the extent that governments are willing to address the issue
at all, secrecy concerning adult adoptee's access to their files
is invariably justified on the grounds that "some [exiled]
mothers were guaranteed and still demand secrecy". Let
us examine this argument more closely.
pretext is now commonly used that first mothers' privacy rights
are at stake. When those same natural mothers gave birth to
their children many years ago many were
coerced, intimidated, shamed and stigmatized to the extent that
no real choice existed for them. They were often forced to leave
their communities and deliver their children in strange surroundings.
Sometimes they were under the direct control or influence of
disapproving church representatives who lectured them as to
women's 'proper role'. No meaningful choice existed for the
vast majority of natural mothers who may very well have wanted
to keep their children if their family, community and social
environment had not been so judgemental and hostile.
mothers often had no legal counsel available to them when an
adoption agent or church representative appeared, ready to hustle
away their newborn infants. Branded, labelled and stigmatized
as fallen women, frequently no advocate was there to inform
them of their rights. My own adoption illustrates this pattern
in that the only person who signed my surrender document as
a witness was the director of the Protestant Family Service
Bureau. It was taken as an article of faith that unwed mothers
were manifestly unfit and not a second thought was given to
the systematic procurement of their offspring. These actions
should properly be understood as human rights abuses on a massive
scale and I will cite a contemporary case of recent kidnapping
to illustrate that fact.
the period spanning 1977-1982 a ferocious "Dirty War"
occurred in Argentina. This war consisted of a protracted campaign
by the country's military rulers against the perceived communist
insurgents. The so-called communist collaborators were rounded
up by the thousands and were frequently tortured and later killed.
Among the many thousands of detainees were many young pregnant
Argentine women who were suspected of being communist activists.
These women were kept imprisoned by their military torturers
and were forced to give birth while blindfolded and shackled
to their beds. Their babies were immediately taken away from
them and were "adopted" by childless military families
who were supportive of the dictatorship. The mothers of these
infants were usually killed after having given birth. The babies
of these young women are now reaching adulthood in Argentina
and many are coming forward to question why they were removed
from their mothers. They are seeking answers as to their family
background, the circumstances of their "adoptions"
and why they were so cruelly removed from their mothers in the
first place. In coming to terms with the terrible human rights
abuses committed during the Dirty War, the theft of newborn
infants from their first mothers is viewed as among the most
despicable episodes of that dark period.
no declared Dirty War existed in Canada at the time when adoptions
were approved without a second glance, the point remains
that first mothers in this country were treated to similar inhumane
treatment as that which was later practiced in Argentina. My
own first mother and many thousands before and after, were deemed
at face value to be unworthy and unfit. Hundreds of young Argentine
women were branded and labelled as unfit communists who were
stripped of all parental rights. If we examine the legal codes
that were in place during the 1950s and 1960s the stigma which
was attached to single mothers is evident. They were subjected
to disapproval and shame by a patriarchal society which stripped
them of their most fundamental human rights. Apologists for
the adoption industry cannot argue that these women gave informed
consent to the relinquishment of their infants when no legal
counsel was available to them as was the case in my own custody
transfer in 1958.
secrecy provisions are predicated on the assertion that first
mothers demand secrecy and privacy rights. How are we to make
sense of this current justification of secrecy laws when the
human rights of those first mothers were systematically violated
by the same governments who now purportedly act as their protectors?
human rights abuses to which first mothers were subjected have
now been reproduced in the odious secrecy provisions which now
impact the second generation.
adult adoptees are seeking information on the first mothers
whose human rights were blatanly violated. Proponents of secrecy
have characterized as deviant the most human of inquiries--the
search to know who we are and from where we came. We are told
by proponents of secrecy that we are maladjusted, that no one
wanted us in the first place, that the system was functioning
in good faith and that our best interests were the paramount
consideration in our placement. In other words, adult adoptees
are now branded, labelled and stigmatized in much the same way
that first mothers were in the generation that preceded us.
court records are sealed and 'compelling reasons' must be proven
before a Court will reluctantly allow an adoptee access to his
or her own adoption files. This standard applies across the
board, even in circumstances where the first mother and adopting
parents are dead. This is not indicative of a system that has
'the best interests of the child' as its overriding concern.
This level of extraordinary secrecy is indicative of corruption
at the deepest and most far reaching levels. It is axiomatic
that pervasive secrecy protects special interests. The special
interests who are being served by the all- pervasive secrecy
codified in provincial adoption laws are those of the broker,
the lawyers, the religious orders and the judiciary, all of
whom conspired to commit human rights abuses against first mothers
a generation ago and are replicated today against the offspring
of those women who are presently being denied the human rights
that non-adopted persons take for granted.
E. MacDonald. All rights reserved
Mary's Site: Prince
Edward Island Adoption Abuses