Nova Scotia

Window closing for Nova Scotians to have their say on opening adoption records

Nova Scotia is the last province with closed adoption records. The government says an online survey, along with feedback collected at several public meetings, will help it decide if it's time to update its legislation.

Deadline to complete online survey is Jan. 3

Michael Slayter has been fighting for adoption records to be open for decades. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Friday is the last day Nova Scotians can have their say on whether the province should follow the rest of Canada and open up adoption records.

The province says the online survey, along with feedback collected at several public meetings, will help it decide if it's time to update its legislation.

Nova Scotia is the last province with closed adoption records. That means a birth parent or adult who was adopted as a child cannot receive information without consent of the other party.

P.E.I. is in the process of opening its adoption records.

For Mike Slayter, an open adoption advocate, Nova Scotia's consultations feel very familiar. He was on a government committee back in 1994 that looked into unsealing adoption records. 

"Here we are 2020 in Nova Scotia still in the dark ages," he told CBC's Maritime Noon. 

He's hopeful this time will be different. 

"It is the will of the people," he said. "It was the will of the people back in '93 and '94 and government didn't do anything about it … They have no reason not to."

'It's an essential human right'

Nova Scotia is considering a format similar to one used in other provinces where there is presumed consent to disclose identifying information while also giving both parties a veto.

The veto would expire at the time of a person's death.

But Slayter doesn't agree with having a veto because he said it could still leave people looking for answers in the dark.

He was adopted along with his twin sister and searched for five years before finding his birth parents.

"It is an essential human right for each one to have their own true identity, and this is made very clear in the U.N. charter," he said. 

Adoption records include names, dates, and in some cases, medical history. But Slayter said making records more accessible won't mean that personal information is shared with just anyone.

The Department of Community Services launched the online survey in November.

Friday is also the deadline for people to send the province feedback by mail or email.

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With files from CBC's Maritime Noon

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