Birth Tourism - A Problem?

This week’s post deals with an election issue that will not likely make national headlines, but nevertheless resonates strongly with many Richmond residents. It’s Birth Tourism.

What is Birth Tourism?

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, this is a practice where non-residents enter Canada as visitors with the sole purpose of giving birth to their child. This is not because our medical system is superior to that of their home country. Rather it is motivated by a clause in our 1947 Citizenship Act called “Jus Soli” or “right of the soil”, which states that anyone born on Canadian soil automatically becomes a Canadian citizen.

Canada is not the only country in the world to accept this “birthright citizenship”. In fact, there are approximately 30 others that do so. However, of the major economies, only Canada and the US have this law. No European or Asia countries practice it, nor does Australia or New Zealand. Frankly it is a rather rare phenomenon.

Why Birth Tourism?

The reasons for birth tourism are really two-fold. First of all, even if the baby is raised in the home country of the parents, that child will always be Canadian and entitled to move to Canada at any age. So at some future date if they choose to do schooling here or work here, they would immediately be eligible for the same social benefits of education and healthcare that you and I enjoy as citizens, even though they may never have set foot on our soil except for the first few weeks of their life.

The second reason is that once the child reaches the age of 18, they are eligible to sponsor their parents to immigrate to Canada. This is why these new-borns are often referred to as “Anchor Babies” since they become the starting point for non-residents to eventually bring entire families to Canada – parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.
Why should Birth Tourism concern us?

Well, outside of the questionable ethics of “working the system” via a legal loophole, birth tourism opens the door for these Anchor Babies and their families to eventually benefit from our Canadian social system. Although they may have spent minimal years living here and contributing to the tax base that supports that system, they still reap a benefit that most other Canadians receive only through years of lengthy financial investment. Admittedly birth tourism is a relatively new phenomenon so we don’t have a huge statistical data base to back up this assertion, but it could be a significant problem down the road.

Secondly, as birth tourism has grown (it now accounts for 20% of births at Richmond Hospital) it has put an added workload on our already overtaxed healthcare professionals. This has sometimes forced local moms to deliver their babies in other hospitals outside Richmond because of a lack of sufficient medical staff. This is not only an inconvenience, but a potential health risk to expectant mothers who are already Canadian citizens and paying into our healthcare system for the best care possible.

Thirdly, although birth tourists are charged for the medical costs of delivering their babies (anywhere from $8,000 to $13,000 plus any extra fees for complications or extended hospital stays), there are nevertheless frequent instances where these expenses cannot be recouped by the government after the families have returned to their homeland. In 2017 unpaid medical bills from non-residents came to over 1 million dollars, a cost that we as taxpayers have to absorb either through our Medical Services Plan premiums or through our tax dollars.

So, what’s the solution?

If we indeed feel this is a serious enough issue that ought to be addressed, the simplest solution is to mandate that at least one parent of a child born in Canada must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident in order for the baby to be granted Canadian citizenship.

This was precisely the motion the Conservative Party adopted as part of their policy handbook in August, 2018 and Richmond’s own Member of Parliament, Alice Wong, spoke eloquently in support of it. As well, our party leader, Andrew Scheer, wholeheartedly endorsed it. In a released statement, he said “Ending birth tourism will be among the objectives of our policy. Conservatives recognize there are many Canadians who have been born in Canada by parents who have come here to stay and have contributed greatly to our country. I will not end the core policy that facilitates this. Unlike Justin Trudeau, I will safeguard it against abuse.”

Currently the Conservatives are the only political party that have actively pursued addressing this issue. NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, has condemned the Conservative policy as "peddling division and hatred". He fully supports birth tourism. Liberal Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, has only committed his department to “studying the issue”.

As I said at the outset, birth tourism will not likely draw national attention in the upcoming federal election. But for Richmond residents, it is a concern. So far only Alice Wong and the Conservative Party have taken a stance calling for action on this issue.


Holden Bowker,
Richmond Centre Conservative Association

(Photo Source: https://www.vancourier.com/news/fairmont-vancouver-airport-named-best-in-north-america-1.23213622)

Alice Wong