Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A victory for common sense

A mere three days after it went into effect, an Ontario court has quashed a controversial adoption law, the Adoption Information Disclosure Act, brought in by the Ontario legislature in 2005. The new law prevented birth parents and adoptees from filing a disclosure veto to keep their identities confidential.

Noted civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby launched a constitutional challenge to the law last year, arguing that it violated the privacy of birth mothers who did not want their identities disclosed. And it's not as though the McGuinty government hadn't been warned. Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian protested strongly at the time, but the government, bowing to the wishes of the "I-want-to-know-my real-parents" lobby, went ahead anyway, allowing the ghosts of the past to threaten the security of women who had long ago given up their babies under the assurance that their confidentiality would be maintained.

In many ways, the law was already moot. Even Cavoukian acknowledged that few birth mothers or adoptees these days would opt for a disclosure veto. It isn't much of a stigma in 2007 to have a child outside traditional marriage. There is nothing wrong in theory with adopted children and their birth mothers knowing who each other are, although some of the reasons for adoptees trying to track down their birth mothers ("I want to find out who I really am") strike me as frankly neurotic, based upon notions of blood and lineage at which I took a critical look in my previous post about Margaret Somerville. But birth mothers gave up their babies under a set of rules that guaranteed their anonymity, and it was plain wrong for these rules to be changed retroactively--that is, broken--by the Ontario legislature.

Common sense, a rare commodity these days, has prevailed. Let us hope that the McGuinty government spares these women the uncertainty and psychological pain of an appeal against the ruling.

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