Colby Cosh: Vancouver’s birth-tourism issue could soon become Ottawa’s problem

More on birth tourism and good summary of some of the issues involved.

Will remain to see if the Conservatives decide to address the issue or not in their election platform or one of Andrew Scheer’s policy speeches beyond his earlier policy statement (SCHEER STATEMENT ON BIRTH TOURISM | Press & Media, “ending birth tourism will be among the objectives of our policy”):

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned

Is birthright citizenship doomed in Canada? An omen appeared in Friday morning’s Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal did some research and presented the paper with a number of examples of online advertising from Chinese websites that tout the benefits of intentionally delivering an anchor baby on Canadian soil.

The ads suggest that brokers are offering “one-stop shopping” for pregnant women: they promise to set up housing, transportation, and perinatal care, all so that the blessed event itself can happen in a comfortable, clean, high-quality Canadian hospital. This gives your child the golden ticket of Canadian citizenship — coming as it does with access to superior Canadian education, Canadian welfare and social insurance, and widespread visa-free international travel.

In turn, your Canadian infant can one day serve as your own access point for Canada’s family-reunification immigration stream. Or you may set your eyes on higher vistas: one ad says enticingly that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.” (The Sun says that it checked Johal’s translations from the Chinese.)

Last year there was a controversy over birth tourism when the Conservatives voted at their annual convention to eliminate automatic citizenship for the children of non-citizens born in Canada. This policy plank was contentious at the time, and the Conservatives were denounced for even discussing the issue. Nobody, of course, was willing to defend birth tourism as such. You would have to be a pretty extreme advocate of open borders to say, on being presented with Chinese ads for birth-tourism brokers, that these are legitimate businesses serving a noble purpose to the benefit of Canada. (Although it might be true!)

The complaint against the Conservatives was not that automatic “jus soli” citizenship for everybody born here makes sense as an eternal, universal principle, but that birth tourism just doesn’t happen enough to be a problem. The question now being raised — the question that Johal’s folder of ads is likely to emphasize — is whether anybody was really bothering to check.

In November, Andrew Griffith, a former senior bureaucrat in the federal Citizenship and Immigration department, did some research using hospital finance statistics from the Canadian Institution for Health Information (CIHI). Griffith found that the numbers of non-residents giving birth in Canadian hospitals was growing, that they are approaching 10 per cent of all births at a few urban hospitals, and that for one enormous outlier they are twice that. And, surprise! The outlier is the Richmond Hospital in Richmond, B.C.

These numbers are still not enormous (against a national background), and they include some births that obviously are not “tourism,” within families that are in Canada for study or business. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine a non-tourism explanation for the patterns Griffith found. The situation at the Richmond Hospital had already been noticed locally, and had become a pet issue of local Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido.

Johal challenged B.C.’s health minister, the former provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, on birth tourism in a legislature committee this week. Dix did not give the natural New Democrat answer that jus soli citizenship is sacred. He said he was concerned about the tourism issue, that he doesn’t support or favour birth tourism, and that only Ottawa can do something about it — “if they want to act.”

This does not sound to me like an issue that is likely to remain confined to B.C. in the long run, or to be easy for the federal Liberals to deflect if it emerges. It is hard to imagine the provinces being able to limit birth tourism at the hospital level: a woman standing in a Canadian emergency room in a pool of amniotic fluid is going to receive care whatever her own citizenship or other bona fides are. Preventing anchor-baby births by means of the visa process, Griffith acknowledges, “would be virtually impossible.” The humane solution to the problem, if it is a problem, must involve putting new restrictions on birthright citizenship.

Canada’s constitution does not specify automatic jus soli citizenship, explicitly or otherwise. The enterprising gadfly lawyer Rocco Galati tried to argue the opposite in a case that reached the Federal Court in 2015, and he got his head handed to him by Justice Donald Rennie, who piled up eons of British and Canadian law and concluded that “Nationality and citizenship are entirely statutory constructs.” Canada has tinkered with the rules concerning the children of its citizens born abroad several times, and now restricts “jus sanguinis” (inherited citizenship) to one generation in most cases.

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest that we can make such a change affecting persons descended solely from undoubted Canadian citizens, but that children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned. I sense, however, that making exactly this argument will be the initial instinct of a Trudeau government, if it comes to that.

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