Two sisters reunited in Ottawa 50 years after Alberta adoptions

An Ottawa woman says a piece of her has been found again after an emotional reunion with her sister, fifty years after they were both taken as wards of the province of Alberta and later put up for adoption.

Shauna Lee Thompson and Janet Reesor were taken from their home as children

Two women separated when they were children reunite after 50 years in tearful reunion. 3:01

An Ottawa woman says a piece of her has been found again after an emotional reunion with her sister, fifty years after they were both taken as wards of the province of Alberta and later put up for adoption.

The reunion this week between Shauna Lee Thompson, 50, and her sister Janet Reesor, 53, of Lloydminster, Alta., is particularly gratifying for Thompson. Until this fall, she never knew she had any siblings. But after delving in to her adoption history, she has learned she has two sisters and two brothers.

"I grew up the last 50 years thinking there was nobody else out there," she said.

Janet Reesor and Shauna Lee Thompson share a laugh at Dow's Lake in Ottawa after 50 years apart. (CBC)
Thompson was taken from her mother at birth and put into foster care in Alberta. When she was two, a couple adopted her and moved to Ottawa, where she grew up with them and her adoptive brother.

"I was always curious, but I didn't want to delve into it for fear of hurting my parents," said Thompson.

When her adoptive brother died of cancer in 2010, she started to ask more questions about her past. She said the agency had told the family her birth parents died in a car crash and that she had no siblings.

Living in Lloydminster, Reesor knew that wasn't true. She was three-and-a-half when her mother put her and her two sisters up for adoption, and said she remembers waving to her mother as she was taken away. Her mother, she said, didn't wave back.

"I knew there were other siblings. Because like I said I remember there was more. I knew there was more," said Reesor.

Reesor had been searching for clues about her other siblings since the Alberta government opened its adoption records a decade ago. But she couldn't connect to her younger sister until Thompson chose to do the same.

First meeting this week

That didn't happen until this fall, when Thompson finally got up the nerve to start searching the records and learned she had four siblings.

She and Reesor quickly connected and exchanged messages, but still she wasn't sure. Upon looking at Thompson's Facebook page, Reesor said her daughter told her "Mom, there's no question that's your sister."

Shauna Lee Thompson with her adoptive mother as a toddler. Thompson said the adoption agency had told her she had no siblings and that her real parents had died in a car crash. (Courtesy Shauna Lee Thompson)
So she decided to fly down to Ottawa this weekend for their first meeting.

Reesor came down the escalator at Ottawa Airport holding a piece of paper that said simply 'Sister', and hugged Thompson for the first time in fifty years.

"When I hugged her," said Thompson, "it was like... I was not forgotten. They knew about me, I did not know about them. I've only been looking since last September, October. They've been looking for a few years."

"To know that they have been looking, it just blows me away," she said.

Questions remain about why they were given up

Shauna Lee Thompson and Janet Reesor embraced at the Ottawa Airport after an emotional first meeting. (CBC)
The two have quickly bonded, but Thompson said they both have many unanswered questions, including why their mother put the three girls up for adoption but not the two boys. She said she hopes one day to meet all of her siblings, but knows it will take time. She also said her understanding is that her mother is still alive, but said she's not sure if she's ready for that meeting.

For now, the two women say they are overcome with the joy at having found each other.

"My heart is full. I can't describe it any other way," says Reesor.

Thompson agrees.

"A piece of me has been found. The hole in my heart is being filled. It's not just this big black space it's been all these years," she said.


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