Adoptee Seeks Open Records

TORONTO, February 9, 2005 – Using the name Infant Number 10968, the identifier placed on her adoption order, Donna Marie Marchand has applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to strike down Ontario’s laws enforcing secrecy of adoption records.

Calling for open records, Ms. Marchand, a non-practising lawyer, knows from personal experience the hurt caused by Ontario laws that permit adopting parents to falsify birth records creating the appearance that the adopted child is their natural child. The laws further provide that the original records are to be sealed. Persons who are adopted (assuming that they discover the fact) must use an administrative process to obtain information respecting their parents. If the birth parents do not consent or refuse to acknowledge parenthood, information may never be disclosed.

Ms. Marchand stated, “Adoption is a terrible trauma for a child to go through. In the 1960’s my innocent childhood question of Where do I come from? was answered with beatings from my adoptive mother.” Ms. Marchand had no way of knowing at the time why the question was a loaded one for her mother, who, as it happened, was adopted herself. “Why must we continue to add vinegar to the wound by concealing this information?” asked Ms. Marchand.

Ms. Marchand suffers from Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract. This is a genetically linked condition that Ms. Marchand has had trouble diagnosing and treating due the fact that her family’s social and medical history has been kept secret from her.

Marchand’s lawyers are Marshall Swadron and Michael Fakhri of Swadron Associates. Swadron notes that “there is no reason for the law. Previous justifications have included the need to protect parents who adopt from embarrassment respecting the fact of their infertility. No attention is paid to the interests of those most affected by adoption, the persons being adopted themselves.”

Court documents filed in respect of the application assert that the adoption provisions of the Child and Family Services Act and the Vital Statistics Act offend the individuals’ rights to security of the person and equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Added Swadron, “Ontario’s laws also amount to state-sanctioned breach of the Criminal Code of Canada provisions respecting falsification of records.”

In the application, Ms. Marchand seeks the unsealing of her original certificate of live birth completed by her birth mother and records maintained by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society respecting her life prior to her placement. In addition to striking down the legislation, Ms. Marchand asks the court to award damages for the harm that has resulted from her decades-long struggle to answer her childhood question.

“The Province has signalled that it is prepared to revisit the issue. Recent government statements in the Legislature are promising but those in Ms. Marchand’s position cannot afford to wait. They need relief now before the living ties to their pasts are lost forever. Barring immediate government legislation, we can expect a contested hearing in September.” said Swadron.

While the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories presently have open adoption records, some provinces with laws similar to Ontario’s may seek to intervene. A hearing to address matters of court procedure will take place before a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto today.