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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Manitoba Province readying to unseal adoption records next month

When Darcy Truthwaite, a nurse in Fisher Branch, cold-called her birth family in Winnipeg, she didn’t plan on blurting out the reason.
"I said to the man who answered, ‘I don’t want to interfere, but my search for my birth family has led me to you,’ " said Truthwaite.
"He said, ‘You’re not interfering.’ That was the perfect thing to say."
An hour later, Truthwaite found herself on the phone with three aunts, all asking her questions at the same time. An hour after that, her birth mother called from Alberta. The next week, they met in Medicine Hat.
That scenario, hopefully as happy, could be replayed hundreds of times this summer as the Manitoba government prepares to unseal 70 years worth of adoption records.
The Selinger government will announce legislation passed last year will come into force June 15. Already, roughly 1,000 people have applied to see their files. Provincial staff have begun pulling the records so the documents can be released quickly after changes to the Adoption Act and the Vital Statistics Act are proclaimed into law.
Meanwhile, fewer than 60 people, mostly mothers, have filed disclosure vetoes asking the province to keep their records secret. That’s a small number amid an estimated 50,000 files, but roughly the number provincial officials expected.
"This is about the right to identity, but not necessarily a right to a relationship," cautioned Janice Knight, manager of adoption and post-adoption programs in the Family Services Department. "If you’re going to say, ‘No, this is the secret of my life, I don’t want to share it,’ we really respect that."

Manitoba’s adoption records have been sealed since 1925. In 1999, the province took a half-measure toward fully open adoption records, allowing anyone born after 1999 to see their file once they reach adulthood. Since then, adoption advocates have lobbied Manitoba to follow other provinces and unseal all records, even though the province originally promised birth parents they’d be kept secret.
Come June 15, adoptees and birth parents will have access to birth records, adoption documents and other identifying information.
Debbie McMechan says she wishes adoption records had been unsealed when
she was searching for her birth father. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE Press)



KEEP READING:  Province readying to unseal adoption records next month

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