For much of her younger years, Mary MacDonald was unaware of the degenerative muscle disorder she would develop in her adult life.
She is now calling on the provincial government to open up P.E.I.’s adoption records so other adoptees can find their genetic medical history.
“I did not know I had a ticking time bomb,” said MacDonald, who was raised in Wood Islands and now lives in Halifax. “Adult adoptees have the right to know if they are passing on to their own children, unknowingly, these types of devastating illnesses.”
MacDonald, who was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy as an adult, was one of several speakers during the Truth and Transparency for P.E.I. Mothers, Fathers, and Adoptees rally on Sunday in front of the Catholic Family Services building in Charlottetown.
A crowd of more than two dozen gathered to push the government to open up P.E.I.’s adoption records and to acknowledge the harm that keeping those records hidden had on the lives of parents and adoptees. During the rally, mothers shared stories of not being allowed to hold their newborn and not having a say in keeping their baby.
“I can’t imagine the cruelty of giving birth to a child and having that child taken away from you, being just torn apart for years and decades later,” said MacDonald, who was taken from her mother as a newborn and put up for adoption in 1956. “They did, more or less through shame and stigma, force unmarried women into these maternity homes and kept them sometimes against their will and violated their dignity and their rights.”
During the post-war period, federal and provincial governments, as well as social welfare agencies, separated hundreds of mothers and fathers from their newborn children.
“Someone thought illegitimate children shouldn’t be with their mothers and this was done over a period of decades and the myth became more resilient,” said MacDonald.
Under provincial legislation, P.E.I.’s adoption records are still sealed unless both parties give consent to the details being released.
In February, the provincial government made a call for feedback on the possibility of opening those records.
While an advisory committee was put in place and public meetings were held, those at Sunday’s rally noted that none of that feedback has been released to the public.
“We’ve requested that information and they’ve yet to give us any information,” said Justin Campbell, a member of Open Records P.E.I.
MacDonald was eventually able to find her own biological family, despite the lack of information she had.
However, she did not get to meet her mother.
“I made a very sad journey to Toronto and the first and only time I saw my mother was when her brothers took me to see her in her casket,” she said.