The number of “birth tourists” in Canada has taken a dramatic leap in the last year, with Canadians increasingly concerned about the practice.
According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), between March of 2018 and March of 2019, the number of non-resident women giving birth in Canada hospitals has increased by 13%.
Over the last two years, the total number of infants born to birth tourists was 4099 — making up 1.4% of all births in Canada.
“It’s going up faster than immigration rates, faster than the overall population of Canada,” said Andrew Griffith, former director-general of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, who has studied the issue
“The laws were never intended for people to fly in and fly out.”
Birth tourism is the practice of wealthy women, typically from China, Russia, Turkey and Europe, coming to Canada to give birth so that their child is given Canadian citizenship.
Canada is one of the only countries in the world that allow birthright citizenship, meaning anyone born on Canadian soil — regardless of their immigration status in Canada — is automatically a Canadian citizen.
After visiting to give birth in Canada, most families return to their home country shortly after getting their child a Canadian passport.
There are currently no laws which can prevent birth tourism.
Birth tourism has grown dramatically in recent years. According to numbers provided by CIHI, the overall number of non-resident births in Canada has increased by 203% since 2008.
British Columbia has been hit the hardest by this trend. In Richmond, B.C., CIHI reports 454 foreign mothers gave birth to anchor babies last year — accounting for 11% of all birth tourism in Canada.
A total of 23% of all births in Richmond are from birth tourist mothers, up from the hospital’s report of 20% a few months ago.
The situation has been called a crisis by health care workers. Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C. says that birth tourism negatively affects the health care system, but there are no rules to stop it.
“We’re at a crisis, a tipping point, so it’s really important that some higher authority takes this on,” she said.
“Hospitals and doctors have no option but to provide service. We can’t turn people away if they are sick, injured or in labour.”
Canadians, particularly British Columbians, oppose the practice of birth tourism, with most saying it takes advantage of Canada’s healthcare system.
More than four in five (82%) British Columbians say birth tourism allows people to unfairly access Canadian healthcare and welfare. The majority (64%) of all Canadians say being born in Canada should not automatically make one a citizen.
While countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia have all enacted laws in recent years to combat birth tourism, the Trudeau government opposed a Conservative Party policy proposal to end the practice.