The case for and against “birth tourism”

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Pradip Rodrigues

At the Conservatives’ recently concluded party convention in Halifax last week, delegates voted on a motion to end a birthright citizenship policy that gives citizenship to babies born in Canada even if their parents aren’t Canadian citizens.

This has been a contentious issue for millions of Canadians who’ve seen it being abused and want it stopped. The motion calls for an end to birthright citizenship for anyone who doesn’t have a parent who is a Canadian citizen or is a permanent resident.

Currently, anyone born on Canadian soil receives Canadian citizenship whether he/she or whatever and his parents like it or not.

Like in the US, this has spurred the growth of the “birth tourism” industry where mostly wealthy pregnant women from many third world countries fly in as tourists and then deliver their babies which cost them around $10,000 (ironically it costs Canadians roughly $10,000 for their estimated funeral expenses) but that is a really small investment for having literally ‘bought’ their child a Canadian passport which would then allow him to legally move to Canada at age 18 and even sponsor his parents. So instead of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to educate their children as foreign students in the future, all that could be a lot cheaper if he or she is “Canadian” and don’t forget the free healthcare.

There have been numerous calls in the past to stop the abuse of this by foreigners intent on having “passport babies” in Canada. While most delegates went along with the motion, Alberta’s MP Deepak Obhrai ended up sounding a bit like PM Justin Trudeau in his opposition. “This is a fundamental question of equality out here. Any person who is born in Canada, by law, is entitled to be a Canadian,” we cannot choose who is going to be a Canadian and who is not going to be a Canadian.”

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Just in case that trenchant argument wasn’t enough, he felt obliged to add that his “fundamental belief” was that a Canadian is a Canadian.

In 2016, thousands of Canadians signed an electronic petition urging the government to restrict automatic citizenship rights for babies born in Canada to foreigners in an effort to stop what they call “birth tourism.”

That petition was presented in Parliament by B.C. Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Alice Wong.

The 8,886 signatories want to change Canada’s birthright citizenship law they say “enables an abusive and exploitative practice” where “expectant mothers who are foreign nationals with no status in Canada can gain automatic citizenship for their children born within Canada.” She said “birth houses,” which are sometimes dubbed “maternity motels,” serve as temporary lodging for pregnant women from other countries. Some wait to qualify for health insurance, while others pay for the hospital services.

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And then there are those who “deliver and dash” without paying their bill leaving it taxpayers to pick up!

In the U.S., the problem is a little more acute and so is the opposition from President Trump who has railed against “anchor babies.” That is a neat loophole being exploited by thousands of tourists and illegal aliens.

The issue of “birth tourism” is alive in the U.K. which incidentally does not have birthright citizenship, but there is another incentive- Britain offers free hospital services that is especially appealing to those in third world countries who get a world class delivery done for the cost of an airline ticket!

The concept of citizenship being conferred to anyone born on a country’s soil goes back to 6th century B.C in Athens. Jus soli is a Latin term that means law of the soil. An early form of jus soli dates from Cleisthenes’ reforms of ancient Athenian law. It developed further in the Roman world, where citizenship was extended to all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire.

Much later, the independence of the English colonies in America and the French Revolution in the late 18th century laid the foundations for jus soli. With the social and economic development of the 19th and 20th centuries and the massive migrations to the Americas and Western Europe, jus soli was established in more countries.

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However, since 2007 the European migrant crisis and the issue of illegal immigration and the ongoing refugee crisis is forcing countries to re-evaluate the idea that anyone born there automatically becomes their citizen.

Because of this legal loophole, thousands of couples around the world consider giving their children American or Canadian citizenship is better than even buying an expensive Life Insurance policy.

Theoretically I know a South Asian couple living in Mumbai that would have benefited by having their children delivered in Canada. Here’s why, today they’ve sent both their children to Canada to study as foreign students with the intention of them settling down and eventually becoming Canadian citizens. Their education costs more than double of what it would have cost them as Canadian citizens.

Since most Canadians see anyone opposing guaranteed citizenship for all born on Canadian soil as racists, perhaps “birth tourism” should then be advertised by the tourism department. It could then become a revenue stream in addition to it being a new future immigration stream given that these new “Canadians” will show up after they turn 18 and get to school or find jobs.
In countries that are plagued by more deaths than births, a booming “birth tourism” industry could be just the thing the good old doctor ordered. -CINEWS

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