04/22/2014 05:20 EDT | Updated 06/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Manitoba government signals move to open more adoption records

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government appears set to further open adoption records to allow more people to find relatives and learn about their background.

The province passed a law in 1999 to release identifying information about adoptees and their parents unless one of them specifically requested anonymity.

But the law was not retroactive, so people adopted prior to March 15, 1999, have had a tougher time finding information.

The province announced in 2009 that it was looking at making available adoption records as far back as 1925 to bring Manitoba in line with other provinces such as British Columbia.

The NDP government has served notice that it will present a bill to the legislature Wednesday to open adoption and birth records, but government officials would not reveal details beforehand.

Roy Kading, who runs an adoptees rights group in Winnipeg, says thousands of people have been trying to find out about their birth families.

"They're very, very frustrated," Kading said Tuesday.

"They've been ... looking for people for years and can't get any information. By the time they do, too bad, the person they're looking for has passed away."

Kading said his non-profit group, Links Post-Legal Adoption Support, has helped reunite about 1,500 people over the years.

Just this week, the group helped two half-sisters find each other.

"One registered with us recently, and the half-sister had registered with us 10 years ago."

One hurdle for the government has been concern for privacy. Under the pre-1999 system, parents who gave up their children for adoption were in effect promised privacy. Any identifying information was kept secret unless they specifically opted for it to be shared.

It's been the other way around since 1999. Information has been made available unless there has been a specific request for privacy, formally called a disclosure veto.