Just weeks after the New Brunswick government opened a century of adoption records there is growing interest from people who want to know more about their past, and those who want that information kept secret.
“Most adoptees just want to look in their birth mother’s eyes and say, ‘This is who I am’,” said Marie Crouse, president of Parent Finders New Brunswick. The volunteer organization helps adoptees and birth parents in the reunion process.
As of April 1, people can apply to the province for birth records related to adoption.
There have been more than 23,000 registered adoptions in New Brunswick, according to Anne Mooers, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Development.
Mooers said that, as of this week, the department has received 112 applications for original registration of birth, and is taking about 30 calls and emails per day from people seeking more information.
But people can also request to block or limit contact with their birth parents or adoptee.
“The department has received 228 applications to register a disclosure veto and 40 applications to register a contact preference,” Mooers said.
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Mooers says people who wish to block release of the information should “file disclosure vetoes as soon as possible,” as if there is no veto sent in then the information will be released to the applicant.
Garth McCrae of Woodstock, N.B., has applied to learn the identity of his birth parents and says just the thought that someone could block that effort is very upsetting.
“It is my human right. It is my information,” he said.
“I’m 53 years old and another adult can veto my information. I don’t think that is right.”
He said opening the records while also allowing a veto makes this both a time of celebration and of regret.
“There are a lot of adoptees who will have the door slammed in their face,” he said.
McCrae suffered a heart attack in 2002 and a stroke in 2016, and wants to talk with his birth parents about the family’s medical history.
“My life is dependent on it. I have about 12 years left to live and I have spent two years of that waiting for adoption records to be opened,” he said.
He wants to be able to give that medical history to his children – aged 30, 15 and 12 years old.
Crouse, who gave up a child in 1963 for adoption but later adopted a boy and a girl, said the need for medical history has also been an issue in her family.
“My son had a very serious snowmobiling accident when he was 16, and I remember standing in the emergency department and watching them work on him and I said to myself ‘If he needs a kidney or blood, I can’t help him’,” she said.
Only Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have yet to open their adoption records, and Crouse said P.E.I. is moving in the right direction.
But she said the Nova Scotia government seems adamant that the records for that province should remain closed.
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Barbara Adams, the Progressive Conservative critic for Community Services, questioned Minister Kelly Regan about that in the legislature earlier this month.
She said Regan stated that she had heard from birth parents who did not want the records opened. But Adams said she has heard from others who want the information about their past.
Adams said she’ll gather information this summer, and if there’s enough interest, will introduce a motion when the legislature resumes in the fall.
“I hope to get the support of the minister and the NDP,” she said.