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Immigration

Birth tourism easily reduced via regulatory change: Jeffery

Instances of pregnant women coming to Canada solely to give birth and obtain citizenship for their child are rare, but a simple change to the regulations would stymie the practice, Toronto immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“While Canada is among the few countries which confer citizenship as a birthright, it’s something we generally support as Canadians,” says Jeffery, who operates the immigration-focused Matthew Jeffery Barrister & Solicitor office in Toronto. “But those rare cases of women coming to the country on a visitor visa with the intent of having what’s called an ‘anchor baby’ is clearly an abuse of the system.”

Under federal law, anyone who is born on Canadian soil automatically receives citizenship, even if the parents aren’t citizens — a practice some politicians call “birth tourism.”

Global News reports the Conservative Party is calling for an end to birth tourism, but Jeffery says there’s no reason to eliminate birthright citizenship.

“The government should not interfere with our time-honored citizenship laws in order to decide who can be a Canadian citizen and who isn’t based on some arcane or arbitrary formula,” he says. “It will only lead to unfair outcomes, endless disputes and legal wrangling.”

A simple fix is to just change the immigration regulations related to the assessment of visitor visas to screen out those whose sole reason for coming to Canada is to have a baby, Jeffery says.

While there may be restrictions on what immigration officers can ask of a person’s state of health, he says it’s fair under the existing rules to question what a foreign visitor’s intentions are, why they want to come to Canada, and whether they intend to return to their home country at the end of their visit.

“A change to the regulations would allow Canada to refuse a visitor visa to those who indicate in their application that they are planning to have a baby while here,” Jeffery says.

Global News reports that 313 babies were born to non-Canadian mothers in 2016.

“That number has gone down significantly since 2012 when Statistics Canada reported that 699 babies were born to non-Canadian mothers,” the article states.

Jeffery says the practice of birth tourism is so rare that there is no need for widespread public concern nor for political panic.

“It’s a rather unusual situation that I rarely encounter,” he says. “For this reason, there is no need for the government to meddle with our citizenship laws. They can fix the problem for the most part by better screening of foreign visitors.”

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