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New law opening pre-1999 adoption records could take effect in 2015

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Manitoba plans to open up its pre-1999 adoption records — making it possible for more adoptees and their birth families to reunite — but the new law will not take effect for more than one year.

The delay will give the government an opportunity to advertise the changes and give birth families and adoptees the opportunity to veto the release of their names and other personal information.

The proposed amendments to the Adoption Act and Vital Statistics Act would make adoption records more accessible for:

  • Manitoba-born adoptees, adopted inside or outside of Manitoba;
  • Adult adoptees born outside of Manitoba but adopted here; and
  • Registered birth parents of adoptees born in Manitoba or born elsewhere but adopted here.

"For many years government has received heart-felt letters and emails requesting that Manitoba change our adoption laws so that adult adoptees and birth parents involved in adoption can receive these significant records," said Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross. "In the adoption community it is referred to as the holy grail. They feel this is where the answers are held for them."

The proposed amendments would specify that adult adoptees and birth parents would have a right to birth registrations and/or a written summary of available adoption information.

Adoptive parents’ identifying information would not be disclosed to a birth parent. There would be no fee charged to those who have the right to request birth records.

Parents and adult adoptees with existing records could file a veto on disclosure of identifying information.

But once the legislation (Bill 59: the Adoption Amendment and Vital Statistics Amendment Act) is proclaimed, likely in June 2015, disclosure vetoes will no longer be permitted in future adoptions. That means anyone adopted after that date will have the right to any records indicating their birth parents. Those birth parents, though, would be able to indicate that they do not want to have contact with the child they gave up.

In recent years, several provinces have opened up their adoption records. Manitoba partially opened its records in 1999. Anyone born after March 15 of that year is entitled to see their adoption file once they reach adulthood and obtain their original name and that of their parents. But those born before that date cannot access these records.

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