Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Birth tourism has impacted Richmond neighbourhoods and hospital maternity services. But is it right to end birthright citizenship at any cost?
Maternity healthcare services, like other healthcare, education, and government services, are provided on the basis of census data. Richmond has nearly 25% more births than would be predicted based on census data, so local families are being negatively impacted by the over-subscription of our maternity ward services. I have personally been affected by an overcrowded maternity ward.
Canada also signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, where the basic right to a nationality is specified. We have both a moral and international legal obligation to protect vulnerable people from changes to birthright citizenship.
It has also been disruptive for neighbourhoods, with houses and entire floors of condos being used as lucrative birthing homes, with all the amenities that a pregnant and newly delivered woman could want. We need help from other levels of government to solve the problem, as the root of it is far beyond the scope of municipal government.
To be clear, I am 100% against birth tourism. And to be additionally clear, the motion Council considered does not ask the federal government to stop birth tourism. It asks for birthright citizenship to be ended for everyone other than citizens and permanent residents.
I was unable to support the resolution as it was worded because of the disproportionate harm that would be done to vulnerable people, such as refugees and stateless persons. This harm in turn is almost exclusively done to people of colour.
Vulnerable People Matter
We should care enough about what happens to vulnerable people that we use carefully chosen language to indicate we are a compassionate country and that we do not want to further marginalize people who are already one of the most at-risk populations in the world. Vulnerable people are not expendable and do not deserve to be collateral damage enacted by government bodies that are primarily white and economically advantaged.
Canada is a signatory of the International Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, where an otherwise stateless person should be granted citizenship to a person born in its territory. Canada also signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, where the basic right to a nationality is specified. We have both a moral and international legal obligation to protect vulnerable people from changes to birthright citizenship.
Some at Council suggested that we shouldn't specify to the federal government exactly what it is we want, and that the federal government should figure out the details. Then the motion should have been to ask the feds to stop birth tourism. It didn't. It specifically asks to end birthright citizenship for a broad swath of people.
Some also suggested that we should trust they will do it right, and imagines the feds will include protections that we have not asked for in the resolution. This same federal department is threatening to deport two Canadian children, ages 4 and 6, born to parents legally working in Canada, to a country they have never been to. The parent have been offered the option to leave the Canadian children in the foster care system when they leave. There have been many and varied examples of overreach and errors by the department of Immigration, and we need to make sure that we do our work correctly.
Further, the federal government has twice, under the leadership of two different political parties, rejected ending birthright citizenship for many of the reasons I have described above. We are asking them to take the action that they will not take. However, had we asked for help ending birth tourism, perhaps we could have gained resources to help reduce or mitigate the problem, tools they have access to that we don't: tax, healthcare, policy, etc.
I wholeheartedly support cracking down on birth houses which are businesses operating without paying applicable taxes and offering unlicensed quasi-medical services to pregnant and newly delivered women. Let's work with the CRA and Coastal Health to get these places fined and compliant with all laws and regulations.
Ultimately, the motion on the table was so flawed that I could not in good conscience vote in favour of the resolution. I supported a move to vote down the motion so it could be reworded to ask for help ending birth tourism. Unfortunately, that failed.
Richmond News: Richmond council asks feds to ban birth tourism