Memorandum submitted by Karen Lynn
In Canada we have been following with interest
the progress of your proposed legislative changes to closed adoption
practices. Historically, Canada has followed such laws and practices
introduced in England. For instance, in 1926 England introduced
closed records in matters of adoption and Canada (Ontario) followed
suit in 1927. I regret to say that we are unable to continue regarding
England as our model in view of the proposed Adoption and Children
Bill which achieved second reading on 26 March, however, we are
carefully watching, with increasing alarm, how the British Parliament
unfolds this particular piece of legislation.
Canadian provincial and territorial models departed
from the British model of adoption disclosure in 1996 when British
Columbia opened up sealed records to adult adoptees and birth
relatives, subject to contact and disclosure vetoes which, it
turns out, are infrequently used (less than 4 per cent and declining),
a situation which mirrors the New Zealand legislation introduced
in 1985. I'm sure your research has already explored the New Zealand
experience. Subsequent to British Columbia's opening sealed records,
the Northwest Territories and Nunavut also opened records and
Newfoundland passed similar legislation. In Ontario where secrecy
in adoption started here, I am a member of a "think tank"
planning a draft of a new law which will be presented to our Government.
This group is spearheaded by the Ontario Association of Childrens
Aids Societies, an umbrella group representing all Childrens Aids
Societies that report to the Ministry of Community and Social
Services in the province. I assure you that the proposal will
include access to identifying information for birth relatives
and adult adoptees with even fewer conditions which apply in British
I urge you to consider similar legislation in
recognition of the short and long-term effects of undeserved trauma
on women who surrendered their children under cruel laws of government
imposed secrecy. I request that you consider the legislation created
in New South Wales last December 2000, and in particular that
you read the NSW inquiry into past adoption practices:
New South Wales, Parliament, Legislative
Council, Standing Committee on Social Issues
Releasing the past: adoption practices, 1950-98:
final report/Standing Committee on Social Issues. [Sydney, NSW]
(Report 22 December 2000) (Parliamentary paper no 600).
The final report form this inquiry is easily
available on-line through the NSW government web site.
The recommendations ensuing from this report
will help you to understand past coercive and illegal practices
employed by authorities to separate new mothers from their babies.
With great respect, I doubt very much that one would find experiences
of first mothers in New South Wales, Canada, England and Wales
to be significantly divergent. I also expect that all of these
truths will emerge in time given the upsurge in advocacy and communications
world-wide by the millions of us who lost our children to adoption.
In the past, women who bore children ex-nuptually
were shamed, blamed and coerced into surrendering their childrencoerced,
among other reasons, because they were never made aware of the
life-long tragic impact on either themselves or their children.
They were vulnerable to this abuse by their own youth, poverty
and lack of familial support. The social construction of single
parenthood has changed in our life-times. For these reasons and
more it is time for legislators to consider the consequences of
passing legislation like the Adoption and Children Bill which
will perpetuate the punishment of first mothers and fathers when
few deserved it. Should you pass this legislation as currently
written you will be permitting the tragedy of secrecy in adoption
to unfold well into the twenty first century. Many mothers and
fathers will die in the grief of not knowing how their lost children
fared, many adoptees will grow old feeling abandoned by their
original parents and England will have lost some of its moral
authority in the Commonwealth of Nations.
We urge you to live up to the moniker "Mother"
We urge you to implement laws requiring active
policies and procedures to meet the needs of all adults
affected by adoption who wish to reunite with their long lost
loved ones as requested by NORCAP and in so doing truly represent
the members of your constituency who will continue to pay dearly
for secrecy in adoption practices.