Calgary

One man's unsuccessful search for his long-lost brother turns up an unknown sister

Lance Morrow didn't find out until after his mother's death that her past included some illustrious relatives, a career as a female wrestler and a secret second son. But when he set out to find his long-lost brother, he got another surprise.

Attempts to find Lance Morrow's sibling have been stifled by strict adoption record rules in Alberta

Lance Morrow, pictured with his younger sister, grew up not knowing he had an older brother who was adopted in Alberta years before he was born. (Submitted by Kim Rasberry)

Lance Morrow set out to discover a long-lost brother, but might have found a sister he knew nothing about instead. 

Morrow, who was born in Calgary but lives in Surrey, B.C., says he and his younger sister grew into adulthood thinking, first, that it was just the two of them, and, second, that they were Caucasian.

It wasn't until after the death of his mother, Connie Ethier, that he discovered she had given birth to an older brother that he never knew he had.

A few years ago, Morrow, now 53, found out his mother had given up his older brother for adoption in 1957. In an effort to find him, he took out personal ads in 110 community newspapers across Alberta and N.W.T. 

Along the way, Morrow discovered his mother had a secret history including Indigenous roots.

That led him to suspect his mother's first child was seized in the Sixties Scoop — a dark chapter in Canada's history when thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes and placed under non-Indigenous care. 

'It's been quite exciting'

Shortly after Morrow spoke to CBC News in October, a woman sent an email to the address listed in the personal ads. 

She said she recognized the last name and photo of the man in the article — and that they shared a biological father. 

This photo shows Lance Morrow's parents wedding in June 1957, and was included in the original story run by CBC News. (Submitted by Kim Rasberry)

"Looking for a brother and finding out you have a half-sister, it's been quite exciting," Morrow said in an interview. 

The pair has now sent off cheek swabs for DNA testing to confirm they are in fact siblings. 

"Next hopefully we find my brother and add that to the story as well," Morrow said.

MP asks Alberta to change the rules to help

Morrow has been getting help from B.C. MP Ken Hardie, who has written to the Alberta government asking for legislative changes that would allow Morrow to access his brother's adoption records. 

As the laws stand, Morrow's mother would have been able to access more information from the 1957 adoption record, but siblings don't have the same privilege.

Reuniting family members could contribute greatly to the healing process that our governments share a desire and obligation to support.- Ken Hardie , B.C. Member of Parliament

Morrow's father says he knew nothing about the adoption, which took place months before their marriage.

It leaves Morrow at a dead end unless the laws change. 

"Given the significant family dislocations that have taken place within some of our Indigenous communities in the past, reuniting family members could contribute greatly to the healing process that our governments share a desire and obligation to support," wrote Hardie in a letter to the Alberta government dated Nov. 22.

The MP said he hasn't heard back from anyone with the province but hopes to hear of developments through continued contact with Morrow.

"Some of the people in the Alberta post-adoption registry basically said that there had been some thought about changing the rules, so if they're thinking about it already, perhaps I could just offer a little bit of extra endorsement for that idea," said Hardie.

Changes could be down the road, says province

Garett Spelliscy, a spokesperson for Alberta Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee, explained that while these changes might be considered down the road, they aren't currently on the table because the government is reviewing other aspects of the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

"We've spoken to Mr. Morrow about the issue and I certainly feel for him and we'll consider his recommendation to change the Act," said Spelliscy.

Morrow's suggestions won't be considered until after the current review of the governing legislation is complete.

About the Author

Sarah Lawrynuik is a freelance journalist based in Calgary. Sarah has worked for CBC in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary before deciding to travel as a freelancer, reporting from different corners of the world including France, Hungary and Iraq.