Motion from N.L. Conservatives to axe birthright citizenship against Canadian values, says professor

A motion to support the elimination of birthright citizenship, which was put forward by two electoral district associations in St. John's, was accepted at this weekend's Conservative Party convention.

Brought forward by two Conservative district associations in St. John's

Supporters enter the auditorium for the opening ceremony at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on Thursday, August 23, 2018. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

A Memorial University professor says a resolution brought forward by two federal Conservative district associations in St. John's to support the elimination of birthright citizenship for refugees and immigrants is against core Canadian values.

"It's a fundamental principal of equity. We should not pick and choose who should be Canadian [citizens] upon birth," said Tony Fang, an economics professor at Memorial University who focuses on immigration issues. 

Tony Fang is an economist at Memorial University specializing in immigration issues. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

The resolution was presented at the Conservative Party convention this weekend in Halifax and called for the party to encourage the government to stop granting citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil and instead require at least one parent to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

(Conservative Party of Canada)

It was narrowly accepted by a vote on Saturday afternoon.

The resolution came from members of the St. John's East and St. John's South-Mount Pearl electoral district associations.

Based upon petition

Mike Stapleton, president of the St. John's East district association, said he was "on the fence" about the issue and was not aware it was being presented at the convention under his district's name.

Stapleton was unable to go to Halifax for convention, he said, so Patrick Hanlon, the St. John's East association's vice-president, attended in his absence.

Hanlon is a prominent anti-abortion activist in St. John's.

Hanlon said that because he is a member of the province's national policy committee for the Conservative Party, he cannot take a personal stance on the issue, but that the resolution came from the St. John's East membership.

Patrick Hanlon attended the Conservative Party of Canada's convention in Halifax this weekend. (Facebook)

He said the resolution was based upon a 2016 petition presented to government by B.C. Conservative MP Alice Wong that called for the government to restrict citizenship rights for babies born on Canadian soil to non-Canadian parents.

Wong launched the petition because of concerns about 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. 

Against 'core Canadian values'

Fang said there is no credible evidence that birth tourism is a significant problem in Canada.

"We cannot make such an important policy change based on anecdotal evidence," he said. 

Delegates vote on party constitution items at the Conservative Party of Canada national policy convention in Halifax on Friday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

He said he was surprised and upset to learn that the motion had passed, noting that many countries, including the United States, have birthright citizenship policies.

"Except for the Indigenous people, we are all immigrants," he said.

"Canada is one of the model countries for being open, inclusive, compassionate about immigrants and refugees from all around the world."

Eliminating birthright citizenship, he said, is against those "core Canada values."

It could also cause huge legal problems for people born in Canada whose parents don't fit the criteria to get citizenship, he said.

The populations of many rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are declining. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Fang said he is particularly surprised the resolution was presented by two districts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We have this fundamental demographic challenge in terms of out migration and in terms of a declining population," he said.

 "We need really to think about other important issues facing this province ... that could fundamentally affect our long-term growth and prosperity."

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