The United States is banning tourists if their intention is to give birth in order to obtain citizenship for their baby – a practise known as “birth tourism” – and Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal thinks Canada should follow suit and stop its hospitals from being used as “passport mills.”
Currently almost a quarter of births at Richmond Hospital are to non-residents who are largely thought to be tourists here to obtain Canadian citizenship for their baby.
The fact that U.S. President Donald Trump is clamping down on birth tourists shows “he has a better pulse on what the public are thinking than some of our own politicians,” Johal said.
“I don’t agree with a vast majority of things Trump says or does – in fact, he offends me in many cases – but the fact he’s dealing with this issue is a commentary on how far back Canada is that we’re not,” he added.
The Canadian government has its “head in the sand” on the issue of birth tourism, Johal said, and he believes administrative changes can be made to restrict babies born to tourists. He points to Australia that doesn’t allow automatic citizenship to all babies born in that country.
The U.S. State Department’s new rule, which comes into effect on Friday, states that “travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis” for a tourist visa.
It goes on to state that consular officials can deny visas to anyone if they believe they are coming for the “primary purpose” of obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Johal said that Richmond Hospital has turned into a “passport mill.”
“The longer we leave this issue untouched, the bigger it’s going to become in places like Richmond,” Johal said. “We’re the epicentre for all of Canada – and now we’ve basically said, it’s open season, our borders are open.”
Ads are prolific on the Internet for birth tourism services in Richmond, and they are all in Chinese. However, anyone coming from China to Canada as a tourist must obtain a tourist visa before arriving.
“This is not what a public health care system was built for and it fundamentally mocks our system – and we are being laughed at globally when we do nothing about it,” Johal said.
Canada has a principle of “jus soli” meaning anyone born on Canadian soil will automatically receive Canadian citizenship, something that falls under federal jurisdiction.