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Quest to identify birth mom

Thérèse Gagné (centre) with supporters Joyce Fortier and Myriam Le Blanc. Quest to identify birth mom Woman lobbying Quebec BY ANDY BLATCHFORD

For Thérèse Gagné, the search for her biological mother’s identity is a pursuit to uncover who she is.

Adopted at the age of two, Gagné knows little about the woman who gave birth to her.
Following a string of severe health problems for herself and her children in recent years, knowing her family’s medical history is more important than ever.
Since 2000, the 66-year-old Ile Perrot resident has lobbied the province to change a law that seals the identities of biological parents of adopted children.
Today, adoptees can only gather limited details about their bloodline from provincial records, she said.
Gagné learned that her biological mother died 12 years ago at the age of 83. The death certificate states the woman suffered from hypertension, uterus cancer, diabetes and a heart ailment.
The only additional information Gagné has learned is that she was born in Gaspésie when her mother was 26 years old. Gagné, herself a mother of four, said three of her children have battled diseases that may be associated with her biological father’s family. With her mother’s identity, she said it may be possible to learn more about her father. According to Quebec’s records, her biological mother never requested that her personal information be sealed, she said. But under existing legislation, Gagné is not permitted to find out more. “They give you the least information possible,” she said of the Association des centres jeunesse du Quebec, which manages the province’s files on adoptions. “To me, that’s discrimination, pure and simple. “I think we have the right to know who we are.” Quebec is one of the only provinces to keep information about biological parents a secret, she said. Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland have laws that enable adopted children to access sealed files containing their parents’ information. Each province requires parental consent, except Ontario, which passed its act in November 2005. Gagné is a member of the Groupe des personnes adoptées au Québec et du Mouvement Retrouvailles, an organization dedicated to supporting adoptees and birth parents. Since September, for at least three days a week, she has spent hours in front of Vaudreuil MNA and Quebec Justice Minister Yvon Marcoux’s Vaudreuil-Dorion office. Holding signs with messages that demand change for the rights of adoptees, she is often joined by other members of the organization. “It’s the 21st century. It makes no sense,” said group member Joyce Fortier, whose biological mother died 43 years ago. “We’re tired of being treated like third-class citizens. Quebec is so behind everyone else. We all need to know our roots.” Last May, Marcoux established a working group to review the province’s laws on adoption. The report was set to be complete by Nov. 1, but Marcoux announced last week that the deadline has been extended until March 31, 2007. He said the group’s chair, Université de Sherbrooke professor Carmen Lavalée, requested the delay to finish consultations. Gagné fears the report could end up on the backburner if a provincial election is called before it’s completed. “We don’t have 20 years ahead of us any more,” she said. But Marcoux is confident the working group will finish its mandate even if there’s an election. The committee will examine adoption measures taken in other provinces — as well as internationally — and ensure parental confidentiality rules are evaluated, he said. “This is a very important issue for me,” Marcoux told The Chronicle. “For people involved it’s a very important issue as well. It’s a very human issue. “Eventually it might result in modifications to the civic code and other laws relating to adoption.” Comment on this article / Print this page / Send this text to a friend

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