Tory motion to end birthright citizenship is 'just not workable,' says immigration lawyer

A Vancouver-based immigration lawyer says the federal Conservative Party's recent resolution to eliminate birthright citizenship for refugees and immigrants is not only contrary to Canadian values — it would also be a logistical nightmare.

Federal motion based on petition put forward by Richmond, B.C., MP

The motion was narrowly passed at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on Saturday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A Vancouver-based immigration lawyer says the federal Conservative Party's recent resolution to eliminate birthright citizenship for refugees and immigrants is not only contrary to Canadian values — it would also be a logistical nightmare.

The resolution calls for the party to begin encouraging the federal government to stop granting citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil and instead to require at least one parent be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

"In Europe, who mommy is, who daddy is, sets your path in life. Not in Canada," said attorney Richard Kurland.

"You get a clean start. That's why we get citizenship by birth."

The motion was presented to the Conservative Party last weekend at its national convention in Halifax and was narrowly accepted in a vote Saturday.

Petition from Richmond, B.C.

Patrick Hanlon, vice-president of the St. John's East electoral district association, was at the party convention and said the resolution was based upon a petition presented to government by B.C. Conservative Richmond Centre MP Alice Wong in 2016.

That 2016 effort saw 8,886 Canadians sign an electronic petition urging the government to restrict automatic citizenship rights for babies born in Canada to foreigners.

Two years ago, Wong said she was prompted to launch the petition due to so-called "birth tourism," a practice in which pregnant non-Canadian women fly to Canada in order to give birth and secure citizenship for their babies.

She said the problem was rampant in her Richmond, B.C., riding, and "birthing homes" — temporary dwellings for pregnant women from other countries — were popping up all over the city.

However, Kurland said the City of Richmond could easily shut down birthing homes by revoking their licences — a solution that is much simpler, he said.

"The idea of subjecting 37 million people to require sharing of your family's relationships in a federal government database is just not workable," he said.

'A few hundred babies?'

Kurland said such a database would not only infringe on personal privacy, it would require new, costly bureaucratic mechanisms to operate effectively — such as a tribunal court with an appeal system and numerous employees to handle the paperwork.

"All to catch what? A few hundred babies?" he said, laughing.

Proponents of the motion have said birth tourism can be costly to taxpayers, due to the added cost of health care, education and other social services granted to citizens. Also, once someone born in Canada turns 18 years old, they can sponsor parents and other family members for citizenship.

However, Kurland says such practices aren't common.

He stressed the fundamental sociological philosophy of Canada is to give people born in the country a "fresh start," regardless of who their parents are.

"In countries where they don't have citizenship by birth, you create generation after generation of stateless people. Who's going to pay for that?"

With files from On the Coast

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