Adoptees, birth mothers call for inquiry into P.E.I. adoption history

A group representing families affected by adoption on P.E.I. is asking Island political leaders to commit to a public inquiry to look at past adoption practices in the province.

In a letter sent to the leaders of the Liberal, PC and Green parties, the Committee for Justice for Island Adoptees and their Mothers wrote it "has amassed compelling evidence that the basic rights of Island adoptees and their mothers were abused."

"As we have seen with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an essential part of the healing process is for those who continue to suffer from their past mistreatment to be given an opportunity to tell their stories," the letter states.

Mary MacDonald, chair of the committee, said the group will also send its letter to NDP Leader Joe Byrne.

'Shameful period in Canada's history'

This past July, a federal senate committee released its report on forced adoptions carried out across Canada during the decades after the Second World War.

The report concludes "hundreds of thousands of Canadian infants were put up for adoption by vulnerable, misinformed and mistreated mothers" during "a shameful period in Canada's history." Then, as now, oversight over adoption policies was controlled by the provinces.

"Human rights may have been violated," the senate report states, "and, if no laws were broken, certainly the forced adoption policy for unmarried mothers was unethical."

The report calls on the federal government to issue a formal apology, and notes "there has not been an official acknowledgement by any level of government in Canada of the pressures that were put on unmarried pregnant women to surrender their babies."

Kerry Campbell/CBC

MacDonald told CBC that Islanders who were affected "need to have the opportunity to tell their stories so that people are aware.… They need to know that what happened to them is not going to be swept under the carpet and covered up by a wall of secrecy."

The P.E.I. government recently held public consultations around adoption records, as it considers opening up those records to make it easier for adopted children and birth parents to learn each other's identities. Currently P.E.I.'s records are sealed.

The results of those consultations haven't yet been released. Minister of Family and Human Services Tina Mundy confirmed this week any changes to legislation would be introduced during the fall sitting of the legislature.

'Heart-wrenching stories,' says minister

As to the idea of an inquiry into past adoption practices, Mundy said she'll consider that if the request is forwarded from the premier's office to her department.

"The stories are the same over and over and over and they are heart-wrenching," Mundy said of the personal accounts delivered by Islanders during the consultations.

She said she hoped changes to the province's Adoption Act "would bring some closure and some comfort to those families that were affected."

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