Blood, soil, birth tourism and anchor babies – Globe Editorial

The Globe’s editorial take on birth tourism – evidence-based policy, which Minister Alexander appears committed to, given his and his spokesperson’s recent comments stating that decisions “will be informed by facts” (in contrast to earlier anecdotes dramatizing the issue):

At present, however, birth certificates are the most common proof of Canadian citizenship. They do not include any information about a newborn baby’s parents’ citizenship.

Hospitals are a provincial jurisdiction. That is one of the reasons why the provinces and territories have been in charge of birth certificates for a long time. The subnational governments of Canada would doubtless not be eager to spend a huge amount of money to overhaul their birth-certificate system – let alone unanimously.

Ottawa could choose to foot the bill. But if the government is to go any further, it should commission a rigorous study to discover whether so-called birth tourism is a significant phenomenon. So far, the evidence is anecdotal. The available numbers in a given year are in the low hundreds. The real numbers may be higher, but it would be premature to remake the basics of our citizenship on a hunch.

Blood, soil, birth tourism and anchor babies – The Globe and Mail.

Related to this, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (Carmen Cheung and Audrey Macklin) wrote a comprehensive response to the earlier Jan Wong article on birth tourism (see my post Canada’s birthright citizenship policy makes us a nation of suckers):

But how serious an issue is birth tourism? While the government does not publish statistics on actual cases of birth tourism, Statistics Canada reports that of the 377,913 live births recorded in Canada for 2011, only 277 of those were by mothers who lived outside of Canada. The numbers were slightly higher in 2010 – 305 babies born to non-resident mothers out of 377,518 live births. That is less than one tenth of one percent of all births in Canada.

A recent article in Toronto Life magazine proposed another metric for measuring birth tourism, by collecting the number of uninsured mothers giving birth in Toronto-area hospitals over a five-year period. Based on those numbers, we’re still looking at less than one percent of all live births in the city of Toronto.

Using the number of uninsured mothers as a proxy also likely overstates the problem. Provincial health cards are only issued after a minimum period of residency in the province – this is the case whether an individual has arrived from another country as a landed immigrant, or has just moved from British Columbia to Ontario. There are also foreign nationals who are excluded from provincial health care schemes, such as students, temporary foreign workers and diplomats. Particularly vulnerable Canadian citizens – such as the homeless or transient – may also not be able to prove their eligibility for provincial health insurance because of lost documentation.

By any measure, the number of babies born to non-resident non-Canadian mothers is negligible.

Born Equal: Citizenship by Birth is Canada’s Valuable Legacy

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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