The Current

'It tore me in pieces': Men switched at birth regret never meeting biological parents

Craig Avery and Clarence Hynes were born on the same day, in the same hospital in Come by Chance, N.L. They believe they were switched at birth, and have been left with many unanswered questions.

Craig Avery and Clarence Hynes were born on same day, in the same N.L. hospital

Craig Avery, left, holds a photograph that pictures Rita and Chelsey Hynes, the people he believes are his biological parents. The photograph held by Clarence Hynes, right, shows the woman he believes to be his birth mother, Mildred Avery. Both men believe they were switched at birth. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

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A man who believes he was switched at birth says one of the hardest things about the mix-up is that his biological parents died before he got to meet them. 

"I went to the grave site and I stood in front of their headstones and looked at their headstones," said Craig Avery, from Newfoundland and Labrador.  

"Knowing that that's the closest that you're ever going to get to them — it tore me in pieces," he told The Current's Matt Galloway. 

"It'll be hard forever."

Avery was born on Dec. 8, 1962, in Come By Chance, N.L. On the same day, at the same hospital, Clarence Hynes was born.

Clifford Avery, left, and his biological brother Hynes. (Submitted)

The two men grew up being told that they didn't resemble their siblings. As their paths crossed later in life, Hynes was told that he actually resembled members of the Avery family.

In 2014, both men ended up in Bull Arm, N.L., working on a project to extract oil from the Hebron oilfield, offshore in Newfoundland's Jeanne d'Arc basin. That's when Avery's wife, Tracey Avery, discovered they shared not only a birthplace, but a birthday. 

Her suspicions led to Avery, and later Hynes, taking tests to compare their DNA to Avery's brother. 

The tests, taken more than a year apart, showed that Craig Avery and a man he grew up thinking was his brother did not have the same father. The second test showed that Hynes and the Avery brothers — not Craig — did have the same father.

The men are suing the provincial government for negligence. The Current contacted the provincial health department, which said it would not comment because the case is before the courts.

Clarence Peter Hynes and Craig Harvey Avery had no idea they weren't raised with their birth families, until Avery's wife unravelled the mystery. CBC's Mark Quinn reports. 7:29

Hynes said the revelation had left him with many "unanswered questions," and he too felt the loss of not having met his biological parents. 

"I guess our whole life now will be 'what if' this, 'what if' that, but I guess we're trying to make the best of it," he said.

But sitting with Avery, Hynes can't help but be reminded of the man who raised him. 

"My father passed away at 64. Craig is 57," he said.

"The resemblance is unbelievable … it feels like I'm sitting with my father."

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Mark Quinn and Mary-Catherine McIntosh.


  • An earlier version of this story identified Come By Chance as the hometown of Craig Avery and Clarence Hynes. They were born in Come By Chance, but grew up in Hillview, N.L., and St. Bernard's, N.L., respectively.
    Jan 15, 2020 3:32 PM ET


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