Canada Considers Removing Citizenship By Birth

Responding to the onslaught of “birth tourism” in Canada, the Canadian government is considering removing citizenship rights by birth on Canadian soil.

Canada has a policy of birthright citizenship, which means that any person who is born on Canadian soil receives automatic Canadian citizenship.

After a recommendation from immigration officials submitted to Jason Kenney during his tenure as the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, Canada’s federal government is now toying with the idea of removing birthright citizenship altogether.

The impetus for this consideration comes from the perceived threat of “birth tourism,” whereby pregnant women from around the world travel to Canada to deliver their baby on Canadian soil, granting the child automatic Canadian citizenship. These children are referred to as “anchor babies,” as they maintain a connection to Canada that can later be used to facilitate the immigration of the rest of the family to Canada through family sponsorship.

The report in question recognized that the removal of birthright citizenship could be very costly both for Citizenship and Immigration Canada and for Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), who deals with deportation. The potential costs are a significant concern because at this time there is no evidence that birth tourism is a large enough issue to warrant this response.

Removing birthright citizenship would also require the establishment of a new mechanism for granting Canadian citizenship. The implementation of a new strategy for granting citizenship would likely fall to Canada’s provinces and territories, as birth certificates are currently issued by the provinces, not by the federal government.

As Canada and the United States are currently the only countries in the Western world that offer birthright citizenship, Canada would have the option of modelling new citizenship regulations on the laws of a wide variety of countries. Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries all use a similar structure that grants citizenship by birth only to children of citizens and permanent residents, which would be an option for Canada.

The current discussion is not the first time that the federal government has considered removing birthright citizenship, nor is it the first time they have received significant opposition to the idea. During the 1990s the Liberal government attempted to make the same change, but received negative feedback from the Canadian public as well as Canadian organizations. At the time, 230 national organizations signed a letter opposing the change, citing the risk of creating stateless persons and the xenophobic message the changes would convey as primary reasons for the opposition.

A spokesperson for current Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander addressed the issue, stating that “Canadian citizenship is an honour and a privilege, and [the] Conservative government is committed to increasing its value. Birth tourism undermines the integrity of our citizenship program and takes advantage of Canadian generosity.”

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.

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