Mothers forced to surrender their babies demand an apology
Stephen Grant, W5 Producer
Published Friday, March 22, 2019 1:00PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 28, 2019 4:48PM EDT
It’s a Christmas Sharon Pedersen would like to forget.
It was 1963, Sharon was 19, fresh out of high school, and pregnant.
Her parents were not happy that their teenager would soon be a parent herself and while Sharon and her mother prepared dinner, her stepfather lashed out.
“He just lit into me,” said Sharon. “There was no God damn way I was sitting at his Christmas table.”
“He kicked me out of the house, and when I say kicked me I mean he kicked, kicked, kicked me out of the house, into the snow.”
Sharon wandered the streets for hours before her mother snuck her back into the house, but it was just a matter of weeks before her mother shipped her off to live with an aunt.
Months later Sharon went into labour, but instead of receiving the support she longed for, her mother and aunt drove her to the local hospital in Victoria and dropped her off at the curb without even turning the engine off.
Scared, confused, and in severe labour pain she stumbled into the hospital on her own. A doctor eventually gave her a sedative for the pain but it knocked her out for three days. When she woke up she was tied to the bed, and it was obvious she had given birth.
“I woke up, I came out of this and my wrist was tied to the bedrail with leather straps, and my aunt and mother are standing there and I felt my stomach and I went, what, what’s going on?”
Sharon was the victim of a forced adoption, babies taken from young unwed mothers and put up for adoption without the mother’s consent.
It’s a practice that began shortly after the end of the Second World War, but continued for decades. In most cases, the mothers were shipped off to so-called maternity homes where they were sequestered from their families until the end of the pregnancies and then their babies would be adopted.
It’s estimated that 350,000 mothers in Canada were coerced to surrender their babies, and in some extreme cases were lied to and told their babies died at birth.
For Sharon it would take 44 years before she would meet her daughter. Even though she now has a relationship with her, Sharon wants acknowledgement from the Canadian government that this practice actually took place, and is asking for a formal apology, a gesture the Australian Government extended to its mothers in 2013.
Retired Senator Art Eggleton chaired a committee studying the issue of forced adoption in Canada and the committee concluded that the federal government should acknowledge the issue and offer an apology in the House of Commons.
At this point the federal government has yet to adopt the Senate Committee’s recommendation.
For Sharon it’s a wrong that needs to be corrected: “This was part of Canadian history, you can’t deny this happened anymore, this is what happened and this is how it happened.”
Statement from Senate Committee
"The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is disappointed with the federal government’s response to the committee’s July 2018 entitled The Shame is Ours:Forced Adoptions of the Babies of Unmarried Mothers in Post-war Canada.
The committee appreciates the Families, Children and Social Development Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos’ acknowledgment of the courage of the women and children who came forward to tell their stories; members are pleased that the government is committed to ensuring forced adoption practices do not occur again. However, the minister’s response did not directly address any of the report’s four, straightforward recommendations.
The victims of forced adoption practices deserve a more robust response to the specific actions recommended in the report — actions that could help to lessen their trauma and torment.
Canada owes them that chance."