Monday (1 June) was a day that many thousands of people in Ontario will remember for the rest of their lives. It was the first day people adopted in Ontario (since 1921) could apply to the government for their original birth records.
A new law, similar to one already in place in other Canadian provinces, one in the UK and a handful of U.S. states, allows adopted persons over 18 years old to apply for their original birth certificates–containing their original names and the name or names of their original mother and perhaps father.
Detractors worried that people desiring privacy from contact by biological family members would be harassed if the law was passed. But experience in places where such laws already exist has shown very few problems. All the same, a provision was added to the new law allowing persons desiring so to “veto” the other party’s right to the information. But although over 250,000 adoptions have been record in the province since 1921, less than 4,000 people have submitted “veto” requests or contact restrictions (such as asking that any contact be made via a work address rather than home, for example).
It is important to note, however that while some people seeking this information will use it to try and contact biological family members, the information itself includes no right to contact, no addresses or phone numbers, but merely names. There’s certainly no guarantee that the parties will decide to build or maintain a relationship if they do meet.
But what’s important about this law–in spite of the veto measure, which is less than satisfactory to many activists–is that is makes way for a flood of people hitherto denied a basic civil right to finally become first-class citizens. We don’t tolerate secret arrests, secret evidence in trials, secret wiretapping of citizens. How silly is it to uphold enforced secrecy from a citizen of a thing as personal–and uninteresting to anyone but the individual in question–as a birth certificate?
Congratulations Ontario. And Happy Birth Certificate Day to adopted Ontarians!