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Ontario's adoption disclosure plan declared unconstitutional.

Ontario's new Adoption Information Disclosure Act lasted only two days. The end came with Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

The Act was passed alter a decade-long effort by open adoption advocates. The Adoption Council of Ontario is urging the Ontario government to act swiftly to bring in amendments to the Act.

Justice Belobaba found the, the provisions in the Adoption Information Disclosure Act, that allows birth parents and adopted children retroactive access to confidential adoption records without the consent of the person being identified, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley, who campaigned for the disclosure law, expressed disappointment and claims that the judge has misinterpreted the Act. "This is a right to information, not the right to a relationship," Chorley said.

Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian hailed the ruling as protecting the rights of a minority of parents or adoptees who do not wish information, which has been private under provincial law since 1927, to be revealed without their consent. The Commissioner urged the government to amend the legislation to protect the privacy of past adoptions, giving birth parents and adoptees the right to file a "disclosure veto," which would allow them the option of blocking access to their birth registration information. This would provide protection for the minority and allow the vast majority to get the information they were seeking.

Cavoukian said that when the law was being debated, she received letters from many people who could not speak out publicly about the damage that could be done to their lives if, after being promised privacy, it were revealed, for instance, that they had a child out of wedlock.

The Adoption Council argues that access to his or her original birth registration "is a fundamental privilege afforded to every other citizen in Ontario."

The Adoption Council of Ontario recommends that the provincial government reintroduce a law that:

* provides unqualified access for the adult adoptee to their original birth registration;

* reinstates the Adoption Disclosure Register as a fully active register functioning to search and seek consent to the disclosure of adoption information from adult adoptees and birth family members; and

* ensures this search service is retroactive, efficient and accessible.

Ontario is considering whether to appeal Justice Belobaba's decision or to amend the law to answer the questions raised. Ontario might have to apply the "notwithstanding" clause to overcome Charter barriers, a first for the province.
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Publication:Community Action
Date:Oct 15, 2007
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