Ottawa urged to remove citizenship by birth on Canadian soil
Officials recommend Ottawa removing citizenship rights to babies born to non-citizens and non-residents even though costs outweigh benefits.
Immigration officials have recommended that Ottawa remove citizenship rights to babies born in Canada to non-citizens and non-residents even though the small number of cases doesn’t justify the costs.
The proposal, marked “secret” and with inputs from various federal departments, found fewer than 500 cases of children being born to foreign nationals in Canada each year, amounting to just 0.14 per cent of the 360,000 total births per year in the country.
The issue of citizenship by birth on Canadian soil once again raises concerns among critics over the current government’s policy considerations being based on ideologies rather than evidence and objective cost-benefit analyses.
“An impartial observer would conclude that the evidence supports no need for change, given the small number of cases. Yet the recommendation supports the government’s public rhetoric and anecdotes on the need for change,” said Andrew Griffith, a former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias.
The Conservative government overhauled the Canadian Citizenship Act earlier this year by further restricting eligibility. However, the “birth on soil” provision was left intact and required further studies.
“Eliminating birth on soil in order to ensure that everyone who obtains citizenship at birth has a strong connection to Canada would have significant cost implications,” said the 17-page report prepared for former immigration minister Jason Kenney, obtained under an access to information request.
The office of Chris Alexander, Kenney’s successor, confirmed with the Star that the government is still reviewing citizenship policy with regard to the issue of “birth tourism” — a term referring to foreigners travelling to give birth in Canada so the baby can claim automatic citizenship here.
Dubbed “anchor babies,” these children are eligible to sponsor their foreign parents to Canada once they turn 18. It is unknown how many of them actually return to their birth country with their parents, but it’s believed the number is low.
Birth tourism is a common practice even in Hong Kong. According to official statistics, 95,337 babies were born in Hong Kong in 2011 and as much as 40% of babies’ parents are birth tourists from Mainland China.