British Columbia

Combat birth tourism by changing immigration law, B.C. mayor says

Babies born to non-residents make up almost a quarter of all births at the Richmond Hospital. The city's mayor says it is time for the federal government to change a law that grants anyone born in Canada citizenship, in order to stop visitors from abusing the system.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says babies born in Canada should not automatically become citizens

According to the latest statistics, nearly 5,000 babies were born to non-residents in Canada in 2018-19. The newborns are automatically granted Canadian citizenship. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is calling on Ottawa to change immigration law to stop pregnant women travelling to Canada and giving birth to babies who are automatically granted citizenship. 

The law says anyone born in Canada is automatically a Canadian citizen. According to the latest statistics, nearly 5,000 babies were born to non-residents in 2018-19.

A recent story by The Fifth Estate revealed that non-residents make up nearly a quarter of all births at the Richmond Hospital, which has led to complaints that birth tourists are compromising care for locals and putting strain on staff.

"People are abusing the system and we will pay a price right now with our medical system, but we'll pay a bigger price in the long term with a number of people coming here who haven't gone through any qualifications or procedures and they just come to our shores and will live in Canada," said Brodie on The Early Edition on Tuesday.

Brodie suggests changing federal law so that least one parent must be a Canadian citizen in order for a child to also become a citizen.

City 'helpless' to stop birth tourism: mayor

According to Brodie, the city has limited power to do anything about the issue because the medical system is the province's jurisdiction and the federal government is in charge of the immigration system, which he said is the root of the problem.

All the city can do, said Brodie, is enforce short-term rental bylaws at so-called "birth houses," where many of the women are known to stay, but often the women stay longer than a month and the city can only regulate rentals of 30 days or less. 

"We are really helpless to do a lot about it. We can check a business licence if there is a business being run out of a home, but that's about all," said the mayor.

Nearly one-quarter of all births at the Richmond Hospital are to non-residents. (Annie Burns-Pieper)

No federal action

He said Richmond has seen people abusing the system for years and, despite local members of Parliament raising the issue in Ottawa, there has been no federal response.

'This is a law and this law can be changed and I don't have any idea why they haven't done it," said Brodie. "The optimist in me says they simply haven't gotten around to it."

The Early Edition requested an interview with Marco Mendicino, the newly appointed federal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, but the minister was unavailable.

To hear the complete interview with Malcolm Brodie, tap the audio link below:

Malcolm Brodie speaks with Stephen Quinn about what his council can do to slow the arrival of mothers-to-be looking for Canadian citizenship for their babies. 9:13

With files from The Early Edition and The Fifth Estate

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