Years after savage attack on newborns, birth tourism schemes thrive in NYC

While from the populist press, some interesting coverage of the birth tourism industry in NYC:

Three years after a deranged nanny savagely stabbed three babies in a Queens “birthing center,” the assailant will not face trial – and the unregulated, makeshift maternity wards for foreign women have only multiplied in New York City.

Some immigration experts call the “birth tourism” industry that supports these baby businesses a national security threat, as they aggressively promote themselves overseas as places for mothers to give birth to instant American citizens.

Yu Fen Wang was working as a nanny at the Meibao Birthing Care Center in Flushing on Sept. 21, 2018 when she attacked three newborns, along with two adults, while screaming she was trying to kill wolves.

Wang “was found to be not responsible due to mental disease or defect and was committed to a mental health facility” on Nov. 20, a Queens DA spokeswoman told the The Post.

All five victims in the bloody rampage survived. But baby Chloe Cao, then only days old and a New York City resident, has scars and nerve damage from the attack, according to family attorney Kenny Jiang. The two other babies and their families reportedly went back to China.

The Cao family has since filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Meibao Center’s operators, Xuexin Lin and Meiying Gao. The lawsuit remains active, and is pending the return of civil court judges on May 24. Their babycare center, now closed, was shoehorned into a three-family home in a residential neighborhood.

The attack opened a window into New York City’s thriving underground baby tourism industry, where moms-to-be visit the United States, often with immigration and paperwork assistance from one of these services, give birth in an American hospital, often on the taxpayer dime, and then spend weeks in recovery at one of these types of maternity centers. Often the facility is no more than a bedroom or partitioned space in a private home. The moms soon return home with their baby, a legitimate American citizen.

Shockingly, the 2018 bloodbath apparently did little to dissuade foreign nationals from continuing to flood these NYC centers, or to prompt local pols and agencies to begin cracking down on, or regulating, them.

The Post recently found ads for more than 80 local centers, most clustered in Flushing, advertised in Chinese-language media. A visit to several of the advertised addresses revealed each one to be in a private home.

A search of the phrase “going to the USA to give birth to a baby” last week on Chinese search engine Baidu yielded 6.3 million results.

The birthing businesses appear to be unlicensed and unregulated, and they falsely advertise overseas and on foreign websites by trumpeting deeply ingrained traditions of postnatal care. In Chinese and other cultures, relatives, friends or hired women often care for a baby in its first month of life while the mother recuperates.

“The New York Angel Baby Birthing Center … has been officially registered and certified by the U.S. government and operated in a personalized, scientific and professional manner,” reads one ad on a Chinese-language website. “As long as you have a U.S. visa, let us do the rest in realizing your dreams.”

Another reads: “Cross East U.S. Maternity Service Center provides a full range of U.S. childbirth services, allowing you to easily have an American baby with a higher starting point in life and more choices in the future … everything is governed by relevant U.S. laws. As long as you have a U.S. visa, you can leave everything else to us.”

Families, according to some online ads, are promised help with everything from the immigration processing to health care for their baby from a government-regulated medical facility.

“Our team will provide you with a full service from visa preparation to safe return to China, covering life, medical treatment and legal aspects,” reads one ad for the Ankang facility listed at 48-33 192nd St. in Queens.

Famiies often pay six figures for month-long stays at the centers.

The Post confronted nearly a dozen of the centers, and visited six of them, but inquiries were met with silence or denials. It is not clear if these facilities provide any other legitimate services.

The private maternity centers in Flushing are largely clustered around New York Presbyterian Hospital on Main Street in Queens and the ads often promote the proximity of health care facilities. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Birth tourism is “immigration fraud, a burden on the American taxpayer and a national security risk,” Marguerite Telford, director of communications for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., told The Post.

“I see this as a grave national security concern and vulnerability,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Mark Zito told reporters following the 2019 indictment of a Southern California birth tourism ring, saying he fears hostile governments will use the access of American citizens within their midst to “take advantage” of the U.S.

“Birth tourism can create U.S. citizens who … don’t necessarily share our values and may have allegiances to countries of concern, [who] can nonetheless return to the United States as adults with their U.S. passports in hand,” said Jon Feere, former chief of staff for ICE.

One immigration expert said that many “birth tourists” who have their babies in the United States are wealthy and connected with the Communist party.

No state or local agency contacted by The Post accepted responsibility for the fly-by-night babycare business.

The city Administration for Children’s Services said it does not license or regulate childcare facilities and directed The Post to the NYPD. The NYPD referred immigration issues to the “appropriate agency.” The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection said it had no jurisdiction. The city Health Department pointed to Albany. The state Health Department said it “has regulatory oversight of licensed health care facilities, such as hospitals … not places involved in ‘birth tourism.’”

Local elected officials who publicly demanded an investigation and reforms in the immediate aftermath of the attack, have also failed to act.

“Once we have the facts, my colleagues and I will work very closely to close any loopholes in the system to make sure that we will never see this kind of ugliness in our community again,” Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim said at the time.

Kim did not respond to more than a half dozen messages seeking comment. City Councilman Peter Koo also did not respond to repeated messages.

Kim told one local outlet at the time that a crackdown on similar “unsafe” facilities in Los Angeles “spurred a new market in places like Queens and Long Island.”

The feds in 2015 dismantled a group of maternity centers in California and then in 2019 charged 19 individuals with running a birth tourism ring that catered to wealthy Chinese women seeking U.S. citizenship for their babies.

One of the defendants in that case, Dongyuan Li, paid cash for a $2.1 million home in Irvine, Calif. and for a $118,000 Mercedes, according to the indictment. She has since pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of visa fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who represents Flushing, said days after the attack that she would pursue legislation, if needed, to prevent similar incidents.

But she recently told The Post that there will likely be no state action, that it’s an issue for city agencies and federal immigration officials.

“This medical tourism, maternity tourism, is very common in the Asian community, even for locals,” said Stavisky. “The certificate of occupancy, this is where the city can step in and perhaps check in on some of these things. Locally, the zoning laws are very lax.”

The city Buildings Department lists nearly a dozen services not allowed as home businesses, but child care is not among them. The City Planning Department, which oversees zoning issues such as commercial enterprises operating in residential areas, did not return messages.

Babies born in the United States are American citizens according to the 14th Amendment, a status coveted by many foreigners for the access it provides to education, health care, employment and other opportunities, sometimes funded by taxpayers.

The children enjoy U.S. citizenship even if they quickly return to their mother’s homeland and grow up overseas. These American-born children can then fast-track family members to become U.S. citizens once they reach adulthood, said Telford from the Center for Immigration Studies.

“American citizenship is still the most desirable thing in the world,” said Jiang, the attorney representing Baby Chloe and her family. “The scale of the problem is just amazing.”

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates 33,000 babies are born to women on tourist visas each year, while hundreds of thousands more babies are born to illegal aliens or mothers holding temporary visas.

Telford said the mothers commit fraud by visiting the U.S. on a tourist visa for the unstated purpose of having a baby.

“Tourists who come to the United States to give birth and receive taxpayer-funded public assistance to cover the associated costs of their births or have the expenses waived by a hospital do not have to pay back any of the funds in order to get a future tourist visa,” reports the CIS.

A 2015 study of birth tourism by Dr. Michel Mikhael of Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Calif., found that its babies had longer hospital stays, required more surgical intervention and cost more than twice as much as U.S. resident births.

The Trump administration in early 2020, in the wake of crackdown on these facilities in California, directed immigration officials to deny women visas if they determined the expectant mothers were coming to the United States solely to give birth.

And Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in January introduced a bill that would make it illegal to visit the United States for the purposes of having a baby. She said, “American citizenship should not be for sale.”

Source: Years after savage attack on newborns, birth tourism schemes thrive in NYC

And ICYMI, an earlier article by Graeme Wood on the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions on birth tourism in Richmond (will do a national update this summer once I have the CIHI data):

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many sectors, and this includes birth tourism in Richmond.

Richmond Hospital saw non-resident births drop from about 40 per month to an average of 10 per month in the first five months of the pandemic, a drop of about 75 per cent.

There were 57 babies born to non-resident mothers between April 1 and mid-September, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), who released the number in response to a Freedom of Information request.

In the previous 12 months (April 2019 to March 2020), there were 507 babies born to non-resident mothers at Richmond Hospital, which is about one-quarter of all births at the hospital.

During the first part of the pandemic, the number of babies born to non-residents was about eight per cent of all births.

Birth tourism falls under federal jurisdiction – Canada allows anyone born in the country to receive Canadian citizenship under a principle called “jus soli.”

Birth tourism is when women intentionally come to Canada to give birth in order to secure a Canadian passport for their child.

https://www.richmond-news.com/local-news/birth-tourism-drops-by-75-per-cent-early-in-covid-19-pandemic-3517019

B.C. city sees most non-resident births in Canada

More coverage of the latest non-resident birth numbers, including MA graduate Yousif Samarrai’s proposal to use SIN as a gatekeeper for those on visitor visas (in contrast to students and temporary residents who are issued SIN).

Those without a SIN would not be issued a birth certificate by the provincial vital statistics agencies (hospitals would still issue attestations of birth).

Like all proposals, there would be a number of complications, operational, jurisdictional and legal, but if doable, it would be a targeted approach that would reduce collateral impact.

Three hundred more non-resident women gave birth at a handful of Canadian hospitals in 2019 compared with the year prior, with the largest increases occurring at two Toronto-area hospitals and one within Vancouver.

The statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that Richmond, B.C., still registers the highest number of these births in the country, with 502, or one out of every four babies born last year involving women who are not Canadian residents.

The national tally of births from non-resident mothers represents only 1.6 per cent of all births across Canada last year, save Quebec, but locals in and around Richmond have denounced the practice of “birth tourism” – where women travel to Canada to deliver a baby who will then gain Canadian citizenship.

While municipal, provincial and federal politicians want the practice banned, Andrew Griffith said the data he obtained from the Crown corporation captures those women, as well as students studying in Canada and women who live here but who have not completed the citizenship process.

Mr. Griffith, an Ottawa-based fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former high-level federal bureaucrat, said because of the lack of precise data, the long-term impact of any birth tourists remains unclear.

It is legal for non-residents to give birth in Canada, which then grants the baby citizenship, but Mr. Griffith said changing birthright citizenship probably isn’t worth the effort at this time given the numbers.

“And if you assume that roughly half of those numbers are pure birth tourists, you’re still talking about less than 1 per cent of the total number of live births in Canada, and you’re still talking about less than 1 per cent of the total number of immigrants to Canada,” Mr. Griffith said.

“Are you going to penalize the 99 per cent to address a problem that affects the 1 per cent?”

The data show that after Richmond Hospital, North York’s Humber River Hospital had the next-highest number of these births last year at 329, followed by Mackenzie Health’s facility in Richmond Hill, Ont., with 287. Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital recorded 203 during the 2019 fiscal year, more than double the number recorded five years earlier.

Spokespeople for these various hospitals told The Globe and Mail on Monday they never deny or delay care to anyone based on their residency status, but they do seek compensation for this care from patients without medical coverage, with these fees covering the treatment.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said steps need to be taken to prohibit birth tourism, which he said is creating pressure on resources of the city’s lone hospital.

“It is fundamentally not right that people would adopt a strategy to come here and have their babies and then go back without contributing in any meaningful way to the local economy or paying taxes here or any other form of support,” he said in an interview.

In February, Richmond City Council wrote letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal and provincial politicians requesting a change to immigration laws to end “this strategic opportunity taken by people who have no official connection to Canada.”

A year ago, Joe Peschisolido, Liberal MP for Steveston-Richmond East, called on his government to end the practice of birth tourism, telling The Globe that he had spoken with then-minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship minister Ahmed Hussen about the issue.

On Monday, the federal Immigration Minister’s head spokesperson said Ottawa is focused on cracking down on immigration fraud and while “birth tourism is not widespread” the department is researching the extent of the practice to see how many of these non-resident mothers are tourists.

Yousif Samarrai, who recently wrote his master’s thesis in public policy on the issue at Simon Fraser University, said “birth tourism” has become so controversial in B.C. because unlicensed hotel companies in Richmond have been caught marketing packages to expectant Chinese mothers.

He said a simple fix to this issue would be to require a new parent to submit their own social insurance number in order to get a birth certificate – and the resulting citizenship – for their child. Every class of visitor to Canada receives a SIN except tourists, he said.

“The whole idea of changing these laws is you don’t want to impact anybody that’s coming here through legitimate means,” Mr. Samarrai said. “However, if we change the administrative way that people attain a birth certificate, that’s a little more practical.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-bc-city-sees-most-non-resident-births-in-canada/

‘Birth tourism’ articles in Vancouver press

Two articles on my recent release of the 2019-20 CIHI non-resident self-pay birth statistics (Birth Tourism: Non-resident births 2019-20 numbers show steady increase).

Starting with Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun:

The number of women coming to Canada to give birth, which automatically bestows citizenship on the baby, is expanding much faster in British Columbia than the rest of the country.

Richmond Hospital is the centre of the trend, often called “birth tourism.” New data released this week shows one out of four births in the past year at the hospital in the Vancouver suburb, which features many illicit “birth hotels” advertising their services in Asia, were to foreign nationals.

St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital, both in Vancouver, are also fast turning into hubs for birth citizenship, with the two hospitals experiencing a 38 per cent rise in births by non-resident women, one in seven of the total.Virtually no country outside North and South America provides citizenship to babies solely because they’re born on their soil.The newly released figures show there were 4,400 births in Canada in the past year to non-resident mothers, an overall hike of seven per cent. Ontario doctors still preside over the most non-resident births, 3,109, with one hospital in Toronto, Humber River, having a sudden jump of more than 119 per cent.But Ontario’s volume of privately funded procedures has not risen nearly as fast as in B.C., which had a total of 868 non-resident births. That’s a six-fold increase from 2010.

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information/Andrew Griffith

The new data, compiled by Andrew Griffith, a former senior director of the federal Immigration Department, comes from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which captures billing information directly from hospitals up until the end of March. It doesn’t include births in Quebec.

Birth tourism has recently been strongly condemned by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Liberal MLA Jas Johal (Richmond-Queensborough), former Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido (Richmond East), the head of Doctors of B.C. and others.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which controls immigration policy, has been silent on the matter. Former Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer said in 2018 he would end birth tourism. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has accused those who raise the issue of being guilty of “division and hate.”

In February, Richmond council sent letters to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, to leading B.C. politicians and to Vancouver Coastal Health. Council called for “permanent changes to immigration laws which would end automatic Canadian citizenship being bestowed on babies born in Canada to non-resident parents who are not citizens of Canada.”Last week, Mendicino’s department finally responded, saying the minister is aware “of the increase in births by non-residents in Canada” and promised to “monitor” it.“All levels of government are trying to pass the buck” on birth tourism, said Au. He acknowledged Richmond was itself failing to combat the dozens of shadowy birth hotels and agents in the city, which help women give birth in Canada for fees in the tens of thousands of dollars.Ads aimed at women in China who want to have babies in Canada tout luxurious accommodation, birthright citizenship in the “world’s most livable country,” 12 years of free public education, university fees just 10 per cent of those paid by foreign students, free health care and eventual family reunification for the parents of the baby who obtains the passport.Au said Richmond officials could be cracking down on underground birth-tourism operations because they don’t have proper business licences. But council and staff, he said, haven’t yet come up with an effective way to do so.

Au is also suspicious that hospital administrators and the few doctors who perform full-fee deliveries for foreign mothers are not countering the problem for financial reasons. “We don’t want our hospitals dependent on this income.”

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information/Andrew Griffith

In a piece on his website, Multicultural Meanderings, Griffith says figures provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information show all “non-resident births” in Canada, which includes women who give birth while here as foreign students or temporary workers. Griffith estimates about 50 per cent of the total are full-blown “birth tourists.”

After Griffith wrote a 2018 piece on the subject for Policy Options, three female academics responded by saying those who want to end birthright citizenship are “demonizing pregnant migrant women,“ “encouraging violence against stateless people” and “fuelling discrimination.”

Nevertheless, the academics supported Griffith’s call for better data. He lamented this week, however, that the federal departments that previously promised to link health care and immigration data to monitor non-resident births have “stalled.”

David Chen, the former Pro Vancouver mayoral candidate, has publicly expressed concern about birth tourism. He said Thursday that granting citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil “poses problems on several fronts.”

As a child of immigrants, Chen, who is now a vice-chair of Vancouver’s NPA party, said it “shortchanges those who went through proper channels only to see people with much more disposable cash jump the line and have an easier route to Canadian citizenship.”

Australia, Britain, New Zealand, France, Germany and South Africa have all, in relatively recent times, altered their citizenship laws to discourage birth tourism. More than 150 nations do not permit it.

While recognizing the issue is complicated, Au, a nine-year member of council, said he believes he understands the views of most Richmond residents, where the fast-changing population is now 53 per cent ethnic Chinese, 24 per cent white, seven per cent South Asian and seven per cent Filipino.“Ethnic Chinese feel the same as everyone else in Richmond,” he said. “They’re concerned.”

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘Birth tourism’ jumps 22 per cent in B.C.

Graeme Wood in Business intelligence for BC:

It was another record year for birth tourism in B.C., according to new data released by health officials.

The province saw a 21.9% spike in non-resident births between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, as 868 non-residents of Canada – the vast majority of whom are understood to be Chinese nationals on tourist visas – paid to give birth in local hospitals in order to garner automatic citizenship for their newborns. The prior year, 712 non-residents gave birth in B.C.

“Vancouver area hospitals continue to have the largest percentages of non-resident births, with an active cottage industry supporting women coming to give birth from China,” said researcher Andrew Griffiths, who first reported the new annual data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The epicentre of the budding industry is Richmond, where an annual record of 502 births to non-residents took place, up from 458 in the year to March 2019 and 474 in the year to March 2018.

Those 502 newborns represent 24% of the 2,094 total newborns at Richmond General Hospital. That is the highest total and share of non-resident births at a hospital across Canada. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s St.Paul’s Hospital is second in the nation, with 14.1% of all births being to non-residents. There, 203 babies were born to non-residents.

Non-resident births also peaked across Canada, with CIHI reporting 4,400 newborns to non-residents in 2019/2020, up 7.3% from the previous year’s total of 4,099, excluding Quebec.

B.C. figures do not include international students, who are enrolled in the public healthcare system. As such, Griffiths said B.C.’s figures are a more accurate indication of birth tourism (those non-residents who fly to Canada for the explicit purpose of obtaining citizenship for their newborns).

Griffiths, a former director general of the Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, said he estimates about half of the non-resident births outside of B.C. to be tied to parents on tourist visas. However there is no reportable data along those lines, as a federal review of the issue, first announced in November 2018, appears stalled.

“Hopefully, the work to link healthcare and immigration data will resume shortly, not only to provide more accurate numbers with respect to birth tourism but to improve our understanding of healthcare and immigrants more generally,” said Griffiths.

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Non-resident births by hospital, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Figure by Andrew Griffiths

Glacier Media requested information on non-resident births tied to patients on tourist visas but Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said such data does not exist and the task to obtain it from paperwork would be too onerous – although such data is what the federal government stated it would acquire in its review.

Canada is one of two Western countries, along with the United States, to offer birthright citizenship – a concept also known as jus soli – meaning babies born to two foreign nationals on tourist visas are granted automatic citizenship.

It remains unclear exactly what the federal government is doing to enact policies to curb the practice. To date, no enforcement measures have been announced, unlike in the U.S., which has convicted “baby house” operators of money laundering and fraud in 2019.

The U.S. State Department further cracked down on birth tourism in January, with a new rule that “travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis” for a tourist visa.

The lack of action to address birth tourism, which is widely perceived by the public as an abuse of Canada’s immigration system, has frustrated Richmond community activist Kerry Starchuk, who has documented dozens of “baby houses” in the Vancouver suburb offering accommodation and doula services for Chinese nationals, who typically arrive three to four months prior to giving birth on a six-month or extended tourist visa.

“It’s a joke. It’s so blatant you can see it. They’re advertising this in China,” said Starchuk.

In a written response to Starchuk, dated July 8, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it was “aware of the increase in births by non-residents in Canada.”

IRCC said, “While statistics indicate that birth tourism is not widespread, IRCC is researching the extent of this practice, including how many of the non-residents are short term visitors.”

Birth tourism is technically legal in Canada, in so much that nothing bars a pregnant woman from entering Canada to give birth, so long as they are honest with border agents.

“Providing false information or documents when dealing with IRCC is considered misrepresentation and has immigration consequences.  However, non-residents giving birth in Canada is not considered fraud under the Citizenship Act,” stated IRCC.

“Additionally, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a persons are not inadmissible nor can they be denied a visa solely on the grounds that they are pregnant or that they may give birth in Canada,” wrote IRCC.

Starchuk said the federal Liberal government has dragged its feet on the matter.

“I’m not interested in writing any more letters. I want action,” she said.

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Non-resident births in Canada by year. Figure by Andrew Griffiths

Richmond Conservative Members of Parliament Kenny Chiu and Alice Wong have proposed a hybrid jus soli policy that would bar those on tourist visas from obtaining citizenship for their newborns. Newborns of non-resident international students, for instance, would continue to obtain citizenship under their proposal.

Griffiths said birth tourism businesses in Richmond are at a stand still with COVID-19 flight restrictions and visitor visas from China down 72.2% between January and March, and down 99.79% by June.

A poll from Research Co. in February, 2019 showed almost three in four (73%) believe it is time to end automatic citizenship for people born in Canada (adopting rules used by most Western countries). An Angus Reid poll in March, 2019 showed 60% of Canadians want the law changed.

Immigration Minister Marco E.L. Mendicino declined to be interviewed on this matter.

Source: Record-setting year for birth tourism in B.C. prior to pandemic

Ian Young on How Local Chinese Communities Helped BC’s COVID-19 Fight

Ian Young does some of the best reporting on the West Coast. This profile demonstrates the irony of those blaming Chinese Canadians, whereas they were the quickest to understand the threat and react accordingly, and were critical of Dr. Tam’s (and the government’s slower response:

“Cast your mind back to the distant days of January, when the Chinese communities in Richmond started masking up, staying home and avoiding busy places,” Ian Young tells me.

Oh boy. By that time, my relatives were already frantically sending me lists of local places that a rumoured virus carrier had visited. My Chinese landlord in Vancouver knew my dad worked in health care and asked me to help him order boxes of masks. A Chinese friend, from Hong Kong, wanted to wear a mask on a Vancouver bus but was scared about what others might think.

But few other British Columbians were worried about COVID-19. This was before the ubiquity of physical distancing, before the mad rush to stock up on personal products. Dr. Bonnie Henry wasn’t yet a household name. Media were busy reporting on events unfolding in Wet’suwet’en territory.

Among local Chinese, however, it was a different story. Young, a Vancouver-based correspondent for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, was watching closely.

Metro Vancouver’s various Chinese communities — ethnic Chinese with ties to various parts of East Asia — felt the panic from overseas. News of something akin to SARS spreading in Wuhan went viral among B.C.’s Chinese before the virus itself did.

Many members stopped visiting Chinese restaurants and shopping centres, Young noted. The resulting quiet was regarded as a “curiosity” by people who weren’t connected to the city’s Chinese communities, he found.

Politicians encouraged people to support Chinese businesses, pinning the loss of patrons on rumours and racism. Health Minister Adrian Dix and others marched through Burnaby’s Crystal Mall, a popular Chinese destination with a wet market, in February to show their support.

Young didn’t mince words on Twitter: “Don’t imagine that white-knight stylings will make you the saviour, when what’s really needed is for Chinese folk themselves to feel more comfortable going out again like they used to do.”

Many East Asian locals had already started physical distancing by January. That’s because many had lived through SARS and had, as Young describes it, a “gut reaction and cultural memory.” (Young was the editor in charge of the South China Morning Post’s SARS quarantine team in Hong Kong, and likened the impact of the virus and the climate of fear to that of 9/11.)

It’s insights like this that make Young’s coverage of Metro Vancouver’s Chinese and the city’s ties to East Asia unique, especially when mainstream English media rarely have the cultural expertise or contacts. Instead, they tend to interview the same few Chinese voices over and over again.

Young, for example, recently reported on why chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam isn’t liked by many Chinese in Canada. Those lacking cultural and political perspective might wonder why ethnic Chinese might be so critical of her.

With the same kind of myth-busting, analysis and commentary he brings to his coverage of the local housing crisis, Young has been unpacking the pandemic as it relates to B.C.’s Chinese, from “maskaphobia” to the politics of health.

I recently chatted with Young about his astute coverage.

On the early start to physical distancing

On Feb. 8, Young took a photo of an empty Aberdeen Centre, a mall in Richmond, B.C.

“This was a profound thing,” said Young. “Aberdeen Centre to me is as close to a city square as anywhere in Richmond — I’m talking specifically about ‘Chinese Richmond.’”

The mall typically hosts holiday celebrations, fairs and community displays. The Aberdeen transit station attached to the mall was also where local residents on opposing sides of the Hong Kong protests clashed last fall.

“The food court has got 800 seats, and it’s always packed. You’re doing laps with your tray trying to find a seat. So it was shocking that it was deserted,” said Young.

“This was something that had entered the mindset of Richmondites, and [yet] it was barely being reported. The Chinese communities were certainly ahead of the curve. That should be acknowledged.”

It was only after Young pointed it out that outlets like CBC began picking up on the story.

On an expert’s response to the early start

Last month, Young interviewed a Canadian expert in new and re-emerging viruses who said he “absolutely” believes the early response by B.C.’s Chinese may have helped the province combat the virus more successfully than other jurisdictions.

University of Manitoba professor Jason Kindrachuk said more research is needed to determine the true impact but called the community’s quick action “fantastic” and said it “needs to be applauded and recognized.”

“There may have been a grassroots movement,” Kindrachuk, a former Vancouver resident who worked in Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, told Young. “What you have in B.C. is a Chinese community that was seeing the impacts across Asia [and] had been through SARS.”

On the unintended revelation of Richmond’s low infection rate

“I think there was this perception that went on for so long about Richmond being a hot spot of infection because there’s so many Chinese people,” said Young. “It plays to a lot of racist tropes about cleanliness and disease in general.”

One piece of fake news that went viral online showed Chinese climbing Costco scaffolding to get bags of rice, allegedly in Richmond.

According to the most recent census, 54 per cent of Richmond residents identify as ethnic Chinese. (Richmond is 23 per cent white.)

B.C. doesn’t share information on specific communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases, only which health authority they fall into.

Health officials have said this reduces stigma in hard-hit places and prevents a false sense of security in others.

“It’s irrelevant what community you’re in,” Henry has said. “The risk of this virus is everywhere in British Columbia.”

Richmond is part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. The figures released by government don’t let the public know whether a COVID-19 case is in Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore or a number of smaller coastal communities.

But in late April, Young tuned into Facebook Live chat with a VCH doctor who shared a partial breakdown of cases. Richmond only had 10 per cent of the jurisdiction’s cases, whereas 60 per cent were in Vancouver and 30 per cent on the North Shore.

On a per capita basis, Richmond’s rate of infection is 36.8 cases per 100,000 people. This is half Vancouver’s rate and about one-quarter of Canada’s rate of 120 cases per 100,000 people.

Young said Richmond had “a very laudable reaction” to COVID-19.

“I think it’s worth pointing out that despite being the most Chinese city in the world outside Asia, with all these links to China and Hong Kong, it had half the rate of infection of Vancouver just over the river. And I don’t think that’s captured as a fact in common perception.”

The public wasn’t meant to know these specifics. When Young put the numbers to the health authority itself, a spokesperson said that it wouldn’t elaborate.

On why Dr. Theresa Tam is criticized by some Chinese Canadians

Born in Hong Kong, Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has received plenty of racist hate online.

And she’s been criticized by high-profile conservatives like Ontario MP Derek Sloan who questioned whether she was more loyal to China than Canada and called for her firing.

But look within Canada’s Chinese communities and you’ll find people critical of Tam and her advice too, simply based on her record on the job.

“All these people in my ethnic Chinese circle were vehemently critical of Dr. Tam in ways that my non-Chinese friends and acquaintances would be very reluctant to state, fearing themselves grouped with racist rabble-rousers,” said Young.

“I’m not suggesting that racism gets a pass. What I am pointing out is that Chinese communities here are not shy about expressing things that some people in non-Chinese communities would be reluctant to do as a simple matter of solidarity against racism.”

Aside from bigots who seem to be targeting Tam for being a woman and for being ethnically Chinese, her connections to the World Health Organization have been a point of controversy.

Tam, who’s served on a number of WHO committees and missions in the past, is currently an advisor to the agency’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on COVID-19.

“It’s a hugely controversial thing in some Chinese community circles to champion the WHO because of its stance on Taiwan as a non-nation.”

The WHO has been criticized for uncritically accepting China’s virus data, parroting its messaging and being overly complimentary to the country.

On top of this, there’s also Tam’s describing COVID-19 as “low” risk until March 15 and her long dismissal of the need for the public to wear face masks. In April, she said that wearing them “seems a sensible thing to do”and on May 20 she said masks would serve as an “added layer of protection” when physical distancing is not possible.

“It really pissed off so many in the Chinese community, particularly those who believe the real successes that places like Hong Kong and Taiwan have had,” said Young.

“All sorts of highly-qualified people have praised mask-wearing. So we’re talking about big sections of the community fully invested in masks, and they see Dr. Tam basically flip-flopping, taking a position that’s neither here nor there.”

On ‘maskaphobia’ and where it comes from

On April 15 in Vancouver, a man told two Asian women wearing masks “Go back to your country. That’s where it all started.” A third woman who came to their defence was attacked by the man, who kicked her, wrestled her to the floor and ripped out a clump of her hair.

This was one of many racist and violent incidents against people who are or look East Asian, often in masks, around the world. On May 22, the Vancouver Police Department noted they had opened 77 hate-associated police files so far in 2020, compared to 26 in the same period last year.

Young interviewed sociologist Yinxuan Huang of the University of Manchester, who’s been examining “maskaphobia.”

“It is on the one hand a cultural conflict between the East, where wearing masks are pretty normal, and the West, where wearing masks can present a different meaning, even a sort of threat to some extent,” Huang told Young. “This cultural difference has become an excuse to legitimize xenophobia, particularly given that China is where the pandemic started.”

Wearing masks has made Asians in overseas communities “clear targets” of amplified racism, Huang added, which often stems from a perception of Asians as being bad at integrating with the mainstream society they’ve moved to.

Health authorities in Canada have expressed worry that if they recommend masks, then the public will start ignoring other measures such as hand washing and social distancing.

“I don’t think people are as stupid at health authorities seem to assume,” said Young. “They say that masks don’t work 100 per cent of the time. Of course they don’t! Nothing does. But the absence of 100-per-cent efficacy doesn’t mean they don’t help.”

Why Young isn’t afraid to engage trolls on Twitter

Young’s reporting on the role of immigration and foreign money in Vancouver real estate has long attracted Twitter trolls and armchair analysts in denial of his research.

His COVID-19 reporting has attracted a similar new audience, from virus skeptics to those who believe this all started from bat soup in China.

“I always try to engage, unless someone is outright rude to me at the first instance,” said Young. “For a lot of trolls, they can be quite surprised when someone engages and says, ‘Hi there.’ Some of them say ‘I dare you to block me! Block me won’t you!’

“You also run the risk of silo-ing yourself if your immediate reaction is just to block. I actually don’t block that many people…. There are some terrible people out there. There are hardcore irredeemable racists, but I try to converse. I don’t mind taking the piss a bit with them too. People treat Twitter different ways. I treat it as a conversation.”

On the divides and differences between ‘Chinese Vancouver’ and the rest of Vancouver

After decades of immigration, Chinese communities in Metro Vancouver have their own social networks, information channels and particular destinations. The pandemic has highlighted this parallel “Chinese Vancouver” and how it seems to exist outside of the mainstream.

After all, Aberdeen Centre, the popular Chinese “city square,” was empty of patrons in February, while Vancouver’s mayor had to shut down bars on St. Patrick’s Day in March and instruct people to instead “drink a Guinness at home.”

I put the question of these divides and differences to Young.

“It’s definitely not an enclave. It’s bigger than [an] enclave,” said Young. “We do have quite segregated parallel cities. But there’s different kinds of Vancouver; there’s all sorts of different ethnic Vancouvers. It’s an inconvenient thing to think about, but it shapes so many people’s personal understandings of what they mean by ‘Vancouver.’

“In Hong Kong, Vancouver occupies a huge space in people’s minds. It’s a special place. You watch Asian dramas on TV that reference someone in Vancouver. You go to karaoke in Hong Kong, and there are these generic videos filmed at Stanley Park or Kits Beach associated to versions of western songs filmed. Vancouver punches so far above its weight. But these Vancouvers aren’t a Vancouver that non-Chinese Vancouverites understand.”

On being a Vancouver correspondent for a Hong Kong-based international paper

Young is originally from Australia, where he worked in newspapers before reporting for the London Evening Standard and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He became the international editor there before arriving in Canada in 2010 and becoming the Vancouver correspondent.

“I’ve always been an outsider for various reasons throughout my career,” said Young. “If you’re an ethnic Chinese person in Australia, you’re an outsider for a start. That was the same in London. And when you go to Hong Kong, you’re an outsider for different reasons: my accent and because I don’t speak Chinese. But when I came over here to Vancouver, all that merged and I kind of ended up straddling a lot of different worlds.

“I do occupy a strange place. There’s lots of things I’ve written about that are huge surprises to people in Chinese communities when they see it in English.

“As a foreign correspondent writing for not just the Vancouver community but also people who are observing Vancouver from afar, there’s a different perspective. I think the fact that there is now a small community of foreign correspondents who are taking a foreign correspondent’s eye to Vancouver is useful, because Vancouver, like any other city, can be an insular place.

“When you’re a goldfish, you don’t know you’re living in a bowl. And when I say outsider’s perspective, I’m not just talking about me, but my editor’s perspective as well. It’s useful to understanding the city, not just for the people who are there.”  [Tyee]

Source: thetyee.ca/News/2020/05/2…

Richmond’s birth tourism hubs untouchable: MLA

Seems like more virtue signalling here rather than seriously arguing what the provincial government could do from a regulatory perspective (but non a high priority during COVID-19):

There’s not much that can be done when it comes to businesses linked to birth tourism, according to Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal – particularly if those companies have all their paperwork in place.

“The fact that they have a business licence means they’re not breaking the law,” said Johal. “I don’t think the city can do much about that. And even the provincial government couldn’t do much about that beyond discouraging this practice.”

A maternity and baby store, located at 8171 Ackroyd Road, is listed as the Canadian address for a China-based company, which is dedicated to helping pregnant women give birth overseas.

The store also operates a confinement centre, according to the website of parent company Mei Ya Jia Bao – translated by the Richmond News – established in Richmond in 2015.

That parent company, which lists its headquarters in Beijing, also operates Canada World Overseas Investment Consulting Inc., and Colombian International Travel Ltd., which provide travel and visa application services.

Incorporation certificates for all three companies, issued by the provincial government, are posted on Mei Ya Jia Bao’s website. Meanwhile, the website and service agreements are only in Chinese.

The website states the company has successfully helped more than 6,000 families in China travel to Canada to give birth, and offers service packages that include visa applications and confinement centre care.

After the families arrive in Canada, the website states they will make appointments with Chinese-Canadian doctors in Richmond.

Costs for giving birth are listed to be, at minimum, $60,000 to $70,000, and the website also states that living expenses in Canada will run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for a three month stay.

In a video posted by Mei Ja Jia Bao to Youku, a Chinese website similar to YouTube, a man introduces Richmond Hospital. The video also shows BC Womens Hospital and landmarks from around Vancouver.

Mei Ya Jia Bao is far from the only company to set up shop in Richmond – for example, Beijing-based Leading Baby states its Canadian branch is on Westminster Highway.

“My office did find advertising on websites in China promoting birth tourism in Richmond,” said Johal. “The fact that they set up businesses, an office here, is concerning enough.

“But the advertising and promotion of birth tourism is continuing here, so the federal government has to, at the end of the day, deal with this loophole.”

A video produced by Mei Ja Bao Er, another company, gives a short tour of Richmond Hospital’s maternity ward, while in a third company’s video a couple recounts their experience giving birth in Canada. Both videos, advertising to families in China, were also posted on Youku.

The fact that there are companies promoting their business on the web shows that nothing has been done to slow down, and ultimately stop, the practice, said Johal.

The loophole in the tourist visa system, he said, needs to be tackled at the federal level – and can be done via an administrative, rather than constitutional, change.

“It can be an administrative change, which basically states that if you come to this country on a tourist visa – which these people do – to have your child here, the child should not automatically be granted Canadian citizenship,” said Johal.

Once the message gets out that the practice is not accepted by the Canadian government, Johal said he guarantees it will slow down.

During the 2018-19 fiscal year, 23.1 per cent all babies born at Richmond Hospital had non-resident parents, or 458 out of a total 1,980 newborns, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) data. In the 2014-15 year, babies born to non-resident parents accounted for 15.3 per cent of all babies born at the hospital.

And while the businesses, such as the one on Ackroyd Road, are legal, the provincial government could help discourage the practice by increasing the costs to have a child in B.C., said Johal.

It’s not known whether foreign nationals are giving birth at Richmond Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic or how many have given birth so far this fiscal year, as VCH doesn’t have interim data or data on homebirths outside of its acute settings, according to a spokesperson.

It’s also not known how many families may have arrived in Canada before borders around the world were closed.

For Johal, that lack of information is a “challenge,” coupled with the lack of information on how the companies operate, how many mothers they help bring to Canada at any one time, or their health and safety standards.

“The fact that we have this business, and many businesses like this set up here, and it’s just a black hole when it comes to information is concerning,” said Johal, “and even more so during this period of COVID-19.”

Source: richmond-news.com/news/richmond-…

The secret Covid-19 rate in Richmond, Canada’s most Chinese city, isn’t what racists might expect. It’s dwarfed by the rest of the nation

Worth noting with the results likely reflecting greater awareness among Chinese Canadians and their networks:

Amid a spike in anti-Asian incidents in British Columbia during the coronavirus pandemic – from slurs to the assault of a 92-year-old man – Canada’s most Chinese city is defying racist stereotypes conflating ethnicity with the illness.

In Richmond, where 54 per cent of the population claims Chinese heritage, the rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases appears to be less than one-third the rate in the rest of Canada, and only about half that in neighbouring Vancouver.

BC health officials have tried to keep secret the Covid-19 prevalence in municipalities, citing the risk of stigmatisation in hard-hit places, or a false sense of security in others.

But in a Facebook Live appearance last Thursday, Dr Mark Lysyshyn of the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) authority revealed a partial breakdown of cases, saying that about 10 per cent of the 755 cases in the VCH catchment at that time had occurred in Richmond.

“The greatest number of cases are in the Vancouver area,” said Lysyshyn, deputy chief medical health officer with VCH, responding to a question from a viewer. “About 60 per cent of our cases are there. We’ve also seen a high number of cases on the North Shore, about 30 per cent of our cases there. And then about 10 per cent of our cases in Richmond.”

Photo: SCMP Graphics
Photo: SCMP Graphics

He said a small number – about 3 per cent – were in rural locations outside the greater Vancouver area, although he did not explain this pushing the total above 100 per cent.

On a population basis, and taking that disparity into account, Lysyshyn’s assessment translates into a confirmed Covid-19 prevalence of about 37 per 100,000 people in Richmond (with a population of 198,000 according to the 2016 census).

By comparison, the city of Vancouver’s confirmed prevalence is about 70 per 100,000, while the Vancouver North Shore is by far the hardest hit area in the VCH catchment, with an estimated prevalence of 121 cases per 100,000. The North Shore, made up of three municipalities, has suffered the deadliest outbreak in BC, at the Lynn Valley Care Centre where at least 20 people died.

All of Canada, meanwhile, had a rate of 120 per 100,000, based on the 42,110 confirmed cases last Thursday. That rate has since risen to about 143, as of Wednesday.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, has refused to give municipal figures for Covid-19 cases, instead providing breakdowns for BC’s large health regions.

The 2.5 million strong metro Vancouver area – which includes the city of Vancouver, Richmond and 21 other municipalities – is divided between two health regions, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health. Both health regions also encompass rural communities beyond Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver Coastal Health declined to elaborate on Lysyshyn’s assessment.

“Dr Lysyshyn was providing approximate numbers during his Q&A. To date, we have only provided case numbers for VCH as a whole, or in relation to specific declared outbreaks and have not released detailed statistics on a more local level, so we’re not able to clarify any further,” said Matt Kieltyka a public affairs officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

Henry responded to persistent calls that she release municipal data on Covid-19 cases in an April 6 statement.

“Simply put, the risk is everywhere,” she said. “It would be irresponsible to mention only a few communities and give people outside those areas a false sense that they are not susceptible or at lower risk. Every health region in British Columbia has people with Covid-19. Every community and hometown – no matter how large or small – is at risk.

“As we notify the public about Covid-19 cases, we have been careful about how much we disclose [about] the specific location of confirmed cases … there is still very much of a stigma associated with infection.”

Richmond’s medical health officer Dr Meena Dawar has similarly declined to provide case counts since March 19, when she told city officials there were only 10 confirmed cases in the city, the Richmond News reported.

There were early fears that Richmond – the most ethnically Chinese city in the world outside Asia – could have been a potential hotspot for the disease because of a large population of frequent travellers to and from China. The city is also home to Vancouver International Airport.

But Richmond residents were also early to take Covid-19 seriously and adopted social distancing measures long before being advised by authorities to do so.

By late January, many residents were wearing face masks and many of Richmond’s Chinese shopping malls and restaurants were largely deserted, which even prompted a short-lived government campaign encouraging people to return. Some Lunar New Year events were cancelled and by February 11, Richmond’s Lingyen Mountain Buddhist Temple had closed its doors, citing coronavirus concerns.

It would not be until mid-March that BC authorities ordered residents to stay at home and socially distance themselves from others.

Virologist Dr Jason Kindrachuk, Canada research chair in new and re-emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, said he “absolutely” believed the early adoption of social distancing by BC’s Chinese community could have helped suppress the disease in the province.

Such behaviour was “fantastic, it needs to be applauded and recognised”, he said.

About 27 per cent of people in the city of Vancouver have Chinese heritage, compared with about 11 per cent in BC and 4.6 per cent in all of Canada.

BC currently has 2,053 confirmed Covid-19 cases, at a rate of 44 per 100,000. That rate is far lower than the larger provinces of Ontario (117) and Quebec (315), while BC’s similar-sized neighbour Alberta has a rate of 119 per 100,000.

Vancouver police last week warned that a spate of hate crimes had been reported, including five anti-Asian incidents in March. In the only one involving violence, a 92-year-old man with dementia surnamed Kwong was thrown out of a convenience store by a much larger man shouting anti-Asian statements about Covid-19 on March 13.

“Xenophobia is on the rise and we hope that as a community we can stand together to help protect the next person this may happen to,” the Kwong family said in a statement. A suspect has been identified but no charges filed; police said they were still investigating.

Other incidents conflating Covid-19 with people of Asian appearance have involved abusive language, although the Vancouver Police Department declined to elaborate.

On Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said that “hate of any kind has no place in our city”.

According to a survey conducted on April 24 by Corbett Communications for a group called the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, 12 per cent of respondents in Vancouver agreed (4 per cent) or said they did not know (8 per cent) when asked whether “all Chinese or Asian people carry the Covid-19 virus”.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said on Twitter on January 29 that she was “concerned about the growing number of reports of racism and stigmatising comments on social media directed to people of Chinese and Asian descent related to #2019nCOV #coronavirus.”

BC’s Bonnie Henry said on April 6 that the key to avoiding Covid-19 was not staying away from areas with high rates of infection but adopting personal practices like social distancing and good hand hygiene.

“So, while I understand the desire to know and understand what the Covid-19 situation is in your community, I need to emphasise that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community,” said Henry. “The actions you take will do that.”

And the National Post analysis where travel-related COVID-19 cases came from: Canada’s early COVID-19 cases came from the U.S. not China

IRCC Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

No signalling of change or new studies or initiatives as expected (need to await the results of the IRCC, CIHI, StatsCan analysis of those non-resident self-pay on visitor visas compared to other temporary residents):

Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told the Richmond News the federal government wants to “weed out” abuses of the immigration system, but he added the principle of “jus soli” – birthright citizenship – has served Canada well.

Birthright citizenship has been in existence in Canada since 1947 and it is also a common practise in other countries, like the U.S. and some Commonwealth countries, Mendicino pointed out.

“There are families who do come to Canada and do avail themselves of this principle and they’re able to bestow upon their children Canadian citizenship as a result of this principle – along with that a number of rights and privileges,” he said, adding “it’s a principle that has absolutely served the country well.”

But Richmond has become known as the “epicentre” of birth tourism, attracting people who come to give birth here in order to secure Canadian citizenship for their baby. In the past year, 23 per cent of babies born at Richmond Hospital were born to non-residents.

Several businesses advertise – exclusively in the Chinese language – for birth tourism services, saying they will provide accommodations for pregnant women and help with after-care and paperwork.

Richmond council passed a motion on Monday to push the minister to end automatic citizenship for babies born to non-residents.

Mendicino said he “commends” the mayor and council of Richmond for having a discussion about the birth tourism and he will reflect on the motion that was passed. The issue needs to be monitored and tracked “very closely,” he said.

“I think we should express some gratitude to the City of Richmond and the council for examining the issue and advocating what the issues are within the context of the concern,” he said. “It’s more about determining and finding where the abuses are within the system rather than getting rid of the principle.”

Mendicino said the federal government is taking “concrete steps” to strengthen the oversight of immigration consultants “to really hold accountable any individuals who are trying to backdoor or take advantage of the system.”

He added the federal government wants to work with provincial partners and municipalities like Richmond to “weed out any abuse of our immigration system.”

There was a level of frustration at Richmond council on Monday – directed somewhat at Vancouver Coastal Health, the provincial government and the federal government – as councillors debated the merits and wording of a letter to push the federal minister of immigration to tackle birth tourism.

Voting against the motion were Couns. Alexa Loo, Kelly Greene and Michael Wolfe.

While Greene said she’s 100 per cent against birth tourism, she felt the motion was worded so that it could cause “disproportionate harm” to “vulnerable people such as refugees and stateless people.”

She said the harm would be exclusively to people of colour and she didn’t want to see at-risk people further marginalized.

“The motion should be to stop birth tourism,” Greene said. “It’s not – it asks to stop birthright citizenship for a broad swath of people.”

Coun. Bill McNulty said he sees birth tourism in his neighbourhood and called on senior governments to take action.

“I think this is an issue that really has put us in a vulnerable position – the two levels of government are totally out of touch with what’s happening in the communities,” McNulty said.

He also suggested the city needs to push Vancouver Coastal Health into action, considering 66 per cent of non-resident births in B.C. take place at Richmond Hospital.

Au echoed the sentiment that VCH should look into the issue, saying the health authority is “not willing to touch this.”

However, VCH spokesperson Catherine Loiacono pointed out this is a federal issue and health care professionals have a duty to provide care to anyone who needs it.
“Care is always triaged according to the safety of the mother and baby – mothers needing immediate care are seen first,” she added.

Nursing baseline staffing is based on patient volumes – not on census data. A staffing review in 2019 found that Richmond Hospital is staffed “appropriately” for patient safety and quality care, Loiacono said. Because the nature of giving birth is unpredictable, if there are increased numbers of patients, more resources are brought in, she added.

Source: Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

Richmond council asks feds to ban birth tourism

More from the epicentre. Good that they are also looking at possible local approaches:

Richmond city council wants the new federal minister of immigration to tackle the problem of birth tourism.

A motion by Coun. Carol Day to write to Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, urging him to end birthright citizenship for non-Canadians was supported by almost all of council at Monday’s committee meeting.

In the meantime, city staff are fining birth tourism operators on any illegal activity they may be running – but because there is no business license for birth tourism, they can’t be shut down for advertising birth tourism services, explained Cecelia Achiam, general manager of community safety.

“We do not regulate something that we could not approve, so birth tourism is not something that we could regulate at this point,” Achiam said.

This was challenged by the mayor, Malcolm Brodie, however, at the meeting, and he asked staff to find out whether it is possible to shut them down based on the fact they are an illegal business.

“If they’re doing something that’s unlicensed and not allowed, you’re telling me you can’t do anything about it – surely it’s operating a business without a license,” Brodie said.

Currently, staff will fine any activity advertised by birth tourism services if they don’t have a license, explained Achiam, for example, if they advertise tutoring services, the city can fine them if they don’t have a business license for tutoring – or if they advertise food services and airport pickup/dropoff services without the correct licenses.

The motion passed by council was to write to the new minister to ask for “immediate permanent changes” to end automatic citizenship for babies born in Canada to non-resident, non-Canadian parents.

Greene pointed out that staffing at Richmond Hospital is based on census data, but this would not take into account the quarter of the total number of births that are to non-residents.

“We’re definitely seeing service impacts – I’ve personally been impacted,” Greene said.

Of the countries that have birthright citizenship, North America is a desirable destination, she said, but this is something the “ultra-rich” only can do.

“It feels really unfair and it doesn’t feel right to shop for your citizenship,” Greene said.

Greene also criticized MLA Jas Johal for praising the U.S. government move to ban pregnant women from getting tourist visas, something Greene called “policing women” by profiling them if they’re pregnant when applying for a tourist visa.

The U.S. State Department put in rules more than a week ago that banned women who were pregnant fromgetting tourist visas to the U.S.

Greene called this a “horrifying violation of human rights.”

She said she wants the letter to reflect that Richmond wants to end a practise where “people essentially buy their citizenship so that we’re never ever in a situation where we’re policing women’s bodies.”

Greene also called for an amendment that talked about changes not affecting vulnerable and stateless people but this didn’t pass.

Coun. Bill McNulty said the accommodation rules need to be revisited, because birth tourist stays don’t fall under short-term rentals, rather the provincially regulated long-term rentals.

“I think there are many loopholes to be closed and I think the city can close some of them within our community,” he said.

This was reiterated by Coun. Harold Steves who suggested long-term rentals for birth tourism are actually turning homes into hotels.

McNulty also suggested sending the letter to all MPs in Canada since it’s a federal issue.

“If you want something to be done at the federal level … I think we have to let everybody know,” he said.

Greene was the only councillor who voted against the motion.

Mendicino did not return repeated requests from the Richmond News for an interview.

Richmond councillor urges action on birth tourism

Might be more productive for municipal councillors to have staff review possible zoning and other local regulatory options to help reduce the practice and the supporting “cottage industry” of consultants and residences than “virtue signalling” for a federal government policy change:

Birth tourism will be on the agenda for Richmond city council again.

Coun. Carol Day has brought forward a motion for the next general purposes committee meeting (Feb. 3) asking council to write to the new federal minister of immigration, Marco Mendicino, to urge changes to immigration laws in order to stop birth tourism.

About a quarter of the women giving birth at Richmond Hospital are non-residents, and in the last fiscal year, this translated to 458 babies being eligible for Canadian citizenship even though their parents weren’t Canadian.

Day’s motion suggests writing to the federal government to ask for permanent changes to Canadian immigration laws to end automatic citizenship for babies born to non-residents.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department implemented a new rule banning tourists if their intention is to give birth in the U.S. The new regulation allows consular officials to deny visas to pregnant women whose primary purpose is to give birth in the U.S. to obtain citizenship for their baby.

Ads are prolific on the Internet for birth tourism services in Richmond, and they are all in Chinese. However, anyone coming from China to Canada as a tourist must obtain a tourist visa before arriving.

Richmond Hospital set to deliver over 500 possible ‘anchor babies’ in one year

From the epicentre of birth tourism, a good profile on Richmond and the associated issues:

Births to non-resident foreigners at Richmond Hospital and Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital have risen significantly in 2019, according to the latest interim data released by the facilities’ respective health authorities.

Both hospitals are on pace to well exceed their prior annual records of non-resident foreigners who, based on available data, are likely to be nearly all Chinese nationals engaged in a birth tourism arrangement – although it is not known explicitly.

Since 2011, in Richmond, non-resident births have risen from a few dozen per year to the point where local residents and hospital staff are voicing concerns about healthcare delivery and immigration fairness.

Over the past five years, just over 2,000 so-called “passport babies” may have been delivered in Richmond from non-resident, non-Canadian parents.

Various services are provided to prospective parents via transnational maternity businesses utilizing local rental homes as so-called “baby houses” in Richmond.

The B.C. Ministry of Health claims it is now inspecting these houses and scrutinizing diversion rates from Richmond’s busy maternity ward.

Canada is one of two Western countries, along with the United States, to offer birthright citizenship – a concept also known as jus soli – meaning babies born to two foreign nationals on tourist visas are granted automatic citizenship.

It remains unclear exactly what the federal government is doing to enact policies to curb the growing industry. To date, no enforcement measures have been announced, unlike in the U.S.

Richmond Hospital is now on pace – for the year ending April 1 – to deliver 549 newborns to non-resident parents.

From April 2019, the start of the hospital’s fiscal year, to late August 2019, Richmond Hospital delivered 221 babies from non-resident patients not enrolled in the provincial healthcare system, according to Vancouver Coastal Health. The annual average over the previous five years is 390 babies from non-residents, or 18.6% of all births.

The interim 2019 numbers show a total of 863 newborns delivered in Richmond, meaning 25.6% of births at the hospital were to non-residents. Last year (2018-19), the percentage of newborns from non-residents was a record 23.1%.

Meanwhile, St.Paul’s Hospital – B.C.’s second most popular hospital for non-residents giving birth – is on pace to deliver 177 babies from foreigners, according to Providence Health Care data from April 2019 to August 2019. That would break a record of 139 new Canadians from foreign parents set the previous year.

Nationality isn’t routinely tracked but a tabulation by Richmond Hospital officials in 2016 showed Chinese nationals accounting for 98% of non-resident births. According to some birth house operators, Richmond is a popular location for Chinese nationals due to the city’s multilingual services and proximity to China as a Western country that allows such automatic citizenship.

Former Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido decried birth tourism as “an abusive and exploitative practice” in a July 2018 petition to Parliament. Peschisolido promised action from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; however, its minister has made no announcements on policy reform. The ministry is now studying the matter.

Prior to the Liberal petition, Conservative MP for Richmond Centre Alice Wong asked for stronger action in 2016 via her own petition to end birthright citizenship.

The Conservatives still have ending jus soli in their official policy book (adopted in 2018); however, the party remained silent on the matter during the 2019 federal election. Wong and newly elected Conservative MP for Steveston-Richmond East Kenny Chiu (Peschisolido’s replacement) stated before the election that they oppose birth tourism but support birthright citizenship. Last week, when asked to clarify his position, Chiu said his pre-election response for a debate questionnaire should have been qualified. He said those on tourist visas should not have their babies granted citizenship and the government must tread carefully to ensure people in transition to residency are not labelled as birth tourists. He acknowledges concerns over establishing a bureaucratic process, but he says many Western nations, such as Australia, have made the transition in the past.

Among respondents to a March 2019 Angus Reid poll, 64% believe children born to parents who are here on tourist visas should not be granted Canadian citizenship and 24% said they should.

Ending birthright citizenship outright in the U.S. would be more difficult as it is enshrined in the Constitution. In the 1990s, it had bipartisan support but that has waned. U.S. President Donald Trump has voiced his opposition to the practice but has only chosen stricter enforcement measures to date.

The Trump administration cracked down on baby houses in Southern California as recently as January 2019 when authorities arrested 19 people with crimes such as immigration fraud, money laundering and identity theft. The charges stemmed from evidence baby house operators helped Chinese tourists lie to border agents.

As of last month, the State Department plans to amend its regulation on temporary visitors in the “B non-immigrant visa classification” to provide that a temporary visit “does not include birth tourism.”

This will allow U.S. border agents to deny entrants if a birth tourism arrangement is suspected. In Canada, a border agent has no such powers, particularly if the person entering is honest about the arrangement and can prove sufficient funds during their stay, according to Canada Border Services Agency.

Critics – such as Megan Gaucher, professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University, and Lindsay Larios, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University studying reproductive justice – have recently likened birth tourism media reports as “dangerous discourse” that may be predicated on longstanding racist and sexist immigration legacies that “perpetuate the criminalization and surveillance of racialized pregnant non-resident women.”

They say the non-resident birth data is unclear as it doesn’t discern between a wealthy birth tourist and a vulnerable temporary resident whose motives may not be so explicit.

Indeed, while national numbers on non-resident births are on the rise, it is not known explicitly how many are due to birth tourism, since motives are not known.

Discharge data obtained from the Canadian Institute for Health Information by researcher Andrew Griffiths shows uninsured, self-paying non-residents accounted for 4,099 births in Canada in 2018, whereas they only accounted for 1,354 in 2010. Ontario accounted for 2,917 such births in 2018 whereas B.C. accounted for 712.

Other than Ontario’s large population, the high number of such births there could be because a non-insured, non-resident could be a temporary foreign worker before being enrolled in public healthcare or an international student. But in B.C., international students are included in the Medical Services Plan, unlike in Ontario, meaning non-resident birth stats in B.C. are likely more reflective of explicit instances of birth tourism than in Ontario.

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix says he’s been asked a number of times what he is doing about the increased number of foreigners into maternity wards in Metro Vancouver.

Dix says he’s opposed to the practice but is mindful the numbers remain relatively small about 2% of all births in the province are to non-residents.

“Primarily, the birth tourism question is an immigration question,” Dix said.

“People get frustrated when I say that.”

He said his role as health minister is to ensure healthcare is delivered properly.

The Ministry of Health told Glacier Media, that it has investigated baby houses in Richmond, only to find no violations.

“Vancouver Coastal Health Authority inspectors have inspected presumed birth houses and found that there was no licensable care being provided, as defined under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act,” said ministry spokesperson Jean-Marc Prevost.

Dix said, “On the birth house question, if they were providing healthcare services there and not just accommodation services … they need to comply with the Community Care and Assisted Living Act – but they’re basically not” providing such services, asserted Dix.

Another concern raised by healthcare workers, such as nurses in the maternity ward, is the non-payment by non-residents.

The health authority says recovery rates are getting better now at 92% of $5.4 million collected in the 2018-19 fiscal year at Richmond Hospital, for instance.

Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal has suggested the health authority charge a prohibitive fee for non-resident births; however, according to Prevost, this would be contrary to Section 10 of the Hospital Insurance Act, which “only allows health authorities to recover the costs of providing non-beneficiaries medical services; it provides no mechanism for charging for profit.”

That said, while fees are set on a direct cost-recovery basis, according to a ministry spokesperson in March 2018, such fees do not account for things such as the capital costs to build new hospitals (Richmond needs a new acute care tower) or the countless hours public officials and communities have put in over the decades to build a safe and regulated healthcare system.

As it stands, Vancouver Coastal Health charges $8,200 for a normal vaginal delivery and $13,300 for a C-section surgical delivery to uninsured patients.

Dix said charging above cost recovery, if it were permitted by law, would have unintended consequences, such as overcharging a person awaiting residency status and healthcare coverage or a non-resident Canadian citizen (which is rare since only one or two Canadians pay to give birth in Richmond as non-residents each year, on average).

“What you want to do is charge the cost of the care across the board and ensure that you collect the cost of care,” Dix said. “If you impose special taxes and fees, that has implications for the whole healthcare system.”

The minister also voiced concern about calls by some, such as Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, to license and regulate the industry.

“The problem you have if you want to regulate that sector is effectively you’re officialising the role of these places, which we absolutely are not going to do – I am against this, birth tourism, and we’re dealing with it because we have to and we’re an open society and people come here – but if we want to deal with these questions you have to deal with it at the federal level.”

Nurses in Richmond have told Glacier Media, and more recently the CBC’s Fifth Estate, that non-resident patients are receiving better care. One stated to CBC this month that scheduled C-sections for non-residents are never re-scheduled, whereas local residents’ are.

Dix dismissed the allegations as well as concerns over diversions due to an overbooked maternity ward in Richmond.

“On diversion, in general this is not a significant issue” in Richmond, he said. “The biggest diversion issues I’m dealing with are in Fort Nelson or in First Nations communities.”

Vancouver Coastal Health says between April 2018 and September 2019 there were 16 diversions from Richmond Hospital and 15 diversions to it. In 2019, the authority conducted a staffing review that found the Richmond Hospital maternity ward is “staffed appropriately,” said Prevost. “They have had no capacity issues for labour or delivery in recent years.”

The health authority, via freedom of information requests, disclosed that in a six-month period in 2019, hospitals received $514,476 in cash from $3.25 million worth of maternity related charges. The health authority has been asked whether it reports to FINTRAC when receiving sums of cash over $10,000. Glacier Media has not received a response.

Source: https://www.vancourier.com/richmond-hospital-set-to-deliver-over-500-possible-anchor-babies-in-one-year-1.24058984