Montreal’s Black Market Babies

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, 1,000 babies were sold to adoptive parents through a black market baby ring that operated in Quebec. Most of the babies were born to unwed French Canadian mothers, most of the adoptive families were Jewish. Some of the children went to homes in Quebec and Ontario, and many grew up in the United States.

In 1984, my husband found out he had been adopted and that his parents had paid about $2,000 for him. About 15 years later, he found out about the black market baby ring that had arranged his adoption. Ever since then, he has been sharing his story with friends, with community groups and through the media. Several years ago, Global television told the story of Harold’s search for his birth mother on the program Past Lives.

This week, the Montreal CTV station aired a news feature about the black market baby ring. It puts Harold’s story in context, explaining how most of the mothers who gave birth out of wedlock had no choice but to give up their babies. Harold counts himself lucky that he ended up in a good home and not in an orphanage.

The ring was broken up 60 years ago this year. Some of the birth mothers have no doubt died, and many of their children are probably still trying to find them. The story is still fascinating.

Here is a link to that six-minute CTV feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNKTqkZmIGE

Karen Balcom of McMaster University has written a book that addresses this topic: The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972 Studies in Gender and History, University of Toronto Press, 2011.

You can learn more about Montreal’s black market baby ring on the Parent Finders Montreal website, http://www.pfmtl.org/BMB/index.html. At the bottom of the page, there is a list of dates, pages and titles of old newspaper articles about the case. Paste in the url for one of these stories from The Gazette, http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Fr8DH2VBP9sC&dat=19540215&printsec=frontpage&hl=en, and from there you can easily browse the newspaper to find the other articles.

There is a Montreal Black Market Baby Facebook page.

Feb. 23 2016, this post has been updated. The link to the CTV feature now works.

About Janice Hamilton

Janice Hamilton is a Montreal-based writer, genealogist and photographer.

Posted on April 4, 2014, in Quebec and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Lynne Oliveira

    I am a female and was adopted to a Jewish NY couple. I was born Feb. 1, 1950. My adoptive parents where very nervous when the ring was broken up and got my American Citizenship just in case the Canadian authorities wanted me returned. My adopted mother kept in touch with a woman she stayed with a Mrs Flichette or Fishette.

  2. Marian Bulford

    Wow, what a story! i am so glad it all ended fairly happily and Harold was brought up in a good home.

  3. Is there any literature that comes to mind that would reference similiar affairs in Ontario for the same time period?

    • Karen Balcomb’s book might be helpful in your search for Ontario-related information.Browsing through Ontario newspapers from 1953/54 on Google News (https://news.google.com/newspapers) might also produce results. The Montreal Black Market Baby Ring was busted up by authorities around that time.

  4. Susan Gingras Calcagni

    Thank you janice for sharing this with us and Harold s story is very touching. He was very fortunate and surely grateful to this day.

  5. This is an extremely moving story. Thank you for sharing the story and the CTV clip.

  1. Pingback: Laundry Babies – Black Market Baby BMH 5-7-66 | lindaseccaspina

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