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Immigration

Canada should keep birthright citizenship: Seligman

Ending birth tourism should not be a priority for the Canadian government, Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman tells AdvocateDaily.com.

At the Progressive Conservatives' recent annual policy convention in Halifax, the federal opposition party called for an end to birthright citizenship due to concerns about birth tourism — the practice of pregnant mothers without Canadian citizenship or legal residence visiting Canada to give birth so that their child could become a citizen.

Seligman, principal of Seligman Immigration Law, says she disagrees with the motion.

“Anyone born in Canada is Canadian, and I don’t think we should be messing with that idea,” she says. "Not allowing babies born in Canada to have status would create an underclass and these children would suffer without medical care and proper education." 

The non-binding resolution, which passed with the support of a slim majority of party delegates from all provinces and territories, calls on the Conservatives to “encourage the government to enact legislation which will fully eliminate birthright citizenship in Canada" unless one of the parents is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Birthright citizenship for anyone born in Canada — except the children of diplomats — was a feature of the first Canadian Citizenship Act when it passed in 1947. Although parents are not automatically granted resident status as the result of a birth, their Canadian child can later sponsor them to immigrate once they reach the age of 18.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government previously ignored calls to take action on the issue in 2014, but birth tourism returned to the agenda earlier this year, thanks to a petition launched by Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido, whose Richmond, B.C. riding has seen a spike in alleged cases.

According to Statistics Canada, just 313 babies were born here to non-Canadian parents in 2016, a number that has fallen significantly since 2012 when the agency reported that almost 700 children were born to birth tourists.  

“It’s not a pressing issue,” says Seligman, who would rather see the government and opposition puts their energy into measures that ensure levels of Canadian immigration can meet the business demand for foreign workers.

For example, she says the Express Entry system needs reform to better recognize the value of skilled tradespeople.

"Applicants who are 30 and over now lose points, which does not make sense to me," Seligman adds.

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