ICYMI: Insight Grant 2021 Birth Tourism and #Citizenship – Activist or Academic?

Some background of possible interest to this grant.

My initial 2018 analysis (Hospital Stats Show Birth Tourism Rising in Major Cities) provoked rebuttals from Jamie Lieu and Megan Gaucher.

While part of their arguments concerned my interpretation of the data (largely addressed given the sharp drop in visitor visas covered in my Birth Tourism in Canada Dropped Sharply Once the Pandemic Began), the bulk of their arguments were on policy grounds where we disagree.

Ironically, we had submitted a joint-proposal in 2019 for funding research looking at the policy issues, but were unsuccessful. It has now been successfully resurrected with the original researchers but without my “contrarian” presence and thus may well lack balance given the common perspective of the researchers.

Their concern that “proposed measures risk being driven by polarizing narratives about borders and citizenship rather than by evidence” is somewhat ironic as they contest the best evidence that we have regarding the likely numbers of birth tourists.

As a whole, the proposal reinforces critiques of universities and academics not having a diversity of views and perspectives in their work:

Birth tourist is a term used for non-resident mothers (NRMs) who come to Canada with the sole purpose of giving birth so that their child has a claim to Canadian birthright citizenship.

“They are accused of undermining Canada’s jus soli citizenship laws and subsequently labelled ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘system cheaters,’” says Megan Gaucher. “While both completely legal and statistically low, birth tourism continues to be identified by political parties as an issue in need of remedy.”

Gaucher, an associate professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies, has been awarded a five-year $223,328 SSHRC Insight grant for the project, “Mapping the Discursive and Institutional Landscape of ‘Birth Tourism’ and its Perceived Attack on Canadian Birthright Citizenship.”

“Proposed measures have focused almost exclusively on refusing automatic citizenship to children born on Canadian soil unless one of the parents is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident,” says Gaucher. “Calls for legislative action however, remain reliant on an incomplete picture of the prevalence of and motivations for engaging in birth tourism, the socio-legal structures that facilitate it and the implications current political and public discourse present for NRMs.”

The project will provide the first comprehensive mapping of the state of birth tourism in Canada. Gaucher — along with team members Jamie Chai Yun Liew (University of Ottawa), Y.Y. Chen (University of Ottawa) and Amanda Cheong (University of British Columbia) — will conduct interviews with NRMs and their family members, birth tourism industry insiders, health care practitioners, government officials and local residents.

These interviews will be complemented by an analysis of pre-existing government data, Parliamentary Hansard, birth tourism promotional materials and media coverage from mainstream and ethnic media. “Current conversations about birth tourism tend to rely on data from health facilities,” says Gaucher. “Our project will bring together experts in political science, law, health and sociology to critically interrogate how multiple socio-legal spaces are used to both criminalize and restrict access to NRMs and their future children.”

This study will explore how constructions of foreignness undermine the longstanding assumption that formal legal citizenship is an uncontested condition for membership to the Canadian state and explore how political and public discourse around birth tourism ultimately reproduces settler-colonial imaginaries of “good” familial citizens.

“As debate around birth tourism in Canada and the appropriate policy responses continue to unfold against a backdrop of knowledge gaps, proposed measures risk being driven by polarizing narratives about borders and citizenship rather than by evidence,” she says.

Source: Friday, June 18, 2021 in Department of Law and Legal Studies, News, Research
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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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