Richmond MP presents anti-birth tourism petition to Parliament

A petition calling for the federal government to end the growing problem of birth tourism was presented in Parliament today by Richmond MP Joe Peschisolido.

Almost 11,000 signatures from across the country accompanied the petition – which was kicked off in March by Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk.

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The petition denounces birth tourism as “an abusive and exploitative practice . . . whereby expectant mothers who are foreign nationals, with no status in Canada, gain automatic citizenship for their children born in Canada.”

It claims birth tourism, which is technically legal, is “debasing the value of Canadian citizenship” and is prone to abusing Canada’s social security programs.

Petition sponsor Peschisolido, MP for Steveston - Richmond East, said the “birth tourism industry must be dismantled and ultimately shut down.

“Birth tourism is an abuse of Canada’s immigration and citizenship system, as well as our public health care and social security systems.

“Unscrupulous individuals are profiting from this industry. Exploiting the generosity of our immigration and health care systems violates people’s sense of fairness, as was evident by the high number of signatures on the petition.”

Birth tourism is a practice whereby unscrupulous individuals, through an organized effort, have expectant mothers travel to another country for the purpose of giving birth so the child gains citizenship in that country.

Canada, added Peschisolido, needs to determine the full extent of birth tourism and implement “concrete measures to reduce and eliminate this practice.”

An entire industry of brokers and maternity tourism businesses are profiting from birth tourism, from agents to birthing houses and doctors to hospitals.

Municipal and provincial governments, said the Richmond MP, must also address and come to grips with birth tourism.

The Standing Orders of the House of Commons require the government to respond within 45 calendar days to every petition presented.

The Richmond News told in March how the continued rise in non-residents arriving at Richmond Hospital to give birth provoked Starchuk and several other Richmond residents into starting a second House of Commons petition, aimed at denouncing and eliminating birth tourism nationwide.

Prior to the new petition, an older one, from 2016, was sponsored by Conservative MP for Richmond Centre, Alice Wong, who asked the government to end automatic citizenship rights for being born in Canada, referred to as jus soli.

The Liberals turfed that one, as Peschisolido maintained in March that those rights are a fundamental pillar of freedom in Canada.

Community activist Starchuk, who is now running for city council, said in March that, while the new petition is “softened,” she was hopeful it would at least be discussed in the House.

There were 379 births to non-residents in Richmond, according to Vancouver Coastal Health’s 2016-2017 fiscal year records. 

By comparison, from 2004 to 2010 the hospital helped birth, on average, 18 new Canadians per year from non-resident mothers.

A core group of six petitioners includes three immigrants who feel the practice is unfair.

“In general, most of the immigrant community despises this kind of practice, but for different reasons people are not outspoken. It’s an unfair practice to all other immigrants who play by the rules,” said scientist Gary Liu, 39, a Vancouver resident, who came to Canada 25 years ago.

Petitioner Serge Biln, 56, said immigrants such as his parents (from India), jump through many hurdles to become Canadian.

However a clear solution to the perceived problem is not made clear in the petition, noted fellow petitioner Ann Merdinyan, an immigrant herself.

Peschisolido said the main intent of the petition was to first denounce the practice and then study the scope of the practice.

“The government should say birth tourism is bad. Let’s quantify it and lets fix it,” Peschisolido said in March.

Starchuk said denouncing the practice is important as some birth tourism agencies in China are advertising as if Prime Minster Justin Trudeau accepts birth tourism (going so far as to put pictures of him on their website).

These agencies are profiting from parents hoping to have an “anchor baby” who can return to Canada when the child turns 19 and then sponsor their own entry. One agency, Cannetic Travel, shows pictures of births at Richmond Hospital and advertises “free” social services available to Canadians.

With files from Graeme Wood

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