The government of British Columbia echoed that of Ontario’s recent opposition to the removal of birthright citizenship proposed by the federal government.
This proposal arose from the perceived threat of “birth tourism,” whereby female foreign nationals enter Canada to give birth so that the newborn receives automatic Canadian citizenship.
Federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander believes this is people taking advantage of Canada’s system and of the honour of being a Canadian citizen. The children of foreign nationals who are born here are often called “anchor babies,” and are believed to be part of a scheme to help the parents immigrate to Canada in the future.
The rising concerns of ‘birth tourism’ stem from the phenomenon that has resulted in Toronto and Vancouver maternity clinics telling Chinese foreign nationals that eligibility for Canadian education and health care would be obtainable for persons born on Canadian soil.
Ontario questioned the potential cost of the removal, which would require several updates to IT systems across the country. The B.C. government has presented itself as skeptic of the proposal, which is further endorsed by various immigration experts who say the problem (less than 500 cases a year of ‘birth tourism’ are documented to date) is not even close to significant enough to warrant these types of costs. These costs would impact Canadians and foreigners alike.
Shirley Bond, B.C. Jobs Minister, wrote a letter to the federal government asking for clarification regarding the proposal to remove birthright citizenship. The letter summarized the concerns of the provincial government regarding financial and administrative costs that could result from such a shift in policy.
Despite the opposition of two major provinces, Alexander maintains that the federal government will continue to push the notion forward. The Harper government is looking for a way to require that babies born on Canadian soil only obtain citizenship by birth if one or both of their parents is a citizen or a permanent resident, as is the system in most European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Although Alexander and the federal government maintain their position on the issue, federal-provincial cooperation is an absolute necessity for success in the policy change. This is because province-issued birth certificates are required for access to several public services, such as health care. Should the changes in policy occur, the system through which provinces issue birth certificates would need to be modified in order to include that the holder is a Canadian citizen. To determine if the holder is a Canadian citizen, it would become required for the provinces to determine if either parent is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.
If federal-provincial cooperation is not reached, the second option would be a requirement of all Canadians to obtain proof of citizenship from the federal government in order to gain access to provincial and federal public services. This proposal would also be costly, as well as having a greater window for fraud.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.