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More than half of Canadians want change to address birth tourism concerns

Last Updated Mar 14, 2019 at 11:43 am PDT

A Canadian passport is displayed in Ottawa on July 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Should babies born in Canada automatically get Canadian citizenship, even if their parents are from somewhere else?

For many Canadians it depends, at least according to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute. It has found that most Canadians are OK with the idea of birthright citizenship.

“People still see that as good policy more than they see it to be bad policy,” Shachi Kurl with the pollster explains. “However, there are different scenarios in which Canadians, and particularly British Columbians, are more likely to say certain things are better or more acceptable than others.”

That appears to be the case especially when one or both of a baby’s parents are citizens or one or both are permanent residents. Kurl notes Canadians polled overwhelmingly say the child born to those people should automatically get citizenship.

“We still start to see levels of majority support, although less unanimous, among those who say that a baby [who is born to] those in Canada on a work visa or a student visa should be… an automatic Canadian citizen.”

Birth tourism

Support for birthright citizenship does dwindle when it comes to the idea of birth tourism.

“Where we really start to see support or acceptance for birthright citizenship dropping off are situations where one or both parents are in the country on tourism visas,” Shachi Kurl with the pollster explains. “That is where we start to see a desire for change. Just over half of Canadian are of the view that the rules do need to change in order to tighten up some of these concerns around birth tourism, or parents on tourist visas coming to the country expressly for the purpose of having their kids here.”

Canada has one of the most generous birthright citizenship policies when it comes to comparable countries, Kurl points out.

“That said, Canadians, I would point out, still see this courtesy, this automatic citizenship granted as a good thing more than they see it as a bad thing.”

They also, she adds, see room for policies and rules to be tightened in order to “discourage the loopholes that create the conditions for things such as birth tourism.”

Surprising findings

Birth tourism has been a hot button issue in Metro Vancouver, and in particular in Richmond where pregnant women from China have been reported to flock to so-called “birth hotels” to have their babies.

The latest statistics suggest 20 per cent of all mothers-to-be delivering at Richmond General Hospital are non-residents.

It comes as a surprise to Kurl that for the most part, responses from B.C. fall fairly in line with what’s been recorded at the national average.

“What does drive opinion and create some changes, however, are two factors: one is age and one is political leanings,” she says.

Younger people surveyed were more likely to say all children born on Canadian soil should get citizenship automatically, while older respondents were more likely to say it depends on the scenario.

“The other big difference has to do with political sphere,” Kurl explains. “So if you’re someone who would consider voting for the Conservative Party in the next federal election, you’re more likely to take a harder line on certain scenarios than those who say they would consider the Liberal or NDP parties.”