Our reply to the co-chairs: Petition to reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

Further to our petition on change.org and the email received from the co-chairs of the Conference, Jan Rath of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Spoonley, Massey University New Zealand, we have sent and posted on change.org our reply:

Thank you for your comprehensive and thoughtful response to our questions and concerns.

Under normal circumstances, holding a migration conference in China would be of interest.

Equally, in principle we do not disagree that cultural, academic and policy exchanges can sometimes be useful in generating shifts in repressive regimes and that isolation only worsens and alienates such regimes. 

However, this depends on the subject matter and country circumstances.

Is it appropriate to hold a migration conference, where so many issues are linked to human rights, in a country which does not enshrine human rights and the associated values of promoting integration, tolerance, academic freedom, multiculturalism, and protection of refugees?

While Metropolis may view itself as an apolitical network, the host organization in China, the Centre for China and Globalization (CCG), is not, as it is effectively part of the Chinese government through the United Front Work Department.

The decision to hold the conference in Beijing at a time of the repression of the Uighurs and other minorities along with general human rights abuses is in itself a political decision to turn a blind eye to those abuses. 

There can be little doubt that it will be presented as such by the Chinese government. We are also convinced, based on experience, that Chinese authorities will not permit a free and open exchange of ideas on relevant Chinese policy or practice. Foreign speakers will be discouraged from raising issues that might ‘offend’ the government, Chinese participants will be prohibited from doing so, and ‘minders’ will be present to monitor and intervene in the event of any real or perceived criticism.

While indeed all countries have “blemishes in its policies and actions,” there is a difference between China and the countries that have typically hosted Metropolis. 

Placing restrictive immigration policies among Western countries on the same level as the Chinese government “re-education” camps for Uighurs or its lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law lacks credibility.

The bilateral disputes between China and Canada have nothing to do with broader issues raised by the petition and its signatories.

To claim that “the Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate” when the host organization, the CCG, is effectively part of the Government of China, is not credible.

Once again, the decision to hold the Conference in China given the current circumstances is in itself a political decision and it is disingenuous if not naive to pretend otherwise.

Once again, grateful that you consider signing the petition (change.org) and spreading the word as the more signatures we get, and the broader the geographic coverage, the better (as of November 15, we have about 150 signatories, about 70 percent from Canada with the vast majority of the rest being from the US.

 

Response to our petition to reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

Further to our petition on change.org, the co-chairs of the Conference, Jan Rath of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Spoonley, Massey University New Zealand, provided the following response:

The International Metropolis Project has been made aware of a petition urging that Metropolis change the location of our 2020 annual conference which is  planned for Beijing in June. The argument that the petition expresses concerns about  the position and actions taken by the Government of China with respect to some of the country’s ethnic minorities and with respect to freedom of expression. Let it be said that Metropolis understands these concerns, which have long been voiced, and takes them seriously. But let it also be said that Metropolis has always been – and remains – an apolitical network that believes in the value of international exchange among a whole range of migration players and stakeholders, to enhance mutual understanding. It also believes in engagement and dialogue over isolation. We, therefore, stand by the decision to accept the offer of the Beijing-based think tank, the Centre for China and Globalization, to host the Metropolis Conference in 2020.

China has emerged not only as a major economic power in the world, but also as a country with a significant role in migration, whether in Asia or globally. For us to understand regional and global migration means understanding China’s role in migration, both as a country of origin and, more recently, a country of destination. To ignore China in the field of migration today is to have but a partial understanding of global migration phenomena. An International Metropolis Conference there offers a direct opportunity for members of the Metropolis network to meet and engage with their counterparts in that country and in the region, and vice-versa. We trust that this will foster an enhanced mutual understanding of migration developments.

The petition that asks Metropolis to re-locate the 2020 conference originates in Canada, which is now engaged in a sensitive and difficult diplomatic matter with China. This is no matter for Metropolis to get involved with. Furthermore, that Metropolis should choose to hold its conferences in any particular country is not to be taken as support for the policies of our host country, regardless of which country it is. No country is without blemishes in its policies and actions, not even those with enviable reputations regarding migration. That is why, engaging in international exchanges of the kind that Metropolis conferences facilitate is important to keep the dialogue going and to map out issues of interest  and concern in an informed manner. The 2020 Metropolis Conference in Beijing is being organized jointly by the Metropolis International Steering Committee and the Centre for China and Globalization. The Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate. As always, the program is set by the International Steering Committee, specifically its Chairs in consultation with the local host in Beijing, China. This will therefore be a regular International Metropolis Conference located in a country that, owing to its current migration dynamics, offers a range of pertinent insights for those who take part.

As we said, although we understand the concerns expressed in the petition and we take them seriously, we regard the petition as mistaken in its position that it is better to isolate than to engage.

We will, in due course, post a formal response but suffice to say, to make the assertion that:

“The Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate. As always, the program is set by the International Steering Committee, specifically its Chairs in consultation with the local host in Beijing, China.”

The Chinese host is, of course, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), part of the United Front Work Department, a branch of the Chinese Communist Party, that aims to project Chinese government influence.

Once again, grateful that you consider signing the petition (change.org) and spreading the word as the more signatures we get, and the broader the geographic coverage, the better (as of November 8, we have about 140 signatories, about three quarters from Canada with the vast majority of the rest being from the US.

 

Petition: Reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

As you may have noticed, I have been critical of the planning committee for the International Metropolis Migration conference decision to select Beijing as the site despite the country’s regime has been a producer of refugees and the UN and Amnesty International recognizing it is actively supressing China’s ethnic minority populations.

Examples can be seen with the Muslim Uighur minority through prison camps as well as suppression of the Tibetan minority.

The regime also regularly interferes with academic freedom both at home and abroad and uses such venues to legitimize its practices.

The Canadian government, moreover, notes that Canadians should “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

For these reasons, Howard Ramos and I have started a petition the International Metropolis conference steering committee to reconsider the location of the next conference.

We write to you to consider signing and endorsing our petition. More information and the petition can be found here:http://chng.it/PR5HX5ZsyH

Please share with your various networks.

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:

ICYMI: Petition to Parliament calls for end to automatic citizenship to end ‘birth tourism’

Again, the same small numbers. Again, the Conservative government considered ways to address this through working with the provinces or a separate federal system and the costs were too high relative to the small numbers (500 in their estimate) to warrant the additional costs.

Far better to continue to monitor non-resident births and prohibit consultancy services and ‘birth houses,’ and enforce the prohibition:

Thousands of Canadians have signed an electronic petition urging the government to restrict automatic citizenship rights for babies born in Canada to foreigners in an effort to stop what they call “birth tourism.”

The petition was presented in Parliament this week by B.C. Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Alice Wong.

The 8,886 signatories want to change Canada’s birthright citizenship law they say “enables an abusive and exploitative practice” where “expectant mothers who are foreign nationals with no status in Canada can gain automatic citizenship for their children born within Canada.”

Wong said the issue is “significant” in her riding of Richmond Centre, as well as other large cities like Toronto and Calgary.

She said “birth houses,” which are sometimes dubbed “maternity motels,” have sprouted up, operating as temporary lodging for pregnant women from other countries. Some are waiting to qualify for health insurance, while others pay for the hospital services, Wong said.

“Immigration and our diversity is what makes Canada unique. It is also important to protect the integrity of our immigration system and ensure that new Canadians join our country in a way that is fair,” she said in an email.

The petition notes that Canada is one of only two developed countries that have not moved to end automatic citizenship due to “widespread abuse.”

The other is the U.S., where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has controversially called for an end to “anchor babies.”

But the issue of “birth tourism” is flaring up in other countries as well. The U.K. does not have birthright citizenship, but British Prime Minister Theresa May recently suggested establishing passport checks on pregnant women at hospitals to crack down on the growing number travelling from other countries to take advantage of free hospital services.

‘Nothing’s right about it’

The petition says the practice of birth tourism can be costly to taxpayers for health and education and other social services. Once 18 years old, someone born in Canada can sponsor parents and other family members.

Kerry Starchuk, a resident of Richmond, B.C. who launched the petition, said Canadian citizenship should not be automatically granted when neither parent has any status or ties to the country.

She said she became aware of the issue after noticing a residence next door to her was housing a “revolving door” of pregnant women.

She believes there is a growing underground economy where commercial enterprises help bring over and accommodate women from other countries to give birth in Canada.

“Nothing’s right about it,” she said. “It needs to stop or more and more people will take advantage of the loophole.”

‘No plan to change policy’

The government has 45 days to formally respond to the petition, but Camille Edwards, spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum, said no change is in the works.

“Children born in Canada to parents who are temporarily in the country (except children of diplomats, other representatives or employees in Canada of a foreign government) are automatically Canadian citizens under the Citizenship Act,” she said in an email. “There is no current plan to change this policy.”

The Immigration Ministry does not collect data related to this issue.

Statistics Canada shows the number of births in Canada to mothers of residence outside Canada climbed from 247 in 2008 to 699 in 2012, the last year figures are available. But those numbers could include some Canadians who live abroad, but return to Canada to give birth.

Lori Cascaden, media relations manager for B.C.’s Ministry of Health, said non-resident births account for approximately two per cent of the 44,000 babies born in the province each year. She said residents of other countries give birth in Canada for a variety of reasons, including premature or unexpected labour.

Maternity tourism

She said the top priority is to ensure all babies are safely welcomed to the world, no matter where they are from. But non-residents must pay all the associated costs, with revenue put back into the system.

“The ministry in no way endorses or supports the marketing of maternity tourism,” Cascaden said, adding that “Immigration Canada should be responding to allegations of someone coming to Canada for the sole purpose of giving birth.”

B.C. has an eligibility, compliance and enforcement unit that monitors this issue, she said.

Source: Petition to Parliament calls for end to automatic citizenship to end ‘birth tourism’ – Politics – CBC News