Richmond woman’s petition calls for end of birth tourism in Canada

While the overall national numbers are, this has been an ongoing issue in Richmond. The call for better national data makes sense as does regulation (provincial medicare data could likely capture this – see ICYMI: Petition to Parliament calls for end to automatic citizenship to end ‘birth tourism’):

A petition by a group of Metro Vancouver residents is demanding Ottawa crack down on birth tourism in Canada.

Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk started the electronic petition. She has been campaigning on this issue for the last two years since discovering a neighbouring house was a so-called “birth house,” which caters to pregnant women who come to Canada to give birth so their child is automatically granted Canadian citizenship.

“It’s wrong. It’s jumping the queue,” said Starchuk of the practice, an increasing trend in Richmond where the majority of birth tourists hail from China.

In 2016-2017, 384 babies were born to non-residents at Richmond Hospital, said Vancouver Coastal Health — a significant jump from 18 cases in 2010. Between 2014 and 2017, 1,020 newborns were born to non-residents.

The rise in birth tourism has spawned an underground economy with unregulated agencies and brokers offering services to pregnant clients, including airport pickups, room and board, and assistance with obtaining documents such as a Canadian passport for the infant.

For Starchuk, birth tourism undermines the value of Canadian citizenship by essentially buying a lifetime’s privilege for the price of a hospital procedure, housing costs, and a return plane ticket.

“It’s not truthful, it’s deceitful and it’s short-sighted,” she said. “We don’t know what the consequences are going to be in 18 years. Are we prepared for it?”

The petition, identified as E-1527 in the House of Commons, is sponsored by Liberal Richmond MP Joe Peschisolido. It calls on the federal government to denounce birth tourism; determine the extent of the practice in Canada; and implement measures to reduce and eliminate it. It has received more than 620 signatures as of Tuesday.

Gary Liu, whose family immigrated to Taiwan when he was a teen, said most immigrants are also against birth tourism.

“Almost all of them despise this kind of practice,” said Liu, a Burnaby resident. “This is a very unfair practice to all immigrants.”

The petition is Starchuk’s second attempt to get the federal government to take action.

Her first petition in 2016, sponsored by Conservative MP Alice Wong, urged the government to end jus soli, or automatic birthright citizenship.

It received more than 8,800 signatures and was presented to the House of Commons, but went nowhere because the government felt revoking birthright citizenship would require a major overhaul of how Canadian citizenship is granted.

Liu said the rejection of that petition in 2016 was seen by some as an endorsement by the federal government of birth tourism. He hopes this second petition will gain more traction.

Starchuk said birth tourism happens across Canada, but are most prevalent in Richmond and Toronto, where the women are usually from Russia or Nigeria.

In 2016, the B.C. government said it was aware of 26 birth houses in the province.

Starchuk said more data is needed to get a grip on the extent of the practice in Canada.

“We’re hoping to have Canada-wide statistics,” she said. “We don’t know if it could be happening in West Vancouver or Langley.”

Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson said figures for babies born to non-residents in other hospitals in the region are not immediately available, but said those numbers would be small.

The health authority “does not endorse or support marketing of maternity tourism and we are concerned about the impact it is having on our ability to provide quality services to every resident maternity patients,” Stefanson said.

Women who intend to use Richmond hospital to give birth are asked to pre-register six to eight weeks before their due date in order to enable to hospital to plan ahead.

Stefanson said Vancouver Coastal Health is committed to collecting payment from non-residents who use medical services, but wouldn’t deny urgent care based on a person’s ability to pay.

Peschisolido, who is in Ottawa, denounced birth tourism in a statement issued to media on Tuesday.

“Birth tourism is wrong,” he said. “Women are being exploited by organized efforts to take advantage of the system.”

Source: Richmond woman’s petition calls for end of birth tourism in Canada

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.

2 Responses to Richmond woman’s petition calls for end of birth tourism in Canada

  1. Robert Addington says:

    Please delete my previous post. I pressed the ‘Post Comment’ button before completing the post.

    Now here is my post as intended: Curtailing birthright citizenship could create serious difficulties both federally and provincially. As Andrew may recall, this idea was first proposed not by Jason Kenney but in the 1990s by a Liberal minister, Lucienne Robillard. Nothing came of it.

    • Andrew says:

      Wasn’t aware of that earlier history. Same administrative differences and costs were same reason for Jason Kenney abandoning it, particularly provincial opposition.

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