Is it Time to Tell? Abolishing Donor Anonymity in Canada

36 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2017 Last revised: 27 Nov 2017

Date Written: 2017


Over the past two decades, a growing number of donor conceived people have spoken out about the impact of donor anonymity on their health and wellbeing. A significant number of legislatures have responded to these concerns by introducing laws that prospectively (and in one case, retrospectively) abolish donor anonymity. This article considers the increasing pressure on Canadian provinces to end anonymity and introduce registers which enable donor conceived people to access their donor’s identifying information. While the article does not endorse the genetic essentialism that is often a feature of advocacy in the field, it does argues that there are no longer grounds upon which Canada can justify the practice of prospective anonymity. Substantial evidence suggests that the wellbeing of future generations of donor-conceived people is best met by providing them with the option of accessing their donor’s identity. What has received less attention in the literature is what type of open disclosure model should be adopted. Decisions need to be made about issues such as whether legislation should be prospective or also retrospective in its operation, how many families a donor should be permitted to donate to, if and how donor offspring are to be notified of the nature of their conception, and how the expectations of participants are to be managed.

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Fiona, Is it Time to Tell? Abolishing Donor Anonymity in Canada (2017). Canadian Journal of Family Law, 30(2), La Trobe Law School - Law & Justice Research Paper Series Paper 1711, Available at SSRN:

Fiona Kelly (Contact Author)

La Trobe Law School ( email )

La Trobe University
Bundoora, VIC 3083 3142

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