Toronto Sun Editorial: Birth tourism growing issue in Canada (surrogacy)

The earlier op-ed in the Globe gets traction in the Sun (How Canada became an international surrogacy destination [another form of birth tourism]:

There were 102 babies born to surrogate moms in British Columbia in 2016 and 2017.

Of those, 45 were babies for parents from other countries.

Parents who travelled here to have their child delivered in Canada, who before they left picked up a Canadian citizenship for their child and who left Canadian taxpayers with the bills for the pregnancy of their surrogate mom as well as costs for the delivery and postnatal care of their newborn.

We know this thanks to reporting by freelance Globe and Mail writer Alison Motluk, who earlier this month wrote about Canada increasingly becoming a destination for international surrogacy.

It’s understandable that foreign parents, especially those who may need to turn to surrogacy to have a child, would find Canada and a bonus Canadian citizenship for their child attractive.

Surrogacy is prohibited in many countries and few countries permit surrogacy for non-residents, let alone pay for costs associated with the surrogate mom’s pregnancy, delivery and postnatal care costs.

Without doubt, some of those parents are likely desperate to have children and may have few options. On compassionate grounds, their desire to seek surrogacy here may be compelling.

However, an open-door policy for birth tourism is also troubling.

Why is citizenship being handed out to the children of birth tourists as a going away prize?

Citizenship is a privilege, something often earned at great cost and difficulty for the many millions of Canadians who immigrated to this country and made it their home.

Why on earth should Canadian taxpayers foot the hospital bills for foreign couples who want to have their babies in this country – $3,000 to $6,000 for uneventful births to potentially more than $90,000 for premature babies with complications?

Is birth tourism something we should be encouraging?

And although B.C. tracks residency data on parents, other provinces don’t.

So we’re not even sure of the scope of birth tourism in this country, let alone its costs.

As Brian Lilley wrote in the Sun on this issue, Real Women of Canada wants Ottawa to close loopholes that permit taxpayer subsidization for foreign surrogacy – something many European countries have already done.

Without such change, there’s little doubt Canada increasingly will become a destination for birth tourism.

Source: EDITORIAL: Birth tourism growing issue in Canada

And the Lilley piece that prompted the editorial:

Call it birth tourism of another kind.

We’ve all heard stories about mothers arriving in Canadian cities just in time to give birth so their child can get Canadian citizenship.

But what about foreign parents having a kid in Canada via surrogacy?

It is happening and it is growing.

In 2016 and 2017 there were 102 babies born to surrogate mothers in British Columbia. A shocking 45 of those babies were born to parents from outside of the country.

Here is the crazy part, you are paying for it and the baby that is quickly whisked off to a foreign land is granted automatic Canadian citizenship.

The numbers, first reported by freelance journalist Alison Motluk in the Globe and Mail, show what experts believe to be a growing issue in Canada.

While surrogacy is tightly regulated in Canada, we are one of a handful of countries that allow foreign parents to find a surrogate within our borders. We also have “free” health care, meaning the “intended parents” of the child born by surrogacy aren’t on the hook for the bill.

Estimates for the cost of an uneventful birth range from $3,000 to $6,000, not including any prenatal or postnatal care. With 45 births in B.C. to foreign parents, that means taxpayers were out $135,000 to $270,000 in health care costs for the birth alone.

If there are complications those costs skyrocket. Estimates say care for a premature baby could top $90,000.

All of that paid for by Canadian taxpayers for a baby that will be shuffled home to a foreign country as soon as all the paperwork is complete.

Those numbers I’ve given you are for B.C. alone. Other provinces either do not keep or will not release stats on the number of surrogate babies for foreign parents.

Whatever the number in other countries, expect this to grow in Canada.

As other countries crackdown on foreign surrogate parents or don’t allow the procedure for non-residents, Canada has no such rules. We also offer complete health-care coverage for the Canadian surrogate and citizenship for the child upon birth.

That means a Canadian passport for life and easier entry, maybe even sponsorship of the parents later in life.

Other countries also make you pay to use their facilities.

One American company offering surrogacy charges a low of US$39,400 in Mexico to a high of US$64,900 for the “Guaranteed Baby” program in Ukraine.

With prices like that, no wonder Canada is becoming a more attractive destination for this kind of birth tourism.

The group Real Women of Canada, which is outright opposed to surrogacy, says the federal government should at least be looking to close this loophole allowing couples from other countries to have their child’s birth subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.

In a submission to Health Canada, which is looking at modernizing rules and regulations around surrogacy, the group calls for non-Canadians to be barred from using Canada as a surrogacy destination, something many European countries already do.

Any discussion of such a ban would be a sticky one for the government, in fact any discussion of the issue is sticky.

Emotions will run high, claims of targeting specific groups will be made.

Here’s an idea though, let’s get better information on this.

It’s understandable that foreign parents may want to give their child the privilege and advantages of a Canadian passport. That’s why we have an immigration system.

But let’s find out from each of the provinces how often this is happening.

Are Canadians paying for the hospital care for babies born to foreign parents?

Are we paying for expensive neonatal care or even IVF treatments so foreign couples can have a child?

Are we handing out citizenship to children that will not live here? And if so, how often is this happening?

This looks like the type of thing  people didn’t think of when the current regulations were devised.

More than a decade in, maybe it’s time we had some honest conversations about what we want to allow, who is going to pay for it and who should actually get a Canadian passport.

Source: LILLEY: Canadians paying bills for birth tourism

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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