IRCC’s role in adoption

International obligations

Our first priority is to ensure that the child’s rights are protected in accordance with our international obligations in adoption cases and our obligations under Canadian law.

In some parts of the world, child trafficking is a serious concern, documentation is non-existent or unreliable, there is evidence of wrongdoing in the adoption system or infrastructure to protect children is limited. In these cases, we must take more steps to verify that the best interests of children being adopted by Canadian citizens and permanent residents are respected.

Intercountry adoption procedures put in place are meant to protect the best interests of the child. These include requiring proof that the biological parents have given their free and informed consent to the adoption before it takes place, and confirming that the adoption follows the laws of both countries.

With respect to children who may be orphaned, it is international policy and practice to try to first find homes for them in their own country before uprooting and placing them in a foreign country. The United Nation’s Children’s Fund’s UNICEF position on cases of children separated from their parents and communities during war or natural disasters is that such children should not be considered for inter-country adoption, and family tracing should be the priority.

Canadians planning to adopt a child from another country must follow their province or territory’s regulations for international adoptions and abide by the laws of the child’s country of origin.We want to eliminate any shortcuts in the adoption process that could enable unscrupulous people to obtain children for the purpose of human trafficking.

To avoid unnecessary expense and disappointment, adoptive parents should not plan to return to Canada with the adopted child until they know for certain that all immigration or citizenship requirements have been met.

Intercountry Adoption Services

Intercountry Adoption Services (IAS), a unit within IRCC, works directly with the provinces and territories to provide information and guidance. However, the provinces and territories make the decisions regarding eligibility and assist Canadians in their efforts to adopt.
IAS’s role in intercountry adoption includes:

  • facilitating communication and co-operation between adoption authorities at the federal, provincial, territorial and international levels;
  • facilitating issue resolution and developing pan-Canadian responses on matters such as unethical and irregular adoption practices;
  • advising on or developing legislation, regulations, policies, procedures, standards and guidelines related to intercountry adoption; and,
  • collecting and disseminating information specific to intercountry adoption (adoption legislation, policies and practices of countries of origin, statistical data and research).

IAS, within IRCC, is also the federal Central Authority for Canada under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Government of Canada ratified the Hague Convention in December 1996.


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