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Children's group wants tougher ID regulations

Dec 04 2011

Creating a fake identity for a child is far too easy, according to a national non-profit group fighting to change Canadian and provincial laws and regulations.

The Canadian Children's Rights Council wants mandatory paternity tests at birth so both parents are identified immediately. Such a measure would go a long way to eliminating paternal fraud and identity fraud, said Grant Wilson, the council's president.

He has followed the story of Patricia O'Byrne, who was arrested in Victoria in connection with an Ontario parental abduction case from 1993. She had been living under the name Pamela Whelan. Her daughter, Sigourney Teresa Chisholm, was raised in Victoria and known as Thea Whelan.

The Victoria school district has a long-form birth certificate that states Theadora Gloria Whelan was born on Feb. 18, 1992, in Toronto. The space for the father's name on the document is left blank, which is where a large part of where the problem stems from, Wilson said.

Details about how O'Byrne created new identities for herself and her daughter are not known.

However, Wilson said regulations are often ignored. The Vital Statistics Act in Ontario requires that the names on the statement of live birth forms be verified. But that is often overlooked, according to Wilson.

"In Ontario, at least five per cent of all birth registrations have no father listed on the birth certificate," he said. "No one is verifying this information. Anybody can send in these forms and have a new identity for a child. All you have to say is that this was a home birth and come up with a witness."

The issue date for Thea Whelan's birth certificate appears to be June 3, 1996, according to John Gaiptman, Victoria district superintendent of schools.

Live birth forms must be submitted within 30 days of birth. "You want to make money? Fill a bunch of these out and sell them off," Wilson said. "It's just too easy."

His council's research shows that hundreds of parental abductions occur every month in Canada.

Some children are taken to new provinces or territories where slow court systems can draw custody battles out for two years. Other children are taken out of the country, which makes for an even longer court battle.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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