The public remains worried about the growing practice of birth tourism, despite the federal government’s defense of the current laws, which do nothing to stop it.
The growing phenomenon often sees wealthy women from Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere fly to Canada late in their pregnancy, give birth in a Canadian hospital to collect a Canadian passport for their newborn child, before returning home.
Current laws allow the children of foreign parents to gain citizenship so long as they are born on Canadian soil.
British Columbia is the epicentre of birth tourism in Canada. In a recent survey, 82 per cent of British Columbians believe birth tourism takes advantage of Canadian social services, and 66 per cent say it degrades the value of Canadian citizenship.
Nearly two-thirds also believe that servicing birth tourists will negatively impact their access to healthcare, maternal or otherwise.
In 2018 concerned citizens in Richmond, B.C. started a petition asking the government to state that it does not support birth tourism, and commit to reduce or eliminate the practice.
The petition was eventually brought to the House of Commons by MP Joe Peschisolido.
Rather than consider the concerns of the public, the government defended the current laws which give anyone born on Canadian soil automatic citizenship.
Last year, the issue of birth tourism popped up again at the Conservative Party’s policy convention when delegates voted in favour of a policy motion to “fully eliminate birthright citizenship in Canada unless one of the parents … is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.”
In response, Trudeau’s former top aide Gerald Butts started pushing misinformation about the conservative motion, stating “they committed to give the government the power to strip people born in Canada of Canadian citizenship.”
In Richmond alone, birth tourists accounted for nearly 400 of the births performed in the city hospital alone, up from just 18 in 2010.
Today birth tourists account for 20% of the deliveries at the Richmond Hospital.
“(The data) shows the steady growth in the number of babies born in hospitals to women who are residents of other countries, by absolute numbers and percentage, for all provinces except Quebec,” says Andrew Griffith, a researcher who has studied birth tourism in-depth.
“These births total just over one per cent of all live births in English Canada.”
Many countries, including the United Kingdom, India, and New Zealand, have all changed their laws in recent years to prevent children born to foreign parents in the countries from getting citizenship automatically.
The Trudeau government has made it clear that Canada will not be changing its laws surrounding birth tourism anytime soon.