RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – As U.S. President Donald Trump pushes to end birthright citizenship in the United States, a local mayor is making comments on the subject.
Richmond’s re-elected mayor doesn’t believe people should be granted citizenship simply because they were born here. He thinks a specific problem in his city is birth tourism and those who profit from it.
“The concept of birth tourism is people flying in from elsewhere in the world to have a child here. That’s what it is, by definition,” said Malcolm Brodie, who is still seeking support from other levels of government to stop the practice.
He says it’s difficult to catch someone abusing the system at a municipal level because it is not illegal for a foreigner to give birth in Canada. “Our options are very limited,” he added.
“By flying in here, having a baby here, the child gets Canadian citizenship… Take away the incentive, it’s gone.”
“The practice has to stop,” said Brodie. “The feds need to do something about it.”
Earlier this month (Oct. 5) in Ottawa, Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido, whose riding is Steveston-Richmond East, introduced a petition signed by nearly 11,000 people condemning birth tourism as an illegitimate industry.
“It’s folks and institutions that are profiting from having women come over to give birth … Nineteen years later, eighteen years later, their child gets citizenship,” Peschisolido said.
He feels birth tourism “has to be dealt with in a holistic way.”
“The federal government, their biggest role comes on the immigration side and also the messaging that this is not correct. The provincial government and the health authorities manage the hospitals. The municipalities deal with the licensing for the birthing houses. You have to deal with all of these elements.”
Richmond currently has more than 20 makeshift hotels, where expectant moms can rent a room until they’re ready to deliver their babies.
“What’s occurring is you have unscrupulous individuals, agents, folks that have started birthing houses, doctors that are involved in this system and they’re making money off of it,” Peschisolido added. “They’re putting the women who are coming over at risk. But they’re also, I think, undermining the integrity of the health care system [and] the immigration system.”
Peschisolido says this is a wide problem. “The official statistics from the province states that 23 per cent of births at the hospital in Richmond fall under this category of birth tourism, where we have someone overseas coming over to give birth and then leaving immediately.”
He believes that figure is understated. “A lot of folks who are part of the industry are giving the address of the birthing houses in Richmond as their address, while in fact, it’s an overseas address — whether it’s from Asia, Europe, or Africa. In Richmond, it’s mainly a problem from Asia.”
Peschisolido admits it’s tricky to ensure services are not denied to people.
“But the way our system works isn’t that you simply show up at the hospital and give birth. A doctor has to give notice — usually three, four, five months in advance — that their patients will be going to the hospital. It’s not a situation where you have Joseph and Mary showing up, saying, ‘My wife is pregnant. She has to give birth.'”
With files from Lasia Kretzel