Adoption records in Nova Scotia are staying closed, despite a proposal in New Brunswick to open records.

Janet Nearing, Nova Scotia's acting director of child welfare, says there are no plans to change the system, which government feels is working just fine.

“What the program does is very much respect both the wishes of the adoptive person and the birth parents,” Nearing said Friday. 

Currently, either a birth parent or child must request a search for the other party. Consent must be obtained before any identifying information is released. The government said it successfully locates people in more than 95 per cent of the cases. 

Nearing said there are an estimated 75 people in Nova Scotia waiting for information about their biological families, a process that  could take as long as a year.

She said they prioritize the requests from people looking for medical information and whose birth mothers are over 65.

Vetos in N.B. plan

The New Brunswick plan would apply to people aged over 19, with the provision of a veto, for either the child or birth parent, if they prefer their identifying information is kept private.

Under the proposal, the department would open sealed adoption records to give adult adoptees ​who apply a copy of their original birth registration with their birth name and the names of their birth parents.

Birth parents could also apply after the adoptee's 19th birthday to obtain a copy of the adoption order, which would include the adoptee’s name following adoption.

Release of the information would not require the consent of the other party.

In Nova Scotia there are between 300 and 500 requests for information each year. The majority are from adult adoptees, but a sizeable number are from birth parents as well.

Setback for advocates

Mike Slayter and his twin sister were adopted, as were the two other children in his family.

He said he has no words to describe how it felt to track down his birth parents.

“I've described it as the most emotionally fulfilling event of my life to meet my birth mom, my birth father, my half siblings, my aunts and uncles,” he said. “It completed the picture for me finally.”

As part of Nova Scotia’s Parent Finders, Slayter has lobbied the province to open adoption records for decades.

“It's never about finding new parents, just about finding truth,” he said.


  • An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that both the adopted child and birth parent must request information to allow them to make contact.
    Apr 26, 2014 10:12 AM AT