Canada, the true north strong and free, is the envy of the world and one of its most valuable assets is its citizenship. Before the Harper government left office they made sweeping changes to Canada’s Immigration Act, making it more difficult to qualify for citizenship. Meeting great opposition however, the Conservative government did not tackle the phenomenon of “birth tourism”, a subject that remains highly controversial, particularly in Vancouver.
Those who favour birth tourism argue that innocent children, born in Canada to a foreign mother, should not be deprived of the benefits and advantages of birth citizenship, saying that to ban birth citizenship is a racist response to what is a miniscule practice in Canada.
Kerry Starchuk of Richmond BC, a suburb of Vancouver, is an advocate for a ban on birth tourism. She has organized a petition to raise the issue in the House of Commons this fall. Backed by Conservative Member of Parliament Alice Wong, the petition was posted on-line in mid-June 2016 and quickly acquired more than double the 500 required signatures to be referred to the House of Commons.
The petition favours the elimination of birthright citizenship in Canada unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
Ms. Starchuk’s chief complaint is that her home for 28 years is now bordered by a “maternity motel” for pregnant women from China, one of several such homes in Richmond. Local Chinese newspapers and websites in Vancouver and Asia display advertisements soliciting Mandarin-speaking mothers, and promote the advantages of delivering a baby in Canada, suggesting that having a Canadian child will assist them to obtain citizenship as well.
Services offered include airport shuttles, language translation services, provision of obstetricians, and assistance with birth certificates, child tax benefits, medical coverage, social insurance numbers, and passport and visa applications. These maternity motels boast of healthy food prepared by professional chefs and describe views of the snow-capped north shore mountains from their facility.
China and Hong Kong are well-versed in the potential exploitation of birth tourism, a phenomenon they struggled with when mainland Chinese mothers travelled to Hong Kong to give birth in order to obtain better health care, Hong Kong residency, and the freedom to dodge China’s one-child policy. Until Hong Kong passed laws banning birth tourism in 2013, statistics indicate that up to half of all children born in Hong Kong had parents who lived elsewhere.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland presents the argument that this isn’t really a Canadian problem, citing the huge number of foreign workers and long-term visitors to Canada of over a million people per year, compared to 232 births attributed to birth tourism.
I predict that Ms. Starchuk’s petition will languish just like similar proposals to rid Canada of birth tourism.
Interestingly, Canada and the United States are the only G7 countries that permit babies born on their soil to obtain citizenship.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang