‘Birth Tourism’ Is Legal in Canada. A Lawmaker Calls it Unscrupulous.

Good overview of the issues involved and interesting details on the support birth tourism “industry,” My study cited (Hospital stats show birth tourism rising in major cities) and I am quoted along with others:

Melody Bai arrived in Vancouver from China in the late stages of pregnancy with one goal: to give birth to a Canadian baby.

Awaiting her was an elaborate ecosystem catering to pregnant women from China, including a spacious “baby house” where she spent four months, attended to by a Mandarin-speaking housekeeper.

Caregivers offered free breast massages to promote lactation, outings to the mall, lectures on childbirth with other Chinese mothers-to-be and excursions for high tea.

“It’s an investment in my child’s education,” Ms. Bai, a 28-year-old flight attendant, said by phone from Shanghai, months after returning to China with her newborn and passport in hand. “We chose Canada because of its better natural and social environment.”

Ms. Bai is part of a growing phenomenon in Canada known as birth tourism, which is not only generating political opposition, but mobilizing self-appointed vigilantes determined to stop it.

It is perfectly legal.

Under the principle of jus soli — the right of the soil — being born in Canada confers automatic citizenship. But as more pregnant women arrive each month to give birth, some Canadians are protesting that they are gaming the system, testing the limits of tolerance and debasing the notion of citizenship.

In Richmond, a city outside Vancouver where about 53 percent of its roughly 200,000 residents are ethnic Chinese, nonresident mothers account for one in five births at the Richmond Hospital, the largest number of nonresident births of any hospital in the country, according to a recent report.

“Birth tourism may be legal, but it is unethical and unscrupulous,” said Joe Peschisolido, a Liberal member of Parliament in Richmond, who brought a petition against the practice to Ottawa, where the immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said he would examine the issue.

The practice underlines how Canada, and British Columbia in particular, has become a favored haven for well-heeled Chinese seeking a refuge for wealth and kin away from authoritarian China.

The issue of birthright citizenship gained global attention in October after President Trump said he wanted to eliminate it, though it is enshrined in the American Constitution.

At least 30 other countries, including Canada, Mexico and Brazil, grant automatic birthright citizenship. Others like Britain and Australia have tightened their laws by requiring that at least one parent be a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth.

Indicating that immigration could be an issue in federal elections next year in Canada, the opposition Conservative party this summer endorsed a nonbinding motion calling for unconditional birthright citizenship to be abolished.

In the recent report, from the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the government department responsible for immigration, showed that the number of children born to nonresidents in Canada was at least five times as high as previously thought — close to 1,500 to 2,000 annually.

Mr. Griffith argues that Canada intended birthright citizenship for those who wanted to live in and contribute to the country. “Since those engaging in birth tourism have no or barely any real link to Canada,” he said, “the practice is challenging a very Canadian value of fair play.”

With its sprawling Chinese food markets, Chinese-language newspapers and large number of caregivers speaking Mandarin, Richmond has become ground zero for birth tourists from China.

About two dozen baby houses are in operation. Visits to about 15 addresses showed that some operate openly while others work under licenses as tour agencies or present themselves as holiday rentals. Some are in homes. Others are in apartments. Many are booked through agents and brokers in China.

In a visit to one, the Baoma Inn, a modern house across from a park, a woman in the late stages of pregnancy could be seen in a second-floor window. A young man who answered the door confirmed that the inn was a baby house before another angrily slammed the door.

But during a telephone call in Mandarin inquiring about the Inn’s services, a man said it offered a one-stop package including “guaranteed appointments” with “the No. 1 obstetrician in British Columbia,” who spoke Mandarin and had “a zero accident rate.”

Customers usually stay for three months, he said, including one month after the birth, to allow time to apply for a passport for the newborn and to recuperate, as is the Chinese custom.

He added that his agency had seven sales offices in China. The bill for a three-month stay at a two-bedroom apartment, not including meals and prenatal care, is about 25,000 Canadian dollars ($18,331).

“The women all go back to China,” he said. “They don’t enjoy any social benefits from the Canadian government and don’t need it.”

Bob Huang, who with his wife runs Anxin Labour Service, a birthing center in the nearby city of Burnaby, said he was frequently contacted by agents in China who wanted a 50 percent commission on every successful referral. He said he preferred to post his own ads on local Chinese classifieds websites.

Some Richmond residents say birth tourism is undermining the community’s social fabric.

Kerry Starchuk, a self-described “hockey mom” who spearheaded the petition championed by Mr. Peschisolido, documents baby houses in her neighborhood and passes the information on to the local news media and city officials.

On a recent morning, she received an anonymous tip on Facebook that as many as 20 pregnant “birth tourists” from China were being housed in a nearby modernist high rise.

Rushing to her minivan, she drove to a parking garage beneath a Chinese supermarket. She then hurried outside to case out a nearby building, suspiciously eyeing a pregnant Chinese woman walking by. After entering the building, Ms. Starchuk was foiled by a locked stairwell, adding the high rise to her list for another day.

Ms. Starchuk complains that birth tourists bump local mothers from maternity wards, a concern echoed by some local nurses, and get access to public services without paying taxes.

She also said the so-called “anchor babies” threatened to burden Canada by emigrating and studying here, and sponsoring their parents to become permanent residents.

Some first- and second-generation immigrants in Richmond say birth tourists have an unfair advantage by jumping the immigration queue.CreditAlana Paterson for The New York Times

The issue has become conflated with resentment in the Vancouver area against soaring housing prices, which some residents blame on an influx of wealthy Chinese.

But Ms. Bai, who had her baby in Vancouver in February, said that given the hefty price she had paid to give birth here — 60,000 Canadian dollars, including housing and hospitalization — she was subsidizing the Canadian health care system and contributing to the local economy.

“My child won’t be enjoying any Canadian health benefits, as we are living in China,” she said.

Since her son is Canadian, however, she and her husband, a pilot, could save about 150,000 Canadian dollars on tuition fees at an international school in Shanghai.

After gaining fluency in English and Western culture, her son could also later attend a Canadian university at the discounted local rate. Eventually, the entire family could emigrate to Canada.

Some first- and second-generation immigrants oppose birth tourists for jumping the queue.

“I don’t think it is fair to come here, give birth and leave,” said Wendy Liu, a Richmond resident of 11 years, adding that she had been repeatedly harassed after Ms. Starchuk mistakenly put her house on a list of birth tourism centers.

Birth tourism at Richmond Hospital recently came under the spotlight because of a so-called “million dollar baby.”

A nonresident, Yan Xia, gave birth there, racked up a bill of 312,595 Canadian dollars in maternity and neonatal care for her newborn because of complications, and then absconded without paying the bill, according to a civil claim the hospital filed at British Columbia’s Supreme Court in April, six years after Ms. Xia gave birth.

Including six years’ worth of interest, Ms. Xia’s bill would amount to about 1.2 million Canadian dollars.

There’s No Stopping the Russian Baby Boom in Miami

Very up market birth tourism services:

Matryoshka was bustling as usual, selling blinis, caviar and borscht. Not all of the customers were pregnant. Just, it seemed, most of them.

The deli store in Sunny Isles Beach, a little city on a barrier island north of downtown Miami, has long been a gathering place for Russian-speaking foreigners who stay in the area as they wait to give birth. They come for the hospitals, the doctors, the weather, the beach — not, they will tell you with some exasperation, to score citizenship for their offspring.

The perk of a U.S. passport was “the last thing on my agenda, literally,” said Viktoriia Solomentseva, 23, a former Matryoshka regular who had a daughter seven weeks ago and recently flew home to Moscow with little Emily, a newly-minted U.S. citizen. “Why does Trump think everyone is dying to have one?”

It’s a somewhat sensitive topic for the women like Solomentseva who are driving a baby boom in south Florida. They’ve been swept up in the birthright citizenship debate, reignited when President Donald Trump recently vowed to end it for children of foreigners. While his target was undocumented immigrants, he also complained that the privilege granted in the 14th Amendment has “created an entire industry of birth tourism.”

That, in fact, it has. Data are scarce, but the Center for Immigration Studies has estimated more than 30,000 women tap it every year. Some nationalities prefer certain metropolitan areas, with the Chinese, for instance, favoring Los Angeles, while Nigerians tend to choose cities in the Northeast and Texas. For women with roots in the former Soviet Union, it’s Miami; if they’re affluent, it’s Sunny Isles Beach, called Little Russia because so many of its 22,000 residents hail from that part of the world.

And these women’s numbers, by all accounts, are growing. The weakness of the ruble, the tense relations between Russia and the U.S., the hurdles that have to be scaled to get a visa — none of that is slowing down the flow.

On every flight to Miami from Moscow there’s at least one pregnant woman, said Konstantin Lubnevskiy, the owner of an agency called Miami-mama, whose logo is the silhouette of an expectant mother in front of a big American flag. On some, there are more than five, he said. “What they’re doing is perfectly legal.”

True enough. But honestly, is it for the passports?

Absolutely not, Solomentseva said from the marble-laden lobby of one of the Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, where she’d rented a 39th-floor unit for a few months. “I wanted to give birth in the place that has the best medical service and is comfortable and relaxing,” she said, as her husband, who owns a business in Russia, looked after the baby upstairs. Not incidentally, the weather is a lot more pleasant in Miami than Moscow in the winter. “But I can’t wait to get back to Russia.”

Like everyone else, she did, of course, fill out the necessary paperwork for Emily. It’s not as if citizenship isn’t viewed as something that might one day come in handy. Maybe it could help a kid get into a U.S. college, or set up a business in New York, or buy a house in Sunny Isles Beach, said Moscow resident Anna Bessolnova, 42, who had a girl in Miami in 2014, days before Russia’s annexation of Crimea triggered waves of international sanctions.

“I don’t know whether my daughter will end up using the passport or not, but it’s good to have different options,” she said.

Maria Khromova, whose son was born last month in Miami, has the same attitude. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen 20 years from now.”

Like all the rest, though, Khromova said she chose to have her baby in the U.S. mainly because of the superior medical care. She pointed to two C-section scars under her shirt, one from the birth of a daughter in Russia and another from the same procedure for her son. The first one is so ugly she can’t look at it without crying, she said.

Khromova, 36,  also stayed in the Trump-branded condo complex. She was there for three months, assisted by a nanny, an interpreter, a driver, a yoga tutor and a massage therapist. A native of Siberia, she lives with her husband in Phuket, Thailand, where they run a company that helps foreigners buy property.

“I came here with a lot of money to spend,” she said. “I don’t cost the U.S. taxpayers a thing.”

Being a birth tourist in Sunny Isles Beach isn’t cheap, with agencies charging as much as $50,000 to set up housing, hire interpreters, find doctors and deal with paperwork. Those who can’t afford that level of service buy smaller packages and rent apartments in far-flung suburbs, sometimes teaming up to share lodgings and expenses.

The phenomenon has, over the years, attracted bad actors. Federal agents have raided so-called maternity hotels in California catering to women from China and Taiwan; some were coached to disguise their pregnancies when they arrived in the U.S. and lied about why they were in the country, according to federal officials. Miami-mama was raided once, too, and a notary public was indicted for making a false statement in a passport application and conspiring to commit an offense against the U.S. (That employee was immediately terminated, Lubnevskiy said.)

The focus of Trump’s criticism hasn’t been the abuse of the system but the fact that it exists. One of his arguments against birthright citizenship is that when the babies born on U.S. soil become adults, they can petition for their parents to live permanently in the country.

But to many of the Russians in Sunny Isles, at least, this idea sounded unappealing. The biggest deterrent: They’d have to start paying personal income taxes that are more than double what they are in Russia. “There’s this feeling among some that it’s cool to be a U.S. citizen,” said Victoria Parshkova, who had a son in September. “It’s not cool at all.”

Ethnic media on birth tourism (2): Spanish, Chinese (4 articles), Korean

MIREMS, Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services, kindly shared what they are picking up on birth tourism in the ethnic media:

Federal government wants to better understand ‘birth tourism’ – Spanish

Description: A study shows that in 2016, many more babies were born to non-resident mothers in Canada than what official statistics indicate, which has led the federal government to analyze the phenomenon in order to better understand why women are coming to give birth here and make their babies Canadian citizens. Using data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI ), researcher Andrew Griffith found that in 2016, 3,200 babies were born in Canada whose mothers were not residents of this country. Statistics Canada’s data shows that there were only 313. The CIHI records invoicing and payment information directly from the hospitals and this is how the statistics were obtained. According to the findings, the numbers are not only higher than what was believed, but there is an increasing trend.
WEB – Noticias Montreal (30000 – Daily6) – Montreal, 26/11/2018 – NEWS, 1/2 page web, 1st Top, Spanish

Ottawa is finally paying attention to maternity tourism – Chinese

Description: Ottawa is now studying so-called “birth tourism” in the hope of better understanding how many women travel to Canada to have babies so that the babies can be born as Canadian citizens. New research shows that more babies are born in Canada to foreign residents than Statistics Canada realized. Using numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which captures billing information directly from hospitals, researcher Andrew Griffith found that over 3,200 babies were born here to women who were not Canadian residents in 2016 — compared with 313 babies recorded by Statistics Canada. The finding suggests not only that the numbers are higher than previously reported but that it is a growing trend, Griffith said.
PRINT – Epoch Times (54000 – Daily5) – Toronto, 26/11/2018 – News, 1/4 page, p. A4, Chinese

The birth rate of anchor babies in Canada is being significantly underestimated – Chinese

Description: RCI Ya Ming – Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen promised to study the issue of birth tourism. Researcher Andrew Griffith used numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which captures billing information directly from hospitals, and found that more than 3,200 babies were born here to women who aren’t Canadian residents in 2016, compared with only 313 babies recorded by Statistics Canada. Griffithsaid that this finding not only suggests that the numbers are higher than previously reported, but that it’s a growing trend. This trend exists in all Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec.
WEB – iask (Daily7) – Markham, 23/11/2018 – NEWS, 1 page web, 1st Top, Chinese

Birth tourism seeking citizenship is hiking up – Korean

Description: A new study shows that the number of births in Canada by nonresidents, known as “birth tourism,” is much higher than previously reported. The level of birth tourism nationally in Canada is at least five times greater than recorded by Statistics Canada while the number of babies in the case has been increased to 3,628 in 2017 from 1,354 in 2010. The majority of birth tourists are from Asia, including China, and prefers B.C. as the destination.
PRINT – Canadian Korean Times Weekly (Weekly) – Toronto, 26/11/2018 – NEWS, 1/4 page, 1st Top, Korean

Two thousand anchor babies are born every year; Metro Vancouver residents want to ban them from getting Canadian citizenship – Chinese

Description: Amy – Birth tourism figures in Canada are around 1,500 to 2,000, five times higher than Statistics Canada had estimated. Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk twice launched petitions to call on Parliament to ban anchor babies from automatically acquiring Canadian citizenship. One of the petitions she launched was supported by Alice Wong. Starchuk emphasized that the purpose of launching the petition was not to target babies born in the country. She is concerned that the large number of anchor babies will become a heavy burden on public spending in future. This August, the federal Conservative Party passed a motion that seeks to amend the law and ban anchor babies from automatically acquiring citizenship.
WEB – Vansky (Daily7) – Vancouver, 22/11/2018 – NEWS, 1 page web, 1st Top, Chinese

2,000 anchor babies are born in Canada every year – Chinese

Description: Sing Tao – A recent report pointed out that about 1,500 to 2,000 anchor babies are born in Canada (every year). Of the 25 hospitals where most such births occur, six are in Ontario, while two are in B.C. Among them, the Richmond Hospital recorded the largest number of anchor babies. The report made three recommendations, including requiring foreign female visitors to disclose the purpose of their visit to Canada, and considering a baby’s citizenship to be obtained through fraud if the mother came for birth tourism.
WEB – CFC NEWS (Daily4) – Ottawa, 22/11/2018 – NEWS, 1 page web, 1st Top, Chinese

BC MLA aims to address birth tourism as new data shows high non-resident birth rates

Given that most actions to curb the practice require at a minimum provincial cooperation if not collaboration, something to watch:

A new study came out last week suggesting the number of “anchor babies” in Canada, especially in Richmond, is much higher than previously expected, and MLA Jas Johal [Liberal, from Richmond] said he will introduce a petition to the B.C. government to “address the problem.”

An anchor baby is a term used to refer to a child born to a non-citizen mother at the time of the child’s birth in a country that has birthright citizenship.

Policy Options magazine published a new study last Thursday from the Institute for Research on Public Policy, suggesting every year, there are 1,500 to 2,000 “anchor babies” born in Canada.

Among all the hospitals in Canada, Richmond Hospital has the highest volume of babies born to non-resident mothers – 469 last year, taking up Richmond’s number of such births to 21.9 per cent of the total births in the hospital.

“I’m glad this national organization was able to shed light on this issue. It acknowledges for the first time everything everyone suspected and builds on the reporting the Richmond News has done,” said Johal.

“Every level of government has to acknowledge the issue and work together. We can’t just be polite Canadians and not deal with it. It has nothing to do with political correctness, but got everything to do with our healthcare system, for and by Canadians. Period.”

Johal said he is very concerned about the birth tourism industry, which “is not only allowed to exist, but to flourish.” He is working with some local residents to put together a petition, which he will introduce to the province in spring.

“There is a whole industry built on marketing these practices, attracting these individuals, housing these individuals, making sure they get proper medical treatment and care services,” said Johal.

“What are the companies being set up to bring these women here? How much do they charge? What’s the money they make? We need to shine some sunlight into an industry that’s being done in the shadows.

“And there is cost to taxpayers. I know they pay for natural birth and C-section, but the potential capacity could be used for somewhere else in the health care system in Richmond.”

The petition, according to Johal, will ask the provincial government to acknowledge that birth tourism exists and have a public say that the government does not support it.

“It will also ask the government to take concrete measures, to eliminate or very much reduce the practice,” he said.

Johal said as an immigrant moving from India when he was little, this issue upsets him on the personal level.

“I value the Canadian passport more than anything in my life, but this fundamentally debases the value of Canadian citizenship,” said Johal.

Source: MLA aims to address birth tourism as new data shows high non-resident birth rates 

Ethnic media coverage of birth tourism: Cantonese, Chinese, Punjabi, Haitian

MIREMS, Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services, kindly shared what they are picking up on birth tourism in the ethnic media:

Study shows birth tourism much more prevalent in Canada than reported by StatsCan – Cantonese

Description: A new study shows that the number of births in Canada to non-residents, known as “birth tourism,” is much higher than previously reported by Statistics Canada. The study was done by Andrew Griffith for Policy Options, a policy think tank. It was found that the level of birth tourism nationally in Canada is at least five times greater than the 313 births recorded by Statistics Canada in 2016, sitting at 3,223. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said they will look into the number of people coming into Canada to give birth and will investigate “immoral birth consulting services.” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said at the time one of the goals would be to end the practice of women coming to Canada simply to give birth to a child who will automatically have Canadian citizenship.
TV – Fairchild TV Ontario (400000 – Daily7) – Toronto, 23/11/2018 – News, 1 – 2 min, 02/05, Cantonese

Federal government to investigate impact of “maternity tourism” on the country – Chinese

Description: Based on the figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), researcher Andrew Griffith found that in 2016, there were 3,200 babies born to “maternity tourism” mothers in Canada; that number is 9 times higher than the 313 babies recorded by Statistics Canada. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said that his department has commissioned CIHI to conduct a study to fully understand the extent of the impact of maternity tourism on Canada.
WEB – Ming Pao Toronto (227000 – Daily7) – Toronto, 23/11/2018 – NEWS, 3/4 page web, 2nd, Chinese

Ottawa probes birth tourism as new data shows higher non-resident birth rates – Punjabi

Description: With new research showing that more babies are born in Canada to foreign residents than Statistics Canada realized, the federal government is studying the issue of “birth tourism” in the hope of better understanding how many women travel to Canada to have babies who are born Canadian citizens. Using numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which captures billing information directly from hospitals, researcher Andrew Griffith found over 3,200 babies were born here to women who weren’t Canadian residents in 2016. Ontario immigration lawyer Gordon Scott Campbell said he’s had several clients in recent years who have given birth while in Canada while in the middle of legitimate refugee or immigration processes. For example, he said some women with visitor status live with their spouses while applying for spousal sponsorship, and some refugees arrive pregnant or become pregnant while waiting for their claims to be processed. But it doesn’t mean that birth tourism is a widespread practice, Campbell added. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen responded by saying his department has commissioned research to get a better picture of the scope of the issue in Canada.
RADIO – Red FM 106.7 Good Morning Calgary (Daily5) – Calgary, 23/11/2018 – News, 1-2 mins, 12/14, Punjabi

Tendance à la hausse au pays pour le tourisme de naissance – Haitian

Description: François Jean Denis – Une nouvelle étude démontre que plus de bébés sont nés au Canada d’une mère vivant à l’étranger que ne le croyait Statistique Canada. Les statistiques affichent une hausse croissante du nombre et du pourcentage de ce genre de naissances dans toutes les provinces, sauf au Québec. Le gouvernement fédéral étudie ce qu’il appelle le « tourisme de naissance » dans l’objectif d’avoir une idée plus précise du nombre de femmes qui voyagent au Canada pour avoir des bébés qui naissent citoyens canadiens. Le chercheur Andrew Griffith a utilisé des données de l’Institut canadien d’information sur la santé (ICIS) qui obtient des informations de facturation directement des hôpitaux. Elles ont révélé qu’en 2016, plus de 3200 bébés étaient nés ici de femmes qui n’étaient pas résidantes canadiennes, comparativement aux 313 bébés enregistrés par Statistique Canada. Ces femmes viennent au Canada pour donne la citoyenneté canadienne à leurs enfants. La découverte suggère non seulement que le nombre est 10 fois plus élevé que celui précédemment rapporté, mais que c’est une tendance à la hausse, selon M. Griffith. Le député libéral Joe Peschisolido a récemment déposé à la Chambre des communes une pétition appelant le Canada à prendre des mesures plus énergiques pour mettre fin au tourisme de naissance, affirmant qu’il porte atteinte au système de protection sociale du Canada. Est-ce que cela va remettre en question le droit du sol ? Désormais, plusieurs pays ont mis au point ou modifié leurs lois sur le droit de naissance, notamment le Royaume-Uni, l’Australie, l’Irlande, la Nouvelle-Zélande, l’Inde, la République dominicaine, la Thaïlande et le Portugal. Auparavant, des femmes venaient au Canada et partaient sans payer les frais d’hospitalisation. Aujourd’hui, les hôpitaux ont pris des dispositions pour empêcher ce problème. Aujourd’hui, c’est impossible pour des femmes étrangères d’accoucher sans payer parce qu’avant même de les admettre, on leur demande de payer. En tout cas, on ne va pas contester le droit du sol au Canada.
RADIO – CPAM 1410 AM – Immigration (Weekly) – Montreal, 24/11/2018 – NEWS, 3 mins, 02/04, French

Chris Selley: Maybe Canada has a ‘birth tourism’ problem after all

My Policy Options article (Read Story) prompted more comment. I agree with Selley in his critique of the over-reaction by the Liberals and the NDP to the CPC policy resolution calling for an end to birthright citizenship and the reflexive labelling of the proposal as racist or xenophobic rather than a measured response.

Which, as Selley notes, the government now has in its plans to study the issue using the same data from CIHI that I used in my article:

Well, here’s something curious. Last week the Liberal government announced it has commissioned research on “birth tourism” — that is, the practice of coming to Canada with the sole intent of giving birth, then returning home with a child who’s a Canadian citizen. “The government of Canada recognizes the need to better understand the extent of this practice as well as its impacts,” Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen wrote in a response tabled in Parliament.

It’s in reaction to new research by Andrew Griffith, a former senior official at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, published last week in Policy Options. It suggests the practice may be far more widespread than had previously been thought.

Earlier reported numbers from Statistics Canada, based on provincial records, suggested there might be 300 such births in a year. But a single hospital in Richmond, B.C., was reporting more. Griffith turned instead to the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s discharge abstract database, and found that 1.2 per cent of births between 2010 and 2017 in Canada, excluding Quebec, were to non-resident mothers.

That excludes refugee claimants and permanent residents who aren’t yet eligible for their province’s medical insurance; they are categorized separately. It includes people who aren’t birth tourists as we commonly think of them: Foreigners posted to Canada by their employers, international students, and Canadian expats returning home to give birth.

Even if just half of those are “birth tourists,” though — a conservative estimate, in Griffith’s view — it’s still more than five times what had been reported. We might be granting citizenship to more birth tourist babies than Prince Edward Islander babies. The numbers grew steadily from 1,354 in 2010 to 3,628 in 2017.

None of that is to say this is a massive problem. I say it’s curious because earlier this year, when Conservative Party of Canada members approved a resolution in favour of the most superficially obvious solution — don’t grant automatic citizenship to Canadian-born children of parents who aren’t citizens or permanent residents — the Liberals, along with much of the Canadian media, went absolutely bananas.

“The NDP unequivocally condemns the division and hate being peddled by Andrew Scheer and the CPC,” leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted. Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, lamented that the Conservatives “committed to give the government the power to strip people born in Canada of Canadian citizenship.”

Media consumers were told the policy would create stateless children. But Canada is bound by treaty not to create stateless people, as are the majority of countries around the world that do not grant absolute birthright citizenship. Even the Conservatives’ law stripping convicted terrorists of Canadian citizenship respected obligations regarding statelessness; there’s every reason to believe these changes would as well.

“(It’s a) shame to see the Conservatives going back down the path established by the Harper government, which seeks to strip away the citizenship of people who have only ever known Canada as a home,” a spokesperson for Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen fulminated.

You would never know it was Richmond MP Joe Peschisolido, a Liberal, who sponsored a petition asking the government to condemn birth tourism and figure out how to stop it. And you would certainly never know lawyers for Hussen’s department were in court arguing not to grant citizenship to two Canadian-born children of Russian spies.

“Only 34 countries grant the automatic acquisition of citizenship through birthplace regardless of parents’ nationality or status,” the federal submission argued (noting none of the 34 are in Europe). “This practice is not consistent and uniform enough to ground a rule of customary international law.”

This is a trick only Liberals can pull off: Deny a problem exists; denounce those who suggest it exists as despicable human beings trying to foment social unrest; later accept there may actually be a problem without the slightest bit of humility, and if possible continue denouncing those who think there’s a problem even while trying to solve it. It speaks ill of our political arena that they get away with it so often.

None of the potential solutions are especially palatable. Griffith suggests asking visa applicants whether they intend to give birth in Canada; misrepresentation could lead to revocation of the child’s citizenship, as it would have been acquired fraudulently. He suspects enforcement would be “virtually impossible,” however. And asking visiting women about their reproductive intentions is the sort of thing Liberals would scream bloody murder about in opposition.

The Conservatives examined the idea of limiting birthright citizenship but ultimately rejected it for reasons of cost and practicality. But after studying the problem more in depth, if the problem really is five times or more bigger than we thought, there is no reason not to consider it again. This is something nearly every country comparable to Canada does without violating human rights. It makes perfect sense: We don’t grant citizenship to children of foreign diplomats; why grant it to others whose parents have no personal link to Canada? There is something more than a bit weird about a country where such a normal idea can be met with such hysteria.

Source: Chris Selley: Maybe Canada has a ‘birth tourism’ problem after all

What the previous government learned about birth tourism: My article in Policy Options

Excerpt are my concluding observations:

All this being said, the number of births by foreign mothers should be monitored. Statistics Canada numbers may not present an accurate picture. The number of births to foreign women in Richmond was reported as 394 in 2016-17, greater than the 313 that Statistics Canada reported for the whole country for 2016 (see table above). The Richmond numbers showed a steady increase from 2010, compared with the flatter trend in national numbers. Statistics Canada and IRCC need to work with provincial health ministries to ensure more reliable and consistent data.

More focused measures need to be considered to reduce or contain birth tourism. Options include making it more expensive by increasing the deposit that mothers pay hospitals; making suspected birth tourism grounds for visa refusal; and banning or regulating “birth tourism hotels,” places catering to pregnant foreign women and the consultants who help make the related arrangements.

These concrete actions would be a more proportionate response to the concerns raised by politicians and their constituents, and one that should be pursued by any government to improve the integrity of the citizenship program and address public concerns about fraud and abuse.

It is also important that the motivation behind discussion and debates on birthright citizenship not be labelled as racist, xenophobic or anti-immigrant. The fundamental issue remains fraud and misrepresentation, not discrimination.

What the previous government learned about birth tourism

Richmond Hospital reports more “non-resident, self-pay” births than the provincial government reports “non-resident” births, due to birth registration discrepancy

An older article from June 29 this year that was brought to my attention following the CBC article thanks to Ian Young of the SCMP that helps explain the discrepancy between the vital statistics data collected by Statistics Canada and local reports:

The frequency by which birth tourism may be occurring in B.C. and across Canada is significantly underreported, however health officials in this province are near to closing a glaring reporting loophole.

For instance, a discrepancy between how births by non-residents are reported at Richmond Hospital and how they are reported to the B.C. Ministry of Health could soon be rectified by provincial health officials, according to a ministry spokesperson.

“In the past, the Ministry of Health has tracked non-resident births by the address listed by parents on a baby’s birth registration, which could be local or international. Hospitals will typically go by whether or not patients are paying out-of-pocket for services to determine if someone is a resident of British Columbia,” stated spokesperson Laura Heinze, via email last week, to the Richmond News.

“We are currently in the process of aligning these reporting methods in order to get a more accurate picture of non-resident births across British Columbia,” Heinze added.

The existing reporting system can create significant discrepencies in tracking because many of the non-resident women who give birth at the Richmond Hospital list their address as the “birth house” where they may be living at the time.

In Richmond, Chinese nationals are known to stay at such houses, of which there are dozens identified by the provincial government and numerous advertised online both in China and Canada. As part of advertised month-to-month accommodation packages, birth house operators typically assist women with anything from tour guides, passport applications, doctor appointments, some pre- and post-natal care as well as hospital registration.

And so, should the birth house operator list the address of their home business at the hospital’s registration desk, the ministry would not count the baby as a non-resident. Only when the true address of the mother is registered, does the birth become a non-resident in the eyes of Vital Statistics B.C., noted Heinze.

Whereas Richmond Hospital reported 299 “self-pay” births from non-resident mothers in the 2015-16 fiscal year and 379 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Statistics Canada only reported 99 births in B.C. in 2016 where the “Place of residence of [the] mother [is] outside Canada.”

Across Canada there were only 313 such births reported in 2016.

Statistics Canada told the News the Canadian Vital Statistics Birth Database collects demographic data annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all live births in Canada.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no government department or agency tasked with identifying and collecting data on births to non-resident mothers,” noted Statistics Canada spokesperson France Gagne.

From 2004 to 2010 the hospital helped birth, on average, 18 new Canadians per year from non-resident mothers. Numbers rose dramatically in 2014 and have risen steadily since, to the point where one in five births in Richmond are to foreign nationals.

While immigration lawyer Richard Kurland notes not all non-resident births are necessarily a result of birth tourism, Richmond may be at the epicentre of a burgeoning, and legal, birth tourism industry, whereby visiting foreign nationals seek to have “anchor babies,” who automatically become Canadian citizens under Canada’s citizenship laws.

Kurland said the key to good data is determining immigration/visitor status of the mom.

A national, public petition penned by Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk and sponsored by Steveston-Richmond East Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido aims to officially condemn birth tourism and study remedies to what Peschisolido describes as an abuse of the immigration system.

“Underground and unregulated ‘for profit’ businesses have developed both in Canada and ‘countries of origin’ to facilitate the practice of ‘Birth Tourism’; and the instances of ‘Birth Tourism’ are increasing in multiple cities across Canada,” the petition notes online.

Peschisolido disagrees with Conservative counterparts who have called for an end to birthright citizenship.

As birth tourism climbs in B.C., health authority files $312,595 lawsuit over one unpaid childbirth bill

Although the overall number of birth tourists is low compared to the total number of births in Canada (see What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone | hilltimes.com), appropriate to ensure that any unpaid bills are collected. “Birth houses” at a minimum need to be regulated if not banned given this is clearly an abuse, even if relatively small, of our immigration and health systems:

Record numbers of  so-called birth tourists, mainly from China, are expected at Richmond Hospital this year. Yet the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has no plans to deter women from having their babies at the hospital to give them Canadian citizenship, despite suing a woman for nonpayment of $313,000 for her delivery.

The lawsuit filed in April relates to a birth in 2012 that involved complications and kept the lawsuit defendant, Yan Xia, and her infant, in the hospital for an extended time. Xia has not yet filed a statement of defence.

Although the hospital reserves the right to add interest charges of two per cent a month to unpaid bills, a spokeswoman said that is not the plan at this point. If such interest were to be added, the bill would exceed $1 million.

There has been a steady increase in the number of babies born to non-resident mothers at Richmond Hospital, to 384 in 2016-17 from 18 in 2010. Halfway through the 2017-18 fiscal year, there were 189 non-resident births, according to VCH spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson.

While all pregnant women are asked to register well in advance of giving birth so that hospital resources can be planned, there have been no measures taken by the hospital to deter birth tourism, which now accounts for 20 per cent of its deliveries. That is believed to be the highest proportion in the province, if not Canada. B.C. Women’s Hospital discourages birth tourism through various policies and practices. At times, Richmond Hospital has to send local women in labour to other hospitals when it is too busy.

The birth tourism phenomenon is tied to several factors, including Richmond’s demographics, a preponderance of “birth houses” for pregnant Chinese women in the city, the large number of doctors and nurses who speak Cantonese or Mandarin, and an industry fuelled by brokers who charge high fees to make the arrangements for women wanting to have so-called “anchor” babies in Canada.

Stefanson said she believes the Xia case is the only maternity lawsuit over $100,000 so far. Typically, the health authority uses other means to collect unpaid bills.

“VCH has invoiced non-residents for approximately $43 million in (all kinds of medical) services in the past year, and has collected about 80 per cent of that amount,” she said.

In the Xia case, such efforts have been unsuccessful, and with a six-year deadline for legal action approaching, the health authority decided it was time to take that action. Xia’s whereabouts are unknown.

Stefanson said the hospital exists to provide health care and will never deny urgent hospital care to anyone based on their ability to pay or where they are from.

She said the health authority expects foreigners will have travel insurance or some other means of paying. Non-resident pregnant women who go to any hospital in B.C. are expected to pay a deposit of $8,200 for a vaginal birth and $13,300 for a caesarean delivery. If they stay in the hospital for at least a night, there may be additional charges. In the past year, VCH has invoiced non-resident maternity clients $6.2 million, and 82 per cent of that amount has been recovered.

An article posted on the “Hongcouver” blog in the South China Morning Post says Richmond is at the centre of the birth tourism phenomenon. It highlighted one “birth house” called the Baoma Inn and its Instagram account showing photos of smiling expectant or post-delivery Chinese mothers enjoying touristy outings around Vancouver. Also pictured are newborns asleep, next to their new Canadian passports. In addition to pre- and post-partum accommodation, the inn is said to be able to arrange birth certificate and passport services plus getting newborns enrolled in the B.C. Medical Services Plan so they can receive publicly funded health care after they’ve resided in the province for three months.

The Baoma Inn is one of the dozens of so-called birth houses in Richmond. It is not known what birth house the defendant in the VCH case used, or even if she stayed in one.

The South China Morning Post article pointed out that Canada is one of a few countries (including the U.S.) that offers citizenship to babies born in the country, regardless of the nationality of parents. By contrast, in China, nationality is acquired upon birth only if one parent is a Chinese national, similar to policies in Australia and Britain.

David Georgetti, the Mandarin-speaking lawyer retained by VCH to litigate the case, could not be reached for comment.

Source: As birth tourism climbs in B.C., health authority files $312,595 lawsuit over one unpaid childbirth bill

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