Friday, November 23, 2007

Ontario Government to Introduce Amended Adoption Disclosure Law

On September 17, 2007, Ontario's Adoption Information Disclosure Act came in to force. As we reported on September 19, Ontario's Superior Court struck down the new law two days later.

The Act, as originally drafted, would have permitted adoptees to obtain records including their birth names and the names of their birth parents from previously sealed government records. Birth parents would also have been permitted to obtain information from their birth children’s records and adoption orders.

While the original Act provided that both adoptive children and birth parents could register notice that after such disclosure, they did not wish to be contacted by the other (which, if violated, could result in a fine of $50,000), the Act's retroactivity caused serious privacy concerns for persons who had long believed that their personal information would always be maintained by the government on a confidential basis in accordance with prior legislation, long in effect.

Four people, two of whom remain unidentified, launched an action against the Attorney General of Ontario and the Coalition for Open Adoption Records, claiming the Act was unconstitutional.

The matter was heard by Mr. Justice Edward Belaboba in June 2007. In concluding the Act infringed Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, his Judgment focused on two substantive concerns:

  1. the retroactivity of the law; and
  2. the law did not require the consent of both parties to the release of information.

On November 14, 2007, CBC News reported:

The McGuinty Liberals are taking another run at opening up past adoption records after deciding not to appeal a judge's decision quashing their adoption law.

The revised legislation, which is expected to be introduced imminently, will address Justice Belobaba's ruling by including a provision permitting either party to veto disclosure of personal information to the other.

Information about current rights of adoptees and birth parents is available online from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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