Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia moving to open up adoption records

Nova Scotia has taken its first step to open up adoption records, something that every other province in Canada has already done.

Proposed law will include veto for birth parents, adoptees

Community Services Minister Kelly Regan, left, and Monica Kennedy appear at Province House Friday. Kennedy brought a doll that she carried with her when she was adopted from Newfoundland. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Nova Scotia is set to become the last province in Canada to open up adoption records, but making those documents more available will have limits.

According to a bill introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature Friday, adoptees and birth parents will each have the right to block the release of information that could lead to their identities.

People who don't want to be identified in adoption records that are being requested will have to apply for a "disclosure veto," even if they have previously notified the province that they want their personal information kept private.

The veto will also be available to birth parents and children available for adoption in the future.

Law strikes balance, minister says

Community Services Minister Kelly Regan told reporters Friday that the proposed law strikes the right balance between openness and the protection of privacy.

"It's a way for Nova Scotians to know more about themselves while respecting that for some people, opening that up could be extremely traumatic," said Regan.

"A child may have been born as a result of a sexual assault, a child may have come into the care of the minister and been adopted out after being mistreated by their parents," she said.

She said there may be valid reasons "why a person does not want to be contacted."

"I think we need to respect that," she said.

'We took a massive leap today'

Scott Pyke, one of the people who has been lobbying the government for years to make adoption records more available, is ecstatic with what the governing Liberals are proposing. 

"We took a massive leap forward today," said Pyke, administrator of the Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group. "Today's a monumental change for adoptees across Nova Scotia."

Scott Pyke is the administrator of the Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group. (Robert Short/CBC)

Pyke even supported the veto provision in the bill.

"Absolutely," he said. "It was something that our members discussed in great detail and we were very comfortable with having the veto in place."

The province has about 30,000 adoption records. People are only able to access them if adoptees and their birth parents agree that the information is to be shared.

Up to 100 requests per year

Officials handle 80-100 search requests a year.

Pyke, who has reconnected with his birth family, said many adoptees go through life where there is "always a part of you that seems a little bit missing or foggy."

"Having this open up in such an amazing way is gonna really add a part back into everyone's lives."

Monica Kennedy, also a member of the adoptee group, brought a small doll with her to Province House to witness the bill being tabled on the floor of the legislature.

The doll, named Darlene, was the only link the woman had to Newfoundland, her birth province, when she was adopted by a Nova Scotia family more than two years after she went into the province's care.

She has since reunited with birth family and is glad others may have the same opportunity thanks to Nova Scotia's decision to make records more available.

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