jump on the business and unseal them all and work through them ahead of time so you're prepared for people and you don't have backlogs right off the bat on day one? So providing for some unsealing language will give us the operational flexibility to meet the demand as soon as it's there rather than making people wait any longer than they've already had to wait.

I don't want to take any more of the committee's time. If there are questions, I'm happy to entertain them.

The Chair: Fine. Then I'll go back to the rotation. I have Ms Gigantes and Mrs O'Neill.

Ms Gigantes: I know that it's in our material somewhere, but I've missed it, and I'm looking for it again. What is the date of our existing legislation?

Miss O'Brien: It's 1987 for the amendments for the disclosure register.

Ms Gigantes: Can I go back to the figures again on the adoption disclosure register statistics. I'm still groping here. I'm looking at the sheet that is headed with that title. If I understand it, the "Matches on the Register," which is the fourth notation down, 7,417, are the people who, once you begin the research, everything goes jackpot, they're both on the register. So that's roughly 15,000 happy people right there. When we look under the sixth notation, completed searches, are those all matches or are those searches that you've taken as far as you can get?

Miss O'Brien: They could be searches where there would not be a match because the person has been found deceased. They could be searches where we couldn't find the person. They could be searches in the health, safety or welfare area. Some of them do not go on the register because we do searches on behalf of minor adoptees where there's some medical reason why we have to find the birth family. They would not be counted. There are searches that we do where we find the birth relative and the birth relative chooses not to register but maybe only supplies some non-identifying information or may in fact refuse to get involved.

Ms Gigantes: So we don't know in that group called "Completed" how many are what I'd call happy endings and how many are frustrated endings?

Miss O'Brien: No, we wouldn't be able to give you an answer through this. They're two different sets of figures.

Ms Gigantes: Is it possible to get that?

Miss O'Brien: Pardon?

Ms Gigantes: Is it possible to get that information?

Miss O'Brien: We have not kept statistics on a case-by-case basis on how many have registered as a result of a search, unfortunately. We just didn't have the capability to do that, other than spending a lot of time doing searches. We have done a couple of surveys, and I think the feeling is that in about 65% of the searches the person does go ahead and register. But I can't give you an exact figure.

Ms Gigantes: Could I ask whether bringing all this information on line -- and I know that that's talking about information entering the system at a different place -- now that our system really is becoming computerized, whether it is possible from here on in to collect that kind of information?

Miss O'Brien: That was the intent when we started the computerization a few years ago, but unfortunately the statistical part did not get implemented or get programmed. I would hope that it will get there, but it's not right at the moment. We don't have the capabilities.

Ms Gigantes: So nothing about the changes we're bringing in would make that happen? Nothing about the changes we're considering in Bill 158 would help make that happen?

Miss O'Brien: On the computer system, you mean? I don't think so.

Ms Belford: Not directly, I don't think, no.

Miss O'Brien: I think that there would be a number of adopted people on our register who, when they've gotten the information on their birth registration, may decide to conduct their own search and find satisfaction through that method rather than waiting for us. But I don't think it will help us in terms of gathering statistics.

Mrs O'Neill: I have a couple of questions. I wanted to go, I guess, to the Consumer and Commercial Relations, so let's start with that.

I'm having trouble understanding the word "clarification" in that box, "Situations where No Contact Notice cannot be processed." I guess I just don't understand it at the moment.

Mr LeClerc: Perhaps I could help you, because I drafted this table.

The Chair: Just before answering, can you just tell us again which box?

Mrs O'Neill: I'm talking to the box that is on page 2 and is entitled "Clarification." It's rather embarrassing to have to ask a question on clarification on "Clarification," but I'm afraid I have to do it.

Mr LeClerc: In the original wording of the bill, it really didn't deal with this kind of a situation, a situation where you could not do a match. We have attempted in the revised bill to deal with that and to indicate that in the process if someone registers a no-contact notice and there's inadequate information when we go through our records to find the original birth registration, then we will advise Community and Social Services, who are acting as the window, and they will get back to the people and talk to the birth parent and say: "We need more information etc. We cannot do the match." So we tried to refine that. That wasn't something that was strongly contemplated in the initial bill as a potential problem.


Mrs O'Neill: So what you're saying is that a no-contact parent may also be unable to be matched.

Mr LeClerc: That's right. If I was a parent who had given a child up for adoption and I sent in a no-contact notice and somehow the information that I had didn't match anything that was in the records, then eventually Community and Social Services would get back to me and would say: "We've talked to the registrar general. We can't make that match. We can't find that record." There might be a number of reasons. I might be wrong in the names that I believe were recorded on the original birth registration. As Joan has indicated, possibly the original birth was not in Ontario and so we couldn't match it on that basis.

Mrs O'Neill: That's my first question. My second one has to do with unsealing language. What does that mean? You used that term.

Ms Hartman: Right now, the Vital Statistics Act provides for all of these records to be sealed and unsealed only when the registrar of adoption information inquires of the registrar general for information. They can't be opened --

Mrs O'Neill: No, I realize that. Do you have a section that you can point to where I can find the unsealing language, or is this going to be regulations?

Ms Hartman: We hope it would be in the Vital Statistics Act. So it should be part of the amendments that go around.

Mrs O'Neill: Have you got it here?

Ms Nancy Sills: I'm Nancy Sills. I'm legal counsel with Consumer and Commercial Relations. In the amendments that legislative counsel delivered to the committee this afternoon, there is a clause, a new subsection, that will specifically allow the registrar general to unseal registrations.

Mrs O'Neill: Could you give me the number of that, please?

Ms Sills: It would be section 29.1, in section 2 of the bill.

Mrs O'Neill: I just wanted to ask, are the courts involved in any of this at all, the individual court where the adoption was actually processed?

Ms Sills: Not in the contemplation of this bill, no.

Mrs O'Neill: My other question was, has the freedom of information officer had the non-contact clauses of this bill and examined them? I know that regarding adoption there are many exceptions, but I am concerned that this is a new and a big step, although in many cases a limited step, and I think that some of you have already indicated that there will be certainly an awful lot of interest about this bill. I guess I wanted to verify at the beginning that all channels had been checked, that there won't be challenges to this bill that haven't been anticipated. I haven't heard any of you talk about the freedom of information at all, and as I say, I know that there are in some cases exceptions related to it in the adoption legislation that we presently have, but this is new stuff. So can any of you respond to that?

Ms Belford: We did talk to the freedom of information commissioner early on in the process when we were considering how any of the proposed options would be affected by the freedom of information act and were advised at that time that the information relating to an adoption is considered to be rather an exceptional circumstance and should be treated in that manner. That's what some of the amendments in the bill do; they define the information about the no-contact notice as information related to an adoption, which is therefore exempt from the FIPPA regulations. However, we have not reviewed that with the freedom of information commissioner in its final form, and we probably should do that.

Mrs O'Neill: I think that would be a good thing to do. You've already got punitive measures here if things are not respected, and I understand that they are not tested very often, but I think this bill should have as much protection as possible. We are talking about, in some cases, very old information and very confidential information. So I would feel a lot better if somebody could guarantee to me that this was run by the commissioner in its final form. Maybe we could have that done before the hearings are over. That's all at the present time, Mr Chairman.

The Chair: I have Mr Wilson and Mr Hope.

Mr Jim Wilson: I really do need a clarification here in terms of a follow-up to my previous question. As I understand, the proposed law would be that the adult adoptee can request the original birth record. At that point, or at some point, the only new right of the birth parent is to indicate yes or no to the no-contact notice. Is that right?

Ms Belford: Yes.

Mr Jim Wilson: So the birth parent's no further ahead in this new scheme. The new scheme just enhances the rights of the adult adoptee. Okay, and you did explain generally why there were some problems and that there really wasn't consensus out there about including equal rights for birth parents.

I just wonder if you would want to explain to me again: Under the new scheme, birth parents either get to say yes or no to a no-contact notice and they can withdraw the notice once, according to your amendments. But what about their right for identifying information, the original birth registration, for example?

Ms Belford: Their right for identifying information is not dealt with in this bill.

Mr Jim Wilson: It's just because I know we're going to hear a lot of that in the public hearings that start tomorrow, and unfortunately I won't be here tomorrow either but I will certainly be here Monday and Tuesday next week. Can you just, in a nutshell again, try and get through my head -- I know the decision was made at the political level -- what were major obstacles?

Ms Belford: There are advantages and disadvantages to giving the birth parent access to that information, but the first level, on the disadvantages, is that it is impossible to give information about the adoptee without also giving information about the adoptive family, so you multiply the number of people affected right away. You've got the adoptee and the adoptive parents and any other members of that family who are also involved in the release of that information. That's one complicating factor.

Another complicating factor is that, although many of the children who were placed for adoption were placed by young mothers in circumstances where they really didn't have a lot of choice socially and economically about keeping their child, some of the children who are placed for adoption do come into the child welfare system because they are neglected or abused in their own homes. The question then becomes a little more complicated as to, do you have to set up various categories of birth parents who can have access? Do you say that only if you were an innocent teenager you get to have access to that information, or if there was abuse in the background that you don't, or if there's some kind of screening mechanism you would have to go through to see if you're a fit parent at this time or pose any risks to the child, that kind of thing. There's another level of policy work that would need to be done there to deal with that issue, which hasn't been done yet.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): Something Mr Wilson said was, do you only have one chance to reconsider a no-contact provision? Why would that be? You use the scenario that it's the young unwed mother who is maybe in school or whatever and has decided and is now entering a new life. The adult is now looking for the parent, makes one inquiry and the parent knows that the child is out there. The mind regenerates one more time; after progressive thinking, within a few years from now, after getting the new family accustomed to this child who was never known about, the option may come up one or two more times later on. I'm just wondering why it's only limited to one option.

Ms Hartman: It's purely a practical issue of issuing a copy of the original birth registration and having the veto coming in after you've issued it. If birth parents put the veto on the registration and the children apply for the registration and we give it to them with the veto, then we have to go and tell them that the veto's been lifted. Then, if the veto's put back on again, they've already got the information.


Mr Hope: But I mean changing from the no-contact. Let's say, for instance, something stimulates another no-contact information form to go out and they're still saying, "No, I don't want this person to contact me."

Ms Gigantes: That's easy. Doesn't that just require the person to put the name on the registry?

Ms Hartman: The amendments we proposed would allow a birth parent to apply the veto and remove the veto once. If they come back and they want to apply it again, we run the risk of having already issued the --

Mr Hope: Okay. So you can still say "no contact" and you can also say "contact."

Ms Hartman: Mm-hmm.

Mr Hope: Once you've opened the file, you're now open. If you've closed it and you reconsider to have it open, you have that option to reopen.

Ms Hartman: That's right.

Mr Hope: That's what I needed clear because I'm not familiar with adoption. I'm not an adopted child. I have natural parents. Some would question that, but I do have natural parents.

Mr Jim Wilson: It's not your fault.

Mr Hope: I know. But the thing is that I am trying to get a better understanding and you have to convince me. I'm asking the ORG to really convince me of this. I look at birth certificates and now you want to handle this system. Please convince me that this is going to work. I hate to bring it up, but as soon as you mention ORG, and we're talking about a very delicate situation, and I know the frustrations I go through with birth certificates, please tell me how this is going to be very successful. I really would like to hear it.

Mr LeClerc: We can tell you, Mr Hope, that right now we're running the average birth certificate at two to four weeks. There are some that take longer, but the average one is going two to four weeks.

The vast majority of birth certificates and other certificates are matched by computer. Where you can match your request with what's in the database, the computer goes boom, boom that night and we're home and cooled out. The problem is delayed registrations of birth, things like that, changes of names. They take longer. They take more human involvement. When you get more human involvement, it gets slower.

This system will not be computerized. It will take a while, but we're hoping that we can do it adequately and we're hoping that we can do it well.

Ms Hartman: If I can just add to that, it will be kept separate from the other registration business that the ORG currently does. These people's requests aren't going to be thrown in with all the requests for other types of certificates.

Mr Hope: Not so much just for myself; the general public does watch these proceedings and they know the frustrations. They yell at me about their birth certificates, and I think it's important for you, who are going to be working with the process, to convince them that it is a proper way of expediting.

When you talk about these sealed files and you're talking in the legislation where it allows them to be opened up, are you now talking about taking that information -- I guess I was getting confused when Evelyn was asking questions and Mrs O'Neill was asking questions about this information that's in these sealed documents. You've got to explain it to me because I'm not familiar with the adoption process.

Ms Hartman: Right now, when a person's adopted, we receive a copy of the adoption order from the court where the adoption took place and we take the original birth registration and attach that order to it. In some cases, the court orders that sealed or the birth to be re-registered with the new name and the new parents on it.

When we say "sealed," the two pieces of paper are actually put in an envelope, sealed shut with an official seal put over the slip of paper so you can tell if it's been opened, and they're filed manually in a filing cabinet area. They're sealed from our eyes as well as the general public's eyes. The staff at the office of the registrar general don't have access to them, with the exception of the adoption unit and the registrar general or the deputy registrar general.

What we need to do, so that we can prevent backlogs and more frustration on the part of the applicant, is to be able to work with these records in the year before people can apply for them. The year that birth parents are going to be applying for vetoes, we need to be able to open them and attach them and make sure we've got the right ones and do whatever searches are necessary and that sort of thing.

In working together in proposing the amendments, that's what they're meant to deal with, all those possible delays and problems in actually doing the manual work so we don't get people in a backlog situation.

Mr Hope: When you open these, they still stay in their paper form. You're not transferring them into a computer which is accessible, and when you're looking at the commissioner dealing with freedom of information and protection of privacy, I'm wondering if there's a way of entering this into a system that is just as sealed as a filing cabinet would be or a sealed envelope, which could be sealed in a computer system, which Mr Wilson and I believe Ms O'Neill were talking about where, instead of going through them hand over hand, you're now just entering them into a computer which has got a special code, which you can process in. Is that what you're talking about to help make this system work better?

Ms Hartman: For the committee's information, there are some adoption records that are on a computer system. As a result of the move of the ORG to Thunder Bay in 1991, we turned to a computer technology called auto-imaging to get rid of paper. Adoptions that have taken place since 1991 are imaged in that technology and the paper is available, but the adoption document is looked at on a computer system. We do have security accesses, so in effect it's sealed as if it were in an envelope. But there are about 200,000 records that aren't on the imaging system that happened before 1991. The cost of converting them is extremely high and we're just not resourced to do that right now. There is a potential for that to happen in the future, though.

The Chair: I have three people down, and just to note, members, time is moving on. I have Ms Carter, Mr McGuinty and Ms O'Neill.

Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): I just had one query. Is the no-contact notice absolutely solid, irreversible? I'm just wondering if there might not be circumstances where, in spite of a no-contact notice, it was still desirable or necessary to somehow get through to them and inform them of perhaps some change in the situation or something that either the adult child needed to know or they needed to know.

Ms Hartman: I think Joan can answer that.

Ms Belford: Yes. We can still handle that through our health/safety/welfare searches. What that does is it has a ministry staff person in the middle who would approach the person who is being contacted and get the information that's required without necessitating the birth parent actually having contact with the adoptee. So we can still do that through our health/safety/welfare section of the adoption register.

Ms Carter: But I wondered whether sometimes a search was actually initiated for these people and it may be years after they made the original order, and perhaps if they heard that they were actually being sought, at that point they might want to change their minds.

Ms Belford: That's possible too. If we contacted them and they said at that point they would be willing to have contact, they would just withdraw their notice.

Ms Carter: So you would make that contact. I mean, it isn't just a barrier that goes up and all contact ceases.

Ms Belford: We could do it under the health/safety/ welfare provisions on an emergency basis or if requested to do it on a search basis on whatever time line that takes us. We could do it under either one of those provisions; we could continue to do it that way.

Mr McGuinty: I wanted to revisit the issue I raised earlier. They both connect, I guess, with my concern that we may not be doing everything we reasonably can to properly protect the birth parent's right to privacy. What's built into this bill is I guess implicitly something that we'd call acceptable losses. That's based on two things that are going to happen here.

First of all, we're going to have adoptees obtain information together with a no-contact notice who will not respect that no-contact notice. I say that not in a pejorative sense or to be critical, but because of my basic understanding of this. This need to know can be so strong that it could virtually overwhelm an adoptee. You might as well take a man to the desert for three days and put a glass of water in front of him and say, "Don't drink it." I think it's an unreasonable demand to be made. The same might very well apply to some of our adoptees.

The second point is that there are going to be some adoptive parents who did not register because they did not learn about the new legislation. For that reason, they too could be contacted. There are many, many people in this province who do not read the newspaper. I gather that is going to be one of the primary sources of purveying information about the new legislation.

We've been able to project how many birth parents will be contacted either because people don't respect the no-contact notice or because they're not made aware of the new legislation, and we have something which I think is rather unusual in law: We're imposing a positive obligation on them. They have to come out and register a no-contact notice.


The other thing, if I can throw this into the mix, is that being contacted when you don't want to be contacted I gather is something that is fairly traumatic and a major source of upheaval in your personal life. So we're talking about something here that's very sensitive, and the act, to my way of thinking, just says, "Those things will happen, but those will be acceptable losses, and when we weigh them in the grander scheme of things, it is more important to create the new scheme." But I'm just wondering if, based on what I've said, you feel that we have adequately protected the rights of birth parents.

Ms Belford: I think the bill proposes a measure that is designed to provide some protection for birth parents. It is certainly not absolute. The problem with this entire situation is that you can't balance forever the rights of the birth parent and the rights of the adoptee. At some point you have to come down on one side or the other.

Mr Jackson: That's why it's such a foreign concept to politicians.

Ms Belford: The best way that we attempted to balance the rights of both people was by having the adoption disclosure register wherein there is an intermediary, there is discreet contact and there is an opportunity for both sides to consent to being together and there's not in this, as you say, a situation where there probably will be some birth parents who won't hear about the legislation even though we have considered quite a number of ways to reach the people who are most likely to be affected by it.

However, the adoption disclosure register just doesn't work. It would take us -- I forget what we came up with -- millions of dollars in order to have enough staff to process anything in an amount of time that would be anywhere near reasonable at all.

So in looking at the next-best thing as to where we could go from there, at some point or another you do have to come down on one side or the other. We have heard from a lot of birth parents, a lot of adoptees, a lot of adoptive parents. There are some people who are going to feel disadvantaged by this legislation no matter what we do or what way it was formulated. However, in what we heard from the people who made presentations to us, we had contact with a number of birth parents who were contacted by their adopted child without notice and without wishing to be contacted and who found the initial experience very traumatic. However, the trauma didn't last and eventually they were able to be reconciled to that notion.

The Chair: Just to be clear, you mean people who outside of the system went and found their parent?

Ms Belford: That's right, not using information they get from ourselves.

The Chair: Which continues and could go on irrespective of this system.

Ms Belford: Yes, and I think we should be knowledgeable that it is going on in quite a number of situations. There are all kinds of groups out there that will help adoptees search for their birth parents now and some of them are very good and some of them seem to have access to some records that we don't in order to get this information.

One of the disadvantages we have in trying to do some research and figure out what's going to happen is that there's no group of birth parents we can go to. Birth parents, by the very nature of their situation, if they do not want to be identified as birth parents, obviously don't join groups and don't come to public meetings and they don't do things like that. The best way that we've had of hearing from them is when there's been something in the news media and then we've had reactions from people. Some of the stories we've heard from birth parents would break your heart. So would some of the ones from adoptees. It's a very emotionally charged situation for both parties, and I think in the long run you eventually just have to come down on one side or the other. This legislation comes down on the side of the adoptee with an attempt to provide some safeguards for the birth parent at the same time.

The other thing is that it is happening in other jurisdictions, and we have contacted the people there and have asked, "Have you had any lawsuits? Have you had any incidence of anybody being physically harmed or endangered in some way?" and we haven't had anything reported to us yet.

The Chair: I want to make sure Mr Martin can end it.

Mr Martin: I just wanted to say to Mr McGuinty that as the folks come forward tomorrow and next Monday, this discussion will be on the table, I'm sure, because it's certainly things that we've talked about as we've met. They will not talk about it as coming down on one side or the other; they will talk about it as levelling the playing field, of bringing them up to a place where they have equal access, as did their parents when the adoption first took place. They feel quite strongly about that and will use language that will indicate that this is something that actually turns around what they consider to be an antiquated system that encourages oppression, dishonesty and secrecy. So those are the kinds of things that I've heard that they will present, I'm sure, when they come forward. It will be interesting then for you to enter into that discussion with them, because really, some of the philosophical underpinning of this is in that question.

The Chair: Mrs O'Neill, you had a final question?

Mrs O'Neill: I was quite surprised to hear Consumer and Commercial Relations people suggesting this is not going to be computerized now, because we have just found out that the adoption and MCSS statistics and data are being. So there is no role for a computer in this whole process, is that what we're suggesting, because it's kind of the end of the story for the people who are going to be involved? There must be a reason.

Ms Hartman: I don't think we can say there's no role for technology in providing service to the adoptees. In the future, the records that have been already imaged or computerized will be available on a computerized basis. We haven't yet put in place any sort of process that we would use to provide these records. If we were resourced to a certain level, we could do that. That hasn't been worked out yet.

Mrs O'Neill: Okay. The other question I had, Ms Hartman: Could you say a little bit more about opening those seals? I'm sorry, I think that's very important, because people have been protected by the seals for a long time. You're suggesting you're going to now ask for access to do that before the no-contact actually clicks in. Can you tell us a little bit about what you're going to do and why you're going to do it?

Ms Hartman: I didn't mean to imply we were going to do it before we received the veto. We would do it at the point we receive vetos: go in, open the record, attach the veto to it -- and that may be a physical piece of paper to a physical paper file or, in the case of a recent adoption, it may mean imaging or computerizing the veto to go with the computerized record that currently exists, but do them as they come in. Then we won't reseal them once the veto's attached. We will just leave them with security access on the computerized ones, and the other ones in a separate filing area for the time being, until the adoptee, or if -- in the event that the adoptee applies. It just means that we don't have to put it in an envelope and put a sticker on the back and have somebody sign it again.

Ms Gigantes: Could I just say that, if I understand correctly, we shouldn't associate the sealing with protection of the birth parent necessarily, because the sealing may have been at the behest and at the initiation of the adopting parents.

Mrs O'Neill: Well, in case they're sealed, and they were sealed legally -- that's a very fundamental point.

Ms Gigantes: Yes, but I don't want us to think that when we do the unsealing, what we're doing is removing the protection that existed because it was a protection desired by the birth parent. That may not necessarily be the case at all.

Mrs O'Neill: It was part of a legal process. It was nobody's intent to do anything to anybody. It was part of a legal process.

Ms Hartman: In effect, it was a mechanism that the courts used at a time when records weren't computerizedso that somebody couldn't inadvertently spill the beans and disclose the information. They were sealed from our staff's eyes as well, so that they were handled in a sensitive manner.

Mrs O'Neill: Exactly.

Ms Hartman: Nowadays, with technology and with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that sealing isn't necessary within the confines of our office, and unsealing them doesn't affect their sensitivity or the way they're dealt with in terms of the general public or adoptees.

The Chair: One final question from Mr Eddy and then Mr Martin, and then I want Ms Drummond to comment on some of the things she has given us and a few notes about tomorrow.

Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): My question then follows the last two questions about the sealing. I know adopted children who have copies of their adoption order. This is news to me that they've been sealed. Now, they would be sealed on orders of the judge, the court. Would the --

Ms Hartman: I'm sorry. The order itself isn't sealed. Just the original birth registration is sealed. The adoption order is, if you will, stapled to the outside of the envelope. Inside the envelope is the original birth registration.


Mr Eddy: But the adopting order gives the birth name.

Ms Hartman: Yes, it does.

Mr Eddy: Of the child.

Ms Hartman: Yes, it does. It is not sealed from our staff's eyes. It is not available to the general public through our office.

Mr Eddy: Right. An adoption order is not.

Ms Hartman: No.

Mr Eddy: That means it's sealed, if it's not available. Or is that a different type?

Ms Hartman: Sealing is a technical, legal term.

Mr Eddy: Okay, just from your eyes even.

Ms Hartman: It doesn't mean anything. It's not sealed in any way to us.

Mr Eddy: Okay. Thank you.

The Chair: Mr Martin, did you want to just make any final comments, because there are a few other --

Mr Martin: Just to thank the ministry folks for coming forward and being so informative and frank and helpful. So far, this process has been a discussion between those of us who live and work here. Tomorrow and next week we will hear from the people themselves who are directly affected. That will add another whole perspective to this process which will be rather interesting and helpful. I think any of us who are able to be here will probably learn a lot and hopefully be able to ask a lot of good questions so that in the end we will all feel comfortable that we have a piece of legislation that at least takes us a step forward, if not the whole hundred yards, at this particular point in time.

The Chair: If I might also thank all of you for coming this afternoon. Clearly we are dealing with something that is very sensitive and in some respects very complex, but I think that it's helped us on the committee to understand both what exists and what the intention of the legislation is. I'm sure if there are further questions as we go through the testimony, we'll get them back to you and seek further clarification. But thank you all for coming before the committee today.

Before we adjourn, just a couple of things, committee members. First of all, tomorrow one of the witnesses is a Miss Katherine Kimbell, who sent us a book earlier in the year, back in May -- I just want to remind members of that -- with respect to New South Wales. Those on the committee at that time should have received that particular document. Just so you can see what it looks like as you consult your file, this is what it looked like.

With that, I want to ask our researcher, who has sent out a note on adoption disclosure laws in other jurisdictions: Alison, do you want to just comment on the document that you've passed out?

Ms Alison Drummond: I'll just comment on this very briefly. The subcommittee asked for some information on laws in other jurisdictions. I've very briefly described and attached the legislation from New South Wales and from New Zealand. I've also attached a very recent article from Maclean's on things that are going on in Canada. And I made some phone calls and got information up to date for last Thursday or Friday on where proposed changes are at in other jurisdictions. Nothing's really at the stage of a bill that's been passed, so I haven't attached anything, although if people are interested in those Alberta private members' bills or the British Columbia report, I should be receiving that this week. I already have the Alberta private members' bills, but as you'll see from the memo, they didn't really go anywhere.

The Chair: That's fine, then, and members can get that if they wish. Just one final note. In our hearings we have allotted 15 minutes to each of the witnesses. This was in order to accommodate as many people as possible. If I could just ask members, as we get into questions tomorrow and next week, if you would also be mindful of that time limitation.

With that, there being no -- sorry.

Mr Hope: The material that Ms O'Neill was asking for earlier, and I don't know if she made it in a -- she was looking for some information. Is that going to be brought forward?

The Chair: Was this with respect to the freedom of information commission?

Mr Hope: Yes, with the commissioner's opinion on this legislation, whether it be coming through them or -- where is that opinion coming from, I guess my concern would be.

The Chair: Okay. If I recall, the question was asked, Ms Belford, of you. You'd had some discussion with the commissioner and the question was, would this legislation be shown to the commissioner during this week?

Ms Belford: We had talked to the commissioner very early, when we were still developing options, but we have not talked to him lately. I will make an attempt to get him to review this. I don't know if we can do it in the time lines. I'll try.

The Chair: Okay. Perhaps you could let the clerk know if that can happen, and depending on that, we can discuss that, Mr Hope, if you wanted, at a future session.

Mr Hope: It was Mrs O'Neill's request from the commissioner. I was just following up to find out exactly where it's coming from.

Interjection: Randy's just being helpful.

Mr Hope: Just being helpful.

The Chair: Fine. Mr Jackson.

Mr Jackson: I suspect we'll have some technical backup support from both ministries to carry us through that period of time?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Jackson: Fine. That should be sufficient as a linkage.

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

The committee adjourned at 1756.