HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia is currently the only province in the country that doesn’t have open adoption records, but that will change next year.

The province introduced legislation on Friday that will open adoption records, effective next April.

The new Act to Open Adoption Records in Nova Scotia allows adopted children, once they turn 19, and birth parents to access adoption information if they want to.

"Adoption records are a sensitive and deeply personal matter," said Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services in a statement. "In modernizing this legislation, we worked to create a balance that takes all perspectives into account, recognizing the profound impact this information may have on the lives of Nova Scotians."

The province says the act includes measures to protect the privacy of the adoptee or the birth parent. Both will have the option to file a disclosure veto, a document stating they do not want to share information that can identify them. Either can also file a contact notice agreeing to share information that can identify them but stating their preferences on if or how they want to be contacted. 

"Today is a monumental day for those searching for their life story. These changes will make a fundamental improvement to thousands of families impacted by adoption in the past and in the future,” said Scott Pyke, administrator of the Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group.

Nova Scotia is currently the only province in the country that doesn’t have open adoption records. New Brunswick opened adoption records on April 1, 2018, and P.E.I. enacted the legislation last January.

The province says the act will take full effect as early as April 2022, which allows the department to make software changes so it can receive the information, and will allow at least six months for parties to an adoption to apply for a disclosure veto or contact notice.

The new act will also include the types of information that can be shared with relatives or birth siblings, as well as the definition of a potential birth father.

The development of this legislation was guided by public consultation, which saw over 2,700 Nova Scotians share their views about the opening of adoption records to an online survey, and over 100 participants attending in-person sessions. The What We Heard document is available online.  

The province says adoptions have been recorded in Nova Scotia for more than 100 years, with the Department of Community Services holding the records for about 31,800 adoptions.

Currently the province's Adoption Disclosure Program can conduct a search for an adopted person or a birth parent at the request of the other party to the adoption. When that person is located, they must consent to their identifying information being released before it can be shared. If they do not consent, the identifying information cannot be shared.