Adjudicator upholds order denying adoptee’s request to obtain information about birth parents

Adoptee alleged that his adoption is not an adoption matter but a 'historical matter'

Adjudicator upholds order denying adoptee’s request to obtain information about birth parents

In a recent decision, an adjudicator from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has upheld an order denying an adoptee’s request to obtain information identifying his birth parents.

In Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (Re), a temporary resident gave birth to the complainant in Canada sometime in the 1950s. The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO) placed him for adoption. To trace his family history, the complainant requested the CASO provide him with all information about himself and his birth parents, including his parents’ names, birth dates and any other information about them or their families.

The CASO issued an order granting partial access to the complainant’s personal information but redacting all information that might identify his birth parents. The complainant filed a complaint with the IPC to reverse the CASO’s order.

The CASO argued that the information about the complainant’s birth parents relates to an “adoption matter,” and in line with s. 285(4) of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), the information is excluded from part 10, which guarantees a person’s right to access their personal information. It also argued that disclosure of information concerning adoption matters is governed entirely by O. Reg. 158/18.

However, the complainant claimed that while the context of the issue is based on an adoption, the redacted information is not an adoption matter but a “historical matter.”

In her decision, the adjudicator Catherine Corban dismissed the complaint and ruled in favour of the CASO.

Corban held that the information about the complainant’s birth parents relates to an adoption that falls squarely within the exception under s. 285(4)(a) of the CYFSA. As a result, the complainant has no right to access the information under part 10.

According to Corban, the exception in s. 285(4)(a) applies to disclosing information related to an adoption under s. 227. Specifically, s. 227(1)(b) requires that after an adoption order is made, no person shall disclose information relating to an adoption unless the CYFSA or its regulations authorize the disclosure.

“As the adoption order related to the complainant’s adoption has been made, section 227(1)(b) requires that the CASO shall not disclose information that it keeps that relates to his adoption unless it is authorized to do so by the CYFSA or its regulations,” Corban said.

Corban agreed with the CASO that since the records at issue relate to an adoption matter, the disclosure of information on the complainant’s birth parents should be regulated by O. Reg. 158/18.

Citing s. 9 of O. Reg. 158/18, Corban noted that the complainant is only entitled to obtain non-identifying information about his adoption. She also referred to s. 9(6) permitting the CASO to redact any information that may identify a person other than the complainant.

“Considering these provisions, it is apparent that the CASO has followed the adoption disclosure requirements set out in O. Reg. 158/18 by redacting identifying information about the complainant’s birth parents from the responsive records and by disclosing only non-identifying information about them” Corban said.

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