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P.E.I. to open adoption records in new year

Justin Campbell said the changes to the Adoption Act could mean a violation of the rights of adoptees and birth parents. He said he disagrees with allowing the option of a disclosure veto.
Justin Campbell said the changes to the Adoption Act could mean a violation of the rights of adoptees and birth parents. He said he disagrees with allowing the option of a disclosure veto. - Stu Neatby

Changes open records for adoptions taking place after January 2020, but maintains veto

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

The province’s adoption records will be opened up, but a controversial provision allowing a veto against full disclosure has remained.

The amendments to the Adoption Act passed second reading Thursday night without amendments and no standing vote was held.

The changes would allow either adopted children or birth parents to access adoption records after an application to the province. However, both birth parents and children would have the option of a veto against disclosing their records.

Adoptions that take place after Jan. 31, 2020 will be open by default, with no veto option for either birth parents or adoptees. Current birth parents or adoptees looking to obtain older records will have to wait until Jan. 31, 2021 for the changes to take effect. 

Currently, birth parents or adoptees can only access information that does not disclose identities or contact information. P.E.I. and Nova Scotia are the last remaining provinces without open adoption records.

The changes would affect between 4,000 and 5,000 people on P.E.I.

During the debate, Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker asked Social Development Minister Ernie Hudson if the legislation would go “as far as it possibly can in making those records available to everybody."

“I do,” Hudson said.

However, under the amended act, either the biological parent or adopted child can file a disclosure veto between Jan. 31, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021. 

Matt Bourque, the province’s adoption co-ordinator, said the veto option allows for privacy for those individuals who desire it.

"I believe it balances the rights of both parties, both people involved,” Bourque said.

"The veto allows for the person to at least protect themselves if they came into adoption, if they're adopted or if they place a child for adoption, with the full understanding that their information would be sealed forever."

Justin Campbell, who is currently searching for information about his biological father, watched from the public gallery as the bill was passed. He said the veto option could constitute a violation of his rights.

"I want the open adoption records, but for the veto I'm totally against [it]. With that they're basically keeping the records sealed," Campbell said.

"For the majority of adoptees or mothers or fathers that had put a child up for adoption, it's not about making connection. It's about finding out our medical history, about finding out our history of who we are, where we came from."

Campbell is a member of the group Open Records P.E.I. The group has been pushing the province to open up adoption records. 

Campbell said many adoptees have been seeking out information about their birth parents through Facebook groups like Open Records.

In 2017, the group presented a petition with 935 signatures to the legislature calling for adoption records to be unsealed.  

The province does not currently have a record of Campbell’s biological father. But he said people have other means, such as commercial DNA tests, to find out information about their birth parents.

"With DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe — all that, any of the DNA tests that are out there — with that technology, a veto is void," Campbell said.

Twitter.com/stu_neatby

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