Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Search for roots at a standstill

No sign Manitoba will release pre-1999 adoption records

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BORIS MINKEVICH Enlarge Image

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Penny Treflin is still hoping to meet her birth mother -- assuming her mom is still alive -- but she knows time is running out.

Treflin (formerly Studney) will turn 69 at the end of January. The woman who gave her up for adoption would be in her late 80s, if not older.

But Treflin, like many other older adoptees, is getting no help in her search for her roots from the Manitoba government, which denies her a copy of her adoption file.

Manitoba is one of a shrinking number of Canadian jurisdictions with a closed adoption-records system. In recent years, several provinces have opened their adoption records, including Ontario (2009), Alberta (2004) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2003). British Columbia has had open records since 1996. All contain veto clauses, however, allowing birth parents to remain anonymous.

In 1999, the Filmon government passed a law to open Manitoba records for anyone born after March 15 of that year. But adoption records that predate the legislation remain closed. So folks such as Treflin who are hoping to find out more about their birth parents or whether they have unknown siblings are out of luck.

'It's like there's a little hole in your heart that you just want to fill in. And they won't let us'

-- Penny Treflin

"It's like there's a little hole in your heart that you just want to fill in. And they won't let us," she said in June.

Jennifer Howard, who was family services minister last June, said at that time the government was prepared to open its records "in the next several months."

But so far, it hasn't.

The government missed an opportunity to introduce enabling legislation when the House sat for several weeks late this fall. MLAs will not sit again until March 6, when the government tables its 2014-2015 budget.

A government spokeswoman said recently she could not say when a bill might be introduced.

"We are working on legislation, but I can't give you a date for when it will be ready," she said.

Roy Kading, a retired railway worker who operates LINKS Post-Legal Adoption Support, has been lobbying the Manitoba government for more than a decade to open all its records. He said earlier this year thousands of adoptees could gain information about their birth parents if the province acted.

In 1992, Treflin asked Child and Family Services to notify her if a member of her birth family wanted to get in touch with her. She's heard nothing since.

Last year, she again contacted CFS, requesting the agency conduct a search to see if her birth mother had died. CFS told her the results of its search were inconclusive, meaning it could find no proof she was dead.

Any adoption records Treflin's adoptive parents kept have been lost or destroyed.

She knows her birth parents came from a small francophone community in southern Manitoba (although she doesn't know which one), that her parents were not wed, that her birth father was in the military and served in Europe in the Second World War and was later listed as missing.

"If I can find out what town my mom came from, then I have somewhere to start from," she said recently, noting she would search church records for more information about her birth family.

Treflin, a mother of two and a grandmother, is angry and frustrated at the government's continued delay in changing the law. "I think the only way they move is by the millimetre. And that's being kind," she said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2014 0

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