Pressure builds to close ‘birth tourism’ loophole for getting citizenship

Interesting coming from a Liberal MP:

Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido is optimistic that he can persuade federal ministers to curb so-called birth tourism, as pressure for action mounts in B.C.

“We are reaching a tipping point,” he said. “Nurses have told me that this is displacing folks from giving birth in Richmond.”

The number of babies born to foreign nationals at Richmond Hospital rose to 384 last year from just 18 in 2010 and now accounts for about 20 per cent of all deliveries, according to Vancouver Coastal Health. Under Canadian law, babies born here get Canadian citizenship regardless of their parents’ citizenship.

An entire industry of citizenship brokers and maternity tourism businesses are profiting from this “illegitimate business model,” said Peschisolido, who represents Steveston-Richmond East. “A whole slew of folks are complicit in this.”

Peschisolido plans to present a parliamentary e-petition — which calls for an end to this “abusive and exploitative practice” and “concrete measures” to eliminate the birth tourism —  to federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

In response to birth tourism, Australia and New Zealand changed their laws, granting citizenship to babies only when at least one parent is a citizen or a legal resident.

“Birth tourism is wrong and it undermines our immigration system and our health care system,” said Peschisolido. “The reason there are more than 8,000 signatures is that it violates people’s sense of fairness.”

Non-resident births account for two per cent of the 44,000 babies born in B.C. each year.

Non-residents are required to pay the costs associated with their care and the vast majority of these patients pay these fees without issue, said Laura Heinze, who speaks for the B.C. Health Ministry.

“The ministry in no way endorses or supports the marketing of maternity tourism,” she said. “Matters relating to immigration are the responsibility of the federal government.”

Pregnant women who come to Canada specifically to have a child with Canadian citizenship are not breaking the law, but they could be misleading immigration officials about their reasons for visiting Canada.

“If a person, including an expectant mother travelling to Canada, provides false information or documents, IRCC will refuse their application and that person could also be inadmissible to Canada for five years,” according to the federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department.

This is the second time that the petition’s author, Kerry Starchuk, has tried to get the attention of the federal authorities. Her first petition launched in 2016 also gathered more than 8,000 signatures.

A report by Canadian immigration officials recommended changes to citizenship law to then-immigration minister Jason Kenney in 2014.

No action was taken by that Conservative government, but the number of foreign citizens coming to B.C. to give birth in order to secure Canadian citizenship for their child has risen dramatically since then.

People have until July 17 to sign the current petition.

Starchuk became concerned about growth of birth tourism after trying to greet new neighbours with cookies and came to realize the house was being used as accommodation for women from abroad who were about to give birth.

“I’ve done my part being a good neighbour, but this is exploiting the system,” she said. “They are not here to be my neighbours and I’m not OK with that.”

A Vancouver Sun investigation in 2016 found more than two dozen so-called baby houses were providing services and accommodation to birth tourists in B.C.

“These people are jumping the queue when people are waiting to immigrate,” she said. “I don’t see how being born here like this justifies citizenship.”

Petition supporter Gary Liu said the practice of birth tourism is generally “despised” in the immigrant community.

“People who have worked hard to learn the language and raise their families — and everyone has their own struggles and stories — they feel like this is a quick pass for some people,” said Liu, who has lived in Canada for more than 20 years.

Liu believes more rigorous application of existing rules by Canada Border Services Agency and enforcement of zoning bylaws against baby houses would minimize the practice.

Canada and the United States are the only G-7 nations that grant automatic citizenship for babies born in-country to foreign nationals. Critics complain that so-called “anchor babies” become a legal foothold in Canada to gain immigration access for the rest of their families.

Source: Pressure builds to close ‘birth tourism’ loophole for getting citizenship

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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