The Growing Trend of “Birth Tourism”

How foreigners are having their children in Canada for citizenship and why you should care

Annalisse Crosswell // Associate News Editor

Community, once associated with a local group of people linked by gossip, a mailman who knows everybody and town meetings (or so Gilmore Girls led me to believe), now represents a global network that communicates via social media. As much as this globalization makes borders feel rather redundant to some, they are a reality, as are all the processes that go along with crossing them, permanently or otherwise. Processes, which people are eager to avoid. Rather than coming to Canada and going through the arduous work of gaining residency, then citizenship, before having your child, people are now practicing “birth tourism” to have a child born with citizenship and essentially skip the line.

The issue was brought to light when a blog, Naija Nomads, written by a Nigerian woman who had been through this process, gained enough attention across the internet that the Toronto Sun stepped in to comment on the topic. The blog post outlines not only the reasons for having a child in Canada and her personal experience, but also what one would need to do in order to follow suit. It discusses the need to research thoroughly, the legality of doing so and the expenses to expect, all the while promoting this way of gaining your child Canadian citizenship without being a citizen yourself. “Having a baby in Canada is by no way illegal. Let them know you are having your baby in their country, have some sort of correspondence with a family doctor in Canada (printed out) and let them know you’ll be paying all your medical bills,” says the blog post.

While one can relate to this desire to improve a child’s opportunities in life, this will likely rattle some of those individuals who have spent years legitimately jumping through the hoops of Canadian immigration. That being said, most things will anger a person who has spent hours on end alternating between walking metaphorical circles around the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIE) website, banging their head against walls and crying over lack of comprehension (note: this is speaking from personal experience, experiences may differ). All jokes aside, this does raise a legitimate issue.

Every year thousands apply for citizenship and many of those are granted the privilege of the life-defining document. For an indication of how many, in the 2017-2018 fiscal year 33,680 people applied with a 98 per cent rate of approval. To gain citizenship one must have ample experience within a skilled trade valuable to Canada, be educated beyond a secondary level and have related career experience, or be working for, or needed by, a Canadian employer who could not possibly hire a Canadian for the same position. Of course, one can also marry a Canadian – which is widely known to be a system already rife with abuse – or, as the “birth tourism” promoters know, have a child born to a Canadian or born in Canada. For the most part the fundamental idea is that Canada wants individuals who will benefit both the economy and the culture of the country as a whole. (All of this information can be found on the CIE website, though I advise you browse with a beer or glass of wine in hand to keep you calm through navigation.)

In the short term this issue has the impact of a few thousand people who have acquired citizenship without the necessary steps, but in the long term this will no doubt affect many who are trying to legitimately gain citizenship. Past Canadian governments have been more than willing to retract legislation pertaining to immigration, often leaving people in limbo or without options that once existed for them. In the last two decades they have made it so that a person born to a Canadian parent who was not born in Canada cannot apply for citizenship, taken away the ability to apply for citizenship after five years of living in the country and brought most commonwealth work visas down to a limit of two years, among many other changes minor and major. A Postmedia report has already said that, “In response to birth tourism, Australia and New Zealand changed their laws, granting citizenship to babies only when at least one parent is a citizen or a legal resident.”

At the end of the day immigration is not an equal opportunity process, nor should it be. Developed nations, the most sought-after places to relocate to, simply do not have the infrastructure or general capacities to support all those that desire to live within their borders. “Birth tourism”, along with fake marriages and sponsorships, will no doubt exist as long as the legislation that allows them, but somewhere down the line a hardworking individual will not be able to immigrate to Canada because of it. It may be one of the most infuriating systems to navigate and deal with, but it is necessary.

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