Metro Vancouver residents are spearheading a petition to put an end to birth tourism in Canada.
Lifelong Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk has put forward an online petition urging the Canadian government to reduce and eliminate birth tourism, a practice that sees pregnant women travelling to a foreign country in order to give birth and grant the baby automatic citizenship.
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Starchuk has campaigned against the practice for the past two years, after she discovered a growing number of cases in Richmond.
She claimed that a home near hers was serving as a “birth-house,” where she would consistently see assistants walking with different pregnant women on her street, caring for them while they were in the country to give birth.
Many “birth houses” are being advertised as travel agencies, Starchuk said.
Though these women are paying for their services, neither they, nor their children, make any long-term contributions to Canada, she said.
“They’re bringing people intentionally advertising overseas to say you can come and have free healthcare, free schools, bring your seniors in and you can have them in senior homes,” she said.
The petition said birth tourism is “fundamentally debasing the value of Canadian citizenship.”
The practice “can be used to gain access to Canada’s publicly subsidized post-secondary education system and to take advantage of Canada’s public health care system and generous social security programs.”
All of this, the petition claimed, “without having to contribute much to the funding of these systems and programs.”
Steveston-Richmond East Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido sponsored the petition, saying that “birth tourism, as a concept, is wrong,” as it puts women flying from other countries at risk.
“I do believe that birth tourism is abusive to our immigration system.”
The petition calls on the House of Commons to make a public statement opposing birth tourism, to determine the full extent of the practice throughout Canada and implement measures to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate the practice.
There were 384 babies of non-resident parents born at Richmond Hospital between 2016 and 2017.
One-fifth of babies were born to non-resident parents at the hospital in 2016 alone, Peschisolido said.
“There are those within this so-called industry that are trying to legitimate it, that are trying to create a business model from this, and it’s not,” Peschisolido said.
But immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said birth tourism is not increasing.
“It’s been stable for years,” he said.
“The reason these numbers are a little bit bigger is because the new definition includes study permit long-term holders, foreign woerks, even Canadian citizens who dont’ pay taxes, but are considered non-residents by the hospital.”
This isn’t Starchuk’s first attempt to refine Canada’s citizenship process.
In 2016, she put forward a petition to end jus soli, also known as automatic birthright citizenship, garnering 8,800 signatures.
That petition, however, was unsuccessful, as the government felt that revoking birthright citizenship would change too drastically the process through which people obtain it in the first place.
“We didn’t succeed the first time and the problem is still an issue,” Starchuk said.
“It turned into a business, and it’s underground so it’s not regulated.”
The current petition to end birth tourism will be open until July 17; it has drawn over 1,800 signatures since March 19.