What the #!%*? Is anybody investigating the allegations of forced adoptions across Canada?
Apr 9, 2012 – 5:38 PM ET | Last Updated: Apr 9, 2012 5:39 PM ET
Mary MacDonald, who says her mother was forced to put her up for adoption, is asking the provincial government in PEI to hold a full inquiry into the practice. She is one of a number of women to come forward following several stories in the National Post that asked the public to share their own experiences of forced adoption.
In this occasional feature, the National Post tells you everything you need to know about a complicated issue. Today, Kathryn Blaze Carlson looks at what’s next in the push for an investigation into forced adoptions targeting unmarried women between the 1940s and 1980s.
Q: We’ve been hearing about this issue for weeks. Is anybody investigating?
So far, the United Church and the Salvation Army have announced internal investigations. But because there are mothers in most, if not all, provinces and territories who say they were coerced or forced into giving up their babies, as many as 13 governments could theoretically launch investigations and offer redress; none yet have.
As for other potential probe targets: the allegations span five decades and involve not just governments, but also doctors and nurses who allegedly conspired with social workers to secure illegitimate children for adoption, as well as the churches that ran the maternity homes for unwed mothers.
Q: The Australian Senate just wrapped up a federal inquiry into historic adoption practices there. Any chance Ottawa will follow suit here?
Hard to say. It’s still early in the public push for a federal probe, and so far a spokesperson for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said only that adoption is a provincial issue. While that’s true, Valerie Andrews, who heads Origins Canada supporting those separated by adoption, hopes Canada will subscribe to Australia’s view that this is a national issue affecting people across the country.
She might have a champion in the NDP: deputy leader Libby Davies has twice written to Mr. Nicholson asking him to consider a federal inquiry, and justice critic Jack Harris and status of women critic Françoise Boivin recently invited Ms. Andrews to a formal meeting in Ottawa so they can start to “determine what the appropriate response might be.” Ms. Andrews, who is also slated to meet this month with her local Conservative MP, Costas Menegakis, said “maybe somebody is going to listen to us after all.”
Q: If the Conservatives say this is a provincial issue, then what’s happening provincially?
The movement has the most traction in Ontario, where NDP MPP Monique Taylor stood up in the legislature on March 19 to urge the Dalton McGuinty government to launch a provincial inquiry. Minister of Children and Youth Services Eric Hoskins said his government has no such plans, but that same day the ministry confirmed the director of the province’s Child Welfare Secretariat arranged to meet with Ms. Andrews.
Ms. Andrews said the director, Jennifer Morris, was “compassionate” during the hour-long meeting last Thursday and took notes so she could report back to the minister. The P.E.I. government has said it doesn’t expect to launch an inquiry, while the Alberta and B.C. governments say they can’t comment on future redress because of pending legal action.
Q: Legal action? Who’s going to court?
B.C. woman Cassandra Armishaw is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit accusing the province of abduction, fraud, and coercion in connection with adoptions among unmarried women. The lawsuit is the first in an expected series of similar class-actions planned against the provinces. Tony Merchant, the prominent Saskatchewan lawyer heading the actions, said he expects to file next in Ontario and Quebec, where he said his firm is “finding the very heavy fingerprint of the Catholic church.”
Q: Judging by some of the women’s accounts, it sounds like crimes may have been committed. Are the police investigating?
Apparently so. Although the B.C. RCMP said they can’t confirm or deny an investigation, one Vancouver mother said she and another woman filed police reports on March 27 in North Vancouver. Hanne Andersen, who was unmarried when she became pregnant at age 15 in 1982, said her B.C. hospital records say “Baby for Adoption” even though she had no plans to surrender her child.
She claims her daughter was stolen from her on the delivery table, and said police told her they will treat her claim as an abduction investigation. Ms. Andersen, who heads a group called Justice for Mother and Child, is encouraging other mothers who were “targeted for their offspring” to file police reports across the country.