British Columbians Troubled by Birth Tourism, Call for Change

Although a less than reliable online survey, overall concerns among all British Columbia residents, whatever their origins, sounds about right:

Many residents of British Columbia are concerned about the practice of “birth tourism”, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative provincial sample, 82% of British Columbians believe “birth tourism” can be unfairly used to gain access to Canada’s education, health care and social programs.

“Birth tourism” is the practice of traveling to a specific country for the purpose of giving birth there and securing citizenship for the child in a country that has birthright citizenship.

Canada allows expectant mothers who are foreign nationals to gain automatic citizenship for their children born in Canada.

There have been reports of unregulated “for profit” businesses that have facilitated the practice of “birth tourism”  in Canada. Across British Columbia, 49% of residents say they have followed this issue “very closely” or “moderately closely” over the past year.

More than three-in-five British Columbians say “birth tourism” can degrade the value of Canadian citizenship (66%) and can displace Canadians from hospitals (63%).

An e-petitionendorsed by Joe Peschisolido, the Member of Parliament for the Steveston—Richmond East constituency, is calling on the federal government to commit public resources to determine the full extent of “birth tourism” across Canada. A considerable majority of British Columbians (85%) agree with this proposal.

Seven-in-ten British Columbians (73%) believe Canada should “definitely” or “probably” consider establishing new guidelines for birthright citizenship, while 18% would keep the existing standards.

“There is no substantial variation on these questions when the ethnicity of respondents is considered,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “We find that 71% of British Columbians of East Asian descent and 75% of those of European descent would like to see some modifications to the current rules for birthright citizenship.”

Source: view the release on our website

‘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.

Yet another petition on birth tourism

Likely a political response to the tensions in Richmond, where over 20 percent of live births are to non-resident mothers and positioning given the Conservative party resolution calling to limit birthright citizenship to offspring of Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Working on an article with more accurate and. spoiler alert, higher numbers which should be out later this month or early November:

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