Ads promote Canada's benefits to would-be birth tourists: 'Go to Canada to vacation and give birth to a child'

Brokers are running online ads in Chinese offering package deals for women who want their child to be born as Canadian citizens

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Ads urging women to come to Canada to give birth tout the value of providing their child with Canadian citizenship.

“Go to Canada to vacation and give birth to a child,” says one online ad targeting Mainland Chinese mothers. “U.S. rejected your visa? No problem! In fact, Canada is better!”

Ads tell women that going to Canada for automatic citizenship is a “gift” for their babies since their children will be able to get free education, cheap university tuition and student loans, according to translations provided by Liberal MLA Jas Johal and verified by Postmedia.

Under Canadian law, a child born in this country is entitled to Canadian citizenship.

The ads are being run by brokers offering “one-stop shopping” for women, with offers to put together packages including transportation, housing, meals, contracts, pre- and postnatal medical appointments, shopping and checking in at hospitals. The ads generally do not mention the broker’s fees.

Some of the ads tell women their offspring can sponsor their parents under family reunification plans once they are adults: “You want to retire in Canada, but you don’t meet the requirements?” asks one such online ad. “You can give birth to your child in Canada. When your child turns 18, your child can apply for the parents.”

Ads tout monthly government subsidies, Canadians’ visa-free entry to 200 countries, unemployment benefits, and that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.,” Johal said.

Others say birth tourism is ideal for people who “care about their children’s education.”

And in a reference to China’s long-standing policy that limits many couples to a single child, some of the ads suggest birth tourism is ideal for “people who would like to have several kids.

Johal, the Richmond-Queensborough MLA, said birth tourism offends a large proportion of his constituents who want the practice banned. And Health Minister Adrian Dix is looking for Ottawa to take a stand on the issue.

 

 

Johal said the latest numbers of births by non-residents, reported by Postmedia, are a wake-up call to all levels of government. There was a 24 per cent increase in births by non-resident mothers in B.C., to 837 babies in 2017-18.

“At its core, birth tourism debases the meaning of citizenship,” Johal said. “As a son of immigrants, and an immigrant to this country, let there be no doubt those of us who have come emigrated to Canada by following the rules are the ones who are most offended by this practice.”

Johal finds the content of many of the ads downright offensive: “When you come to this country and strive and sacrifice, you strengthen this country and the value of Canadian citizenship. Allowing affluent foreigners to essentially purchase a passport is not what this country is about.”

In a legislature committee this week, Johal asked Dix about birth tourism. Dix acknowledged his concerns about the growing numbers of foreign women coming to B.C. to have babies.

Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal. handout

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it,” Dix stated. But it’s an issue, he said, that comes under federal jurisdiction since it’s a citizenship and immigration matter.

“I mean it’s time, if they want to act, that they should act,” he said of the federal Liberals. “Or alternatively, say they don’t want to act.”

Birth tourism is expected to become a federal election issue this fall.

The Conservatives want the law changed so that one parent must either be a landed immigrant or a Canadian citizen before a baby can gain citizenship.

Postmedia asked the federal immigration minister for comment about birth tourism and any possible changes to policies. But a spokeswoman said the federal government can’t “speculate” on that.

Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the birth-on-soil policy for citizenship has existed since 1947.

The 2019 federal budget has allocated $51.9 million over five years to improve oversight of immigration advisers, including those who deal with birth tourists. Some of the funds will be used to ensure that they aren’t telling women to misrepresent the purpose of their visitor visas.

Mathieu Genest, press secretary to Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said that the Conservatives had once proposed ending the citizenship-on-soil policy but that was “roundly rejected by Canadians.” Now the Conservatives have “backtracked” on their policy, he said.

pfayerman@postmedia.com

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