[The Canadian flag flies on Parliament Hill ahead of the speech from the throne in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld]
A petition that seeks to end “birth tourism” has gotten enough signatures to get introduced in the House of Commons —which could mean changes to the Citizenship Act.
Kerry Starchuk of Richmond, B.C., says some foreign women are using Canada as a birthing ground for their babies in order to make sure their children have citizenship and access to the country’s social, health and educational services.
“I don’t have a problem with a baby,” she told the Vancouver Sun. “I have a problem with the long-term consequences.”
Her petition, sponsored by Richmond PC MP Alice Wong, collected more than 1,000 signatures within a matter of hours when it was posted online on June 16 — surpassing the 500 needed in order to be referred to the House of Commons.
The petition seeks legislation to “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.”
Canada and the United States are the only G7 countries that confer citizenship to babies born on North American soil to foreign mothers.
Wong, in an email to Yahoo Canada News, said she was “pleased to represent one of her constituents in the process of presenting a petition to Parliament” and reiterated that an MP does not have to “agree with the opinions or request set out in the petition.”
Wong’s office referred Yahoo Canada News to Starchuk, who wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Starchuk told the Sun she’s tired of living next to what she calls a maternity motel for pregnant women from China. Starchuk, who has lived in the same home for 28 years, says the residence has been operating for about five years.
According to a City of Richmond spokesman, providing lodgings for expectant mothers who have a valid visa or residency doesn’t contravene any city regulations.
Vancouver Coastal Health says of 305 non-resident births that occurred at the Richmond Hospital, 301 were to Chinese mothers in the year ending March 31. That represents one of every six babies born at that hospital (a total of 1,935).
In contrast, Statistics Canada said 699 of 382,568 births in 2012 (the last time it had such stats) were to non-Canadian mothers or, one out of 547.
Neither the agency nor Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada keeps regular tabs on births to non-resident mothers.
Visiting pregnant moms are required to pre-register with a physician in Canada and also must pay out-of-pocket for the delivery, which can number anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000.
Back in 2014, then-citizenship minister Jason Kenney had considered putting the reins on citizenship by birth on soil, but there wasn’t enough data for him to pursue it as there was no evidence it was a widespread problem.
The immigration department told Yahoo Canada News it doesn’t have any data concerning births to foreign women and has no plans, at the moment, to start collecting them — that includes Statistics Canada.
The next sitting of Parliament is in September. Once the petition is tabled, the government has 45 days to respond.