Concept of ‘Birth Tourism’ sparks heated debate

At their weekend convention in Halifax, the Conservative Party in Canada’s government called for the halting of automatic birthright citizenship. This would mean that a baby born in Canada would not be guaranteed Canadian citizenship. Canada and the United States grant citizenship to babies born there but they are the exception to the rule. Countries like Australia, New Zealand and many European countries have amended their laws to state that a baby can only be granted citizenship if at least one parent is a citizen or legal resident.

Canada’s current law mandates that any baby born in the country automatically receives citizenship, even if the baby’s parents are not Canadian. This policy is based on the legal principle called “jus soli”(law of the soil) which has been in effect since the first Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947. Only the children of diplomats born in Canada do not receive automatic Canadian citizenship.

Recently, however, some politicians have been calling for a change in the status quo. Opponents of the current policy claim that the law is being exploited. The term coined for this type of alleged exploitation is birth tourism. In other words, when pregnant foreign women visit Canada with the deliberate intention of giving birth there so that the newborn baby will be granted Canadian citizenship.

Although the foreign parents of the Canadian born child does not gain citizenship, once the baby reaches legal age he or she can sponsor the non-Canadian parents to immigrate to Canada. According to an experienced Toronto immigration lawyer, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) set a goal in 2017 to welcome as permanent residents 20,000 parents and grandparents of individuals who received Canadian citizenship as babies or children.

Opponents of the existing law claim that this “birth tourism” is very costly for taxpayers. Canadian citizens, regardless if they were born in the country via birth tourism or any other means, receive a slew of benefits including access to public health care and subsidized education and social security programs.

According to data from Statistics Canada, in 2016 there were over 300 babies born to non-Canadian mothers – a significant drop from the almost 700 babies born to non-Canadian mothers in 2012.

The approved resolution stated its support for “legislation which will fully eliminate birthright citizenship in Canada unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.” The non-binding resolution passed by a narrow majority. On the other hand, the NDP party, along with some Conservatives, strongly oppose and have condemned changing the current law.