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Adoptees struggle to get birth certificates

For decades, it has been an ordeal for Nunavut adoptees to obtain an Ontario birth certificate if one wasn't issued at the Ottawa hospital where they were born. That hassle remains.

This is the way Ontario birth certificates look today. Some adopted teenagers in Iglulik, born in Ottawa, have been trying for years to get one and they've had many applications rejected.
image courtesy of the Government of Ontario

Some teenagers in Iglulik have applied for birth certificates numerous times only to be repeatedly rejected, said community member Jose Quezada. At $50 per application, the cost has added up, and the teens have nothing to show for it.

"At first they wanted my step-parents to put in the application but after that they sent another letter to me that said I have to write about my birth mom instead," said of one of the frustrated teens, who can't be named due to privacy restrictions related to youth in adoptive custody. "But they passed away, both my parents... Every time we fix it, they always make a new situation."

Not having a birth certificate or a social insurance number has impeded the teenager from registering for the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program, he said.

"I have my right to education but I can't go because of that," he said.

Other teens have had difficulty obtaining work because they lack those legal documents.

After MP Hunter Tootoo's office made some inquiries on behalf of the Iglulik teens, a liaison officer with the Ontario Public Service recently committed to help the youths if they contact her. She directed Nunavut News' questions to Harry Malhi, a spokesperson with the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Malhi wouldn't discuss any of the teens' cases due to privacy reasons. He said Ontario births not registered within one year go through a delayed registration process for a birth certificate and the $50 fee is attached. Also required are three pieces of evidence showing the child's name and date of birth as well as a sworn statement explaining why medical documentation was not available.

Service Ontario will work with individuals when urgent matters arise, such as barriers to schooling or employment, Malhi said.

Asked how many Nunavummiut have used the delayed registration process over the past year, Malhi replied that the Ontario government doesn't track that information.

Celestino Uyarak, mayor of Iglulik and an adoptee himself, knows there are too many hurdles in getting access to federal documents for adoptees. It's an issue he struggled with three decades ago.

"As a matter of fact, I had a hard time getting a social insurance (number) because of my adoption papers and that's like 30 years ago. Thirty years later and it's still a problem today," Uyarak said. "Today, if you don't have a social insurance number, you cannot register for school, a job or proper ID."

Fact file
Examples of documentation required by the Government of Ontario for a delayed birth certificate (three are needed):
- a certified copy of a census, immigration or consular record
- a certified copy of the paylist issued by the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
- a copy of a record of a public school, separate school, private school or child care centre.
Source: Government of Ontario