Adoption: The Right to Know Your Origins Now Confirmed

In the News

Quebec recently made a big step forward regarding the rights of adopted persons. The right to know the identities of the members of your family of origin is now included in Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Until recently, the general rule was confidentiality. However, as of June 8, adopted persons can find out who their biological parents were — even if the parents previously refused to have this information disclosed. 

In some other provinces, adopted persons already had this right. In Quebec, some organizations have been advocating for this right for more than 40 years. The ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (department of health and social services) expects to receive between 30,000 and 70,000 applications to identify biological parents as a result of this change in the law.  

Important: This new right also applies to people who were eligible to be adopted but were not. We sometimes forget that not all children eligible for adoption find adoptive parents.

What does the law say? 

If you were adopted, the law now gives you the right to know the identity of your biological parents — but not just them.  You now have the right to know the identities of 

  • your parents of origin, whether or not the link of filiation was registered on your original birth certificate, 
  • your siblings of origin, if they are now adults, and 
  • your grandparents of origin. 

However, you may be prevented from obtaining the information necessary to contact these people. They have the right to request that a refusal of contact be registered in the file.  

These changes in the law also give you the right to request certain documents related to your adoption, such as your original birth certificate. 

Refusal to disclose identity or have contact 

Before this change in the law, biological parents could refuse to disclose their identity to the adopted person. This made it impossible for the adopted person to obtain certain information, such as their family name and given name at birth, and those of their biological parents.  

Since June 8, 2024, it is no longer possible for biological parents to refuse this disclosure if the adopted person has reached age 18.  

However, prior to any such disclosure, your biological parents will be contacted to inform them of this change in the law. They will also be told that they can register (or withdraw) a refusal to have contact with you. In the case of a refusal, you will receive information concerning their identity but not information that would enable you to contact them.  

If a biological parent is judged incapable of expressing their wishes regarding contact with you, they will automatically be considered to have refused.  

To whom should you make the request?   

If you were domiciled in Quebec at the time of your adoption and adopted by parents domiciled in Quebec, contact the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (integrated health and social services centres  or CISSS) or Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (integrated university health and social services centre or CIUSSS) in your region. 

If you were adopted in another province or outside of Canada, contact the Secrétariat aux services internationaux à l’enfant (secretariat for international child services). You should also contact this secretariat if you were domiciled in Quebec at the time of your adoption, but your adoptive parents were domiciled outside Quebec. 

Important: These changes in the law, set out in the Act respecting family law reform with regard to filiation and amending the Civil Code in relation to personality rights and civil status, will also have an impact on the rights of the following people, for example, to find an adopted person:

  • parent of origin
  • adoptive parent
  • siblings of origin of an adopted person
  • grandparents of origin
  • descendent in the first degree of an adopted person — or a person eligible for adoption who was not adopted — who is deceased (age 14 or over)
  • person adopted through an adoption by special consent

For more information, see the Quebec government’s website.