Is Birth Tourism in Canada a Real Problem?

canada, birth tourism, british columbia, petition e-397Every presidential election cycle in the United States often elicits various celebrities, public figures, and others vowing to migrate north to Canada if candidate XYZ becomes president.

However, some people actually do make their way to Canada. Not because of a new desire to expatriate, or seek political asylum, but to gain anchor citizenship for their soon-to-be newborn babies.

The subject has come to light most prominently in British Columbia where local citizens are frustrated by the number of Chinese nationals giving birth to babies for purposes of citizenship. In fact, Petition e-397 has been filed with the Canadian government by a Richmond, BC woman and endorsed by Richmond’s conservative member of parliament Alice Wong, stating the following:

• The Jus soli, or birthright citizenship, law of Canada enables an abusive and exploitative practice often called ‘Birth Tourism’, which permits expectant mothers who are foreign nationals, with no status in Canada, to gain automatic citizenship for their children born within Canada;
• All but one other developed country in the world has eliminated provision for birthright citizenship because of the widespread abuse it is open to; and
• The practice of ‘Birth Tourism’ can be very costly to taxpayers since it is used to ensure that after the child reaches 18 years of age Canada’s education system can be used at a publicly subsidised cost, and he/she can sponsor his/her parents and many other family members, thus taking advantage of Canada’s public health system and social security programmes such as OAS and the GIS.

Currently, there are as many as 26 private residences known to offer “hospitality services” to pregnant women. According to the Vancouver Sun, they are used primarily by two groups of people:

The first includes those in Canada on a temporary resident document, such as a tourist visa, work or study permit. They come to deliver a baby “who by birth is then granted Canadian citizenship status.” They do not access Medical Services Plan-funded benefits and “they declare themselves as self-pay at hospitals and to doctors.”

The second category includes permanent residents properly enrolled in MSP, but at some point cease to meet the definition under the Medicare Protection Act. They return to their country of origin but remain enrolled in the MSP. They then return to B.C. to have a baby and since they still have MSP coverage, bills related to the mother and baby are billed to the plan. They stay long enough to obtain a birth certificate, a Canadian passport and enrolment in MSP for the baby before returning to their country of origin.

The problem does not seem to concern everybody. According to a 2014 press release, the BC Civil Liberties Association thinks that “eliminating citizenship by birth on Canadian soil would be a hysterical response to a handful of cases that, in statistical terms, amount to a rounding error.”

Speaking with Vice News, Josh Paterson, executive director of the BCCLA, said that “the fact that someone giving birth here is a foreign national does not mean it’s birth tourism. And there’s very little evidence to show this is a problem requiring action.” He went on to say “Changing our laws would be far-reaching and far costlier than whatever costs are being incurred by people without citizenship having babies.”

Petition e-397 counters that “The practice of ‘Birth Tourism’ can be very costly to taxpayers since it is used to ensure that after the child reaches 18 years of age Canada’s education system can be used at a publicly subsidised cost … thus taking advantage of Canada’s public health system and social security programmes.”

If you are Canadian, more specifically a resident of British Columbia, what are your thoughts? Is this as big a problem as Petition e-397 makes it out to be? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.


  • Erin

    From BC:
    This is based primarily on the housing crisis, or overinflated housing prices, the government has recently decided to tax foreign investors ( I support this as a family in metro Vancouver requires $1,000,000 to buy a 1200 sqft home, and the vacancy rate is high and the rental market is low. To rent a 1000 sqft condo would cost you $2000-4000 in Vancouver) google the full story for more accurate values if interested.

    As for this proposed petition, it is due to the above and the fact that many of these women have no support while awaiting birth and post birth. The BC/Canadian system is great– no charge. The problem in my opinion is that these moms are sent to a foreign country to deliver babies with no support and there is no follow up once they leave Canada. This petition appears to be pushed forward for the wrong reasons, we are Canadian, we help whomever, but it is needed to prevent a market of sending women to a country to deliver their hopefully wanted babies no going back to a hopefully safe and supporting environment.

    This hospitality service is a gateway to baby markets, child slaves, sex slaves and every other horrible possibility. I am curious to know the age, marital status and what happens to babies not considered healthy or female?

    Hope that helps.
    And for the record, the cost of housing is ridiculous but is you ever have the opportunity to travel here, you will know why…. Beautiful.

  • Kyla

    I’m from BC and it is the first I’ve heard of this being an issue. I’m not from greater Vancouver so I’m sure it is more of an issue there than where I live. To me it seems like a complex issue but I don’t see why a non resident should be able to have a Canadian baby if they don’t live here at any point in their life. I think a good way to solve would be that they have to live here X amount of time before they are 18 or they lose residency.

  • L

    I’m not from BC (another part of Canada though) and I DO notice this as something that happens, although not regularly. There is one family I know of who is from Dubai who has had all their daughters/sisters/whomever come here on a tourist visa while pregnant and then leave once all the paperwork is in order. I also know the position of some midwifery clinics where I’m from is if you don’t have Canadian medical coverage you are considered a priority (you’re no where near guaranteed a midwife here) and even with no health coverage the costs are zero. Of course, this position was meant to assist refugees and recent immigrants (which it does!) however, some people have unfortunately taken advantage of it.

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