OTTAWA – With new research showing that more babies are born in Canada to foreigners than was realized by Statistics Canada, the federal government is studying the problem of "birth tourism" in hopes of better understanding how many women are traveling to Canada to have babies born Canadian citizen.
Using figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which captures direct billing information from hospitals, researcher Andrew Griffith found more than 3,200 babies born here for non-Canadian women in 2016 – compared to 313 babies recorded by Statistics Canada.
The findings show not only higher numbers than previously reported, but that is a growing trend, Griffith said.
"(Data) shows a steady growth in the number of babies born in hospitals for women who are residents of other countries, in absolute numbers and percentages, for all provinces except Quebec," Griffith wrote in an article in Policy Options, published by the Institute Public Policy Research. "This birth totaled more than one percent of all live births in British Canada."
& # 39; Not a widespread practice & # 39 ;: Hussen
A recent petition filed in the House of Commons by Liberal Parliament Member Joe Peschisolido called on Canada to take stronger steps to end birth tourism, saying it was abusing Canada's social welfare system.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen responded by saying that his department had commissioned research to get a better picture of the scope of the problem in Canada.
"While these statistics show that this is not a widespread practice, the Canadian government recognizes the need to better understand the extent of this practice and its impact," Hussen said in his response, submitted in Parliament.
The department has commissioned CIHI to conduct this research.
The issue called birth tourism has become polarization in Canada, with Liberals defending the current law which gives automatic citizenship to anyone born on Canadian land except children of foreign diplomats.
(Data) shows a steady growth in the number of babies born in hospitals for women living in other countries, with absolute numbers and percentages, for all provinces except Quebec.Andrew Griffith
Conservative party members issued a policy resolution during this summer's two-year convention calling on the government to end citizenship rights "unless one parent of a child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada."
Leader Andrew Scheer said at that time one of his goals was to end the practice of women who came to Canada only to give birth to a child who would automatically have Canadian citizenship.
The Harper government considers policy changes
Other countries have ended or modified their birth citizenship laws, including Britain, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, India, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and Portugal. Recently, US President Donald Trump threatened to end birth rights citizenship in the United States, although critics argue such changes could violate the country's constitution.
Canada is indeed exploring changing Canada's birthright policies that exist under Conservative government Stephen Harper. The work finally found that changes to the law would have a significant impact, according to a senior government official who spoke to the Canadian Press in the background.
Many Canadians – 40 percent or more – do not have passports and use birth certificates to prove their citizenship. Changes in birth citizenship rules will mean they need a new form of identification to prove their citizenship and obtain government services.
Estimates for 2013 set the cost of changing the rules at $ 20 million to $ 30 million, plus $ 7 million in additional costs for the federal government every year, said senior officials. He further noted this does not include costs to provinces and regions, which would be higher because they are responsible for more personal documents than the federal government.
Andrew Francis Wallace through Getty Images TORONTO, ON – DESEMBER 3 – Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship before announcing the federal government's plan to speed up inventory of the Live-in Care Program in 2018, December 3, 2017. (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star via Getty Image)
TORONTO, ON – DESEMBER 3 – Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship before announcing the federal government's plan to speed up inventory of the Live-in Care Program in 2018, December 3, 2017. (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star via Getty Image)
Conservatives do not change policy. Also Liberals, said Mathieu Genest, spokesman for Hussen.
"The birth-in-land principle has been enshrined in our law since the first Canadian citizenship emerged in 1947. This change of principle was planned by Harper Conservatives, but was abandoned after listening to expert advice," Genest said. But the Immigration Department still wants a better understanding of what is happening.
Griffith said he was inspired to investigate the question of how prevalent birth tourism is in Canada after he recorded the number of non-resident births reported for Richmond Hospital at B.C. disproportionate to all countries, as calculated by Statistics Canada.
The data he collected from CIHI captures the number of mothers who pay out-of-pocket for their hospital bills, which are at least five times higher. He acknowledged that this would include Canadian expatriates and foreign students whose hospital fees were not covered by Medicare Canada.
It seems very punitive, even misogynistic, arguably, to say that no woman can get pregnant or become pregnant if you are not a permanent resident or Canadian citizen.Scott Campbell
Ontario immigration lawyer Gordon Scott Campbell said he had several clients in the past few years who had given birth in Canada while in the midst of a legal refugee or immigration process.
For example, he said some women with the status of visitors stayed with their partners when applying for partner sponsorship, and some refugees arrived pregnant or pregnant while waiting for their claims to be processed.
"It seems very punitive, even misogynistic, arguably, to say that no woman can get pregnant or get pregnant if you are not a permanent resident or Canadian citizen," Campbell said.
"Are we talking about three people every year, four people every year, flying to Canada (to give birth)?" He asked. "I'm not sure we even have any evidence. There may be anecdotal evidence there in media articles, but if we speak two or three people per year, that is not a national crisis that justifies the law."
Women cannot be refused admission because of pregnancy
Vancouver Coastal Health, the authority overseeing Richmond Hospital, said Thursday that taxpayers do not pay for the birth of non-residents. The agency provides its own statistics, which are slightly different from Griffith's findings but also do not match the number of non-resident births in Canada reported by Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada says it produces data from demographic information provided by recording vital statistics in the province and region. Parents complete this registration form and are responsible for submitting it to local registrars, the agency said. Griffith believes that Statistics Canada might record a lower number of non-resident births because parents place local addresses on this form that are not their actual permanent addresses.
As part of his response to Parliament, Hussen said Canada did not collect information whether a woman was pregnant when entering Canada, or that a woman could not be legally refused to enter solely because she was pregnant or giving birth in Canada.
With files from Laura Kane in Vancouver
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