Canada’s Conservatives seek to end citizenship by birthplace as Chinese maternity tourism booms
The policy resolution, adopted by the Conservative Convention, was attacked by the left-leaning NDP as an example of ‘division and hate’ that went beyond the tactics of Donald Trump
Canada’s opposition Conservative Party has voted at its convention to end citizenship by birthplace if neither of the child’s parents holds Canadian citizenship or permanent residency, in the face of a booming Chinese birth tourism industry in British Columbia.
“We encourage the government to enact 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,” said the Conservative resolution, passed in Halifax on Saturday.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), said the Conservative measure was an example of “division and hate” that went beyond anything proposed by US President Donald Trump.
#CPC18 delegates voted in favour of ending birthright citizenship for children born in Canada unless one parent is Canadian or a permanent resident. Even Trump has resisted this idea. The NDP unequivocally condemns the division & hate being peddled by @AndrewScheer & the CPC.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) August 25, 2018
The non-binding policy resolution was supported by delegates including Alice Siu-Ping Chan Wong, the MP for Richmond Centre in BC. Richmond is at the centre of the practice of birth tourism, driven by mainland Chinese parents.
Hong Kong-born Wong had sponsored a 2016 petition to parliament seeking an end to birth tourism. But the ruling Liberals rejected the proposal. “While there may be instances of expectant mothers who are foreign nationals who travel to Canada to give birth, requiring that a parent be a citizen or permanent resident in order for their child to acquire citizenship through birth in Canada would represent a significant change to how Canadian citizenship is acquired,” said then immigration minister John McCallum in his official response.
Not all Liberals agreed: Joe Peschisolido, the Liberal MP for Steveston-Richmond East, is the sponsor of a new parliamentary petition calling for an end to the “abusive and exploitative practice known as ‘Birth Tourism’.”
“The practice of ‘Birth Tourism’ is fundamentally debasing the value of Canadian citizenship,” says the petition, which had received 10,882 signatures when closed on July 17. It has yet to receive a response.
Singh, who is planning to move to BC if he wins a by-election in Burnaby South, condemned the Tory proposal on Twitter.
“Even Trump has resisted this idea. The NDP unequivocally condemns the division & hate being peddled by @AndrewScheer [the Conservative Party leader] & the CPC,” said Singh.
Newborns with non-resident mothers at Richmond Hospital made up 22.1 per cent of all newborns at Richmond Hospital in the 2017/2018 financial year. Those 474 such births represented an increase of 23.8 per cent compared to 2016/2017.
Nationwide figures could not be obtained.
Vancouver Coastal Health, which runs nine hospitals in British Columbia, does not record the nationality of foreign mothers. But it says the “overwhelming majority” of non-resident mothers list mainland China as their billing address, and the vast majority of such births occur at its hospital in Richmond, the most ethnically-Chinese city in the world outside Asia.
In 2016, the BC Ministry of Health’s audit branch identified 26 “baby houses” – tourism operators accommodating pregnant Chinese women intending to give birth in Canada. Many openly advertise their services – which are completely legal. They typically provide pregnant Chinese women with accommodation and prenatal care, then help apply for passports for the newborns.
At Richmond Hospital non-residents must pay for all medical costs, and make a pre-payment deposit of C$8,200 (US$6,295) for a vaginal birth and C$13,300 for a caesarean. But some bills for extended and specialist care run far beyond the pre-payment: one non-resident mother, Yan Xia, is being sued by Vancouver Coastal Health for fees and interest that could amount to about C$1.2 million. She could not be located and has not responded to the lawsuit.