Court ruling strikes down privacy-invasive provisions of adoption disclosure law: Commissioner Cavoukian



    TORONTO, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - Today's court decision quashing the opening of
past adoption records through Ontario's Adoption Information Disclosure Act
confirms the importance of an individual's right to privacy, said Ontario
Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian.
    The ruling declares that the law is unconstitutional - it breaches
section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and thus, the
sections of the Act relating to access to birth registration information "are
declared invalid and of no force and effect." As the Court noted, the Charter,
"... is intended primarily to protect individuals and minorities against the
excesses of the majority."
    The Commissioner constantly urged the government to amend the legislation
to protect the privacy of past adoptions, giving birth parents and adoptees
the right to file a "disclosure veto," which would allow them the option of
blocking access to their birth registration information. While this would
provide much-needed protection for the minority, it would, as the Court noted,
"... in fact allow the vast majority to get the information they were
seeking."
    "While I supported the overall thrust of this Act, I fought long and hard
to convince the Ontario government to introduce a crucial amendment that would
provide much-needed protection for a number of deeply worried birth mothers
and adoptees. Some literally feared that the Act - without the amendment I
proposed - would shatter their lives. Now their prayers have been answered."
    Commissioner Cavoukian did not object to the opening of future records,
but repeatedly cautioned that changing the rules retroactively, and exposing
the identities of birth parents who entered into the adoption process in an
era when secrecy was the norm, could have major repercussions. Despite the
passing of the Act last year, the Commissioner continues to receive
heart-wrenching letters, e-mails and calls from birth parents and adoptees
expressing their concern - and in some cases great fear and despondency.
    This court ruling will mean that Ontario residents no longer have less
privacy protection than persons in the three other Canadian provinces that
have adoption disclosure laws where the legislation is applied retroactively.
Each of those provinces - unlike Ontario - passed laws with a provision for a
disclosure veto for those who were involved in adoptions prior to the new
legislation. "This is what should have happened here" says Commissioner
Cavoukian.
    In the words of the Court, "People expect, and are entitled to expect,
that the government will not share (confidential personal) information without
their consent. The protection of privacy is undeniably a fundamental value in
Canadian society, especially when aspects of one's individual identity are at
stake."

    The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to
the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of the
day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy
provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the
Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the
Personal Health Information Protection Act, and helping to educate the public
about access and privacy issues.





For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Bob Spence, Communications
Co-ordinator, Direct line: (416) 326-3939, Cell phone: (416) 873-9746, Toll
free: 1-800-387-0073, bob.spence@ipc.on.ca


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