Ontario Passes Watered-Down Adoption Disclosure Law

TORONTO, November 3, 2005 – Following eight days of debate in the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Bill 183, the Adoption Information Disclosure Act, 2005, has passed third reading and received Royal Assent. Heavily amended between first and second readings and again prior to passage, the act is touted by the government to balance the right to know with the protection of privacy (view government press release here). 

Swadron Associates acts for the representative applicant, D. Marie Marchand, in a test case, commenced last year, challenging the present adoption disclosure regime. That regime will remain in force for 18 months to allow for public education respecting the new legislation. During this period, birth parents and adoptees may seek to block disclosure to "prevent sexual harm or significant physical or emotional harm".

Most groups affected by adoption support the new Act but remain concerned with its shortcomings. Marshall Swadron, who, with Kelley Bryan, is counsel for Ms. Marchand, agrees that the measures are a step in the right direction but indicates that they still fall "short of the mark." According to Swadron, "the Vital Statistics Act still permits adopting parents to falsify birth records to create the appearance that the adoptee is their natural child. The original records will still be sealed, at least until the adoptee reaches adulthood. Exemptions from disclosure and contact vetoes, over and above laws of general application such as the Criminal Code, serve to demonize birth parents and adoptees. In effect, we have the same regime as before but the burden has shifted from the person seeking access to records to the person seeking to block disclosure."

Ms. Marchand's challenge to the present legislative regime continues. Cross-examinations are now being conducted and will culminate in a hearing in the Superior Court of Justice at Toronto on February 1 and 2, 2006.