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A big day for adopted children

Government expected to open up records

Penny Treflin, 69, is seeking records of her adoption.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Penny Treflin, 69, is seeking records of her adoption.

Penny Treflin has spent much of her life with a hole in her heart, wondering what became of her birth parents and whether she has siblings she's never met.

Adopted as a young child and now 69 years old, Treflin (née Studney) has been blocked by the province from finding information about her birth parents -- information that has long been available to adoptees in other provinces.

But it looks as though Treflin and many others who have been denied access to their adoption files may finally be getting a break.

The Selinger government is expected to introduce legislation today to open up adoption records to those who were adopted in March 1999 and earlier. (A 1999 Manitoba law opened up the province's records but only for those born after March 15 of that year.)

For Treflin, it's about time.

"For everybody involved -- give us peace already," she said in an interview Tuesday.

In recent years, several provinces have opened their adoption records, including Ontario (2009), Alberta (2004), British Columbia (1996) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2003).

All contain veto clauses, however, allowing birth parents to remain anonymous. That's also expected to be the case in Manitoba with the passage of Bill 59 (the Adoption Amendment and Vital Statistics Amendment Act).

"There's thousands of people in Manitoba that this involves," said Treflin.

The fact many adopted Canadians have the right to such information as their birth mother's name and hometown while Manitobans of a certain age don't feels like being "disenfranchised," she said.

If Treflin's birth mother were still alive, she would be in her late 80s at the very least. "Best-case scenario she's still alive and maybe I can talk to her," Treflin said.

If she's not alive, then maybe Treflin can use information in the file to obtain a hometown and search church records for information about possible siblings or relatives.

Roy Kading, a retired railway worker who operates a service that attempts to link adoptees and their birth relatives, has lobbied the province for years to open up its adoption records.

On Tuesday, he was hopeful Manitobans will finally be given access to that information.

"It's good news. I'm pleased. (But) I'm actually disgusted that it took them (the government) so damn long to do it," Kading said.

While the government served notice Tuesday it would be introducing its proposed legislation today, it was keeping a tight lid on the details.

"I hope it contains at least most of what we've been asking for," Kading said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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