Birth tourism in Canada has seen a 13 percent increase in a year, according to new data collected from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
The figures from hospitals across Canada excluding Quebec, shows the number of non-resident births topped 4,000 for the year ending March 2019.
Expert Andrew Griffith from the Environics Institute and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, collected the data.
Birth tourism is the term given to babies born in Canada to parents who are not residents. It means the child receives automatic Canadian citizenship.
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Griffith believes the vast majority of the cases involve people traveling to Canada for the sole purpose of giving birth.
In the 12 months ending in March, 4,099 non-resident births were recorded. This compares to 1,354 in 2010, a rise of more than 300 percent.
The data shows the top 10 hospitals for non-resident births are all in Ontario and British Columbia.
Previous research from Griffith revealed birth tourism numbers were much higher than official figures suggested.
Griffith used numbers from the Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) of the CIHI, which showed there were 3,223 non-resident births in Canada in 2016, while Statistics Canada reported a figure of 313.
The explanation for the discrepancy is that birth tourists use their real addresses for hospital payments but their temporary Canadian addresses on birth registration forms, Griffith found.
He offered three solutions to curb birth tourism:
offers three potential solutions to help tackle the issue:
1) Make birth tourism grounds for visitor visa refusal
Griffith suggests introducing a question about intent to give birth on the visitor visa form, with visa officers given the power to request a pregnancy test in high-risk cases.
A woman who has not declared her pregnancy could be found guilty of immigration fraud, with the child’s citizenships subsequently obtained fraudulently.
While the approach would create a deterrent, it would be difficult to enforce, Griffith says.
2) Qualified birthright citizenship
Canada could copy Australia’s 2017 move to change its citizenship act to introduce qualified birthright citizenship. This would mean a person born in Canada only gets citizenship “if the parent is either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident and if the child has lived in Canada for 10 years after birth.”
The downside to this approach would be costly changes to the way births are registered, with parental pictures and proof of residence currently not required.
3) Regulatory and financial approaches
Griffith suggests taking financial action against non-residents who give birth in Canada. “While financial measures do not address objections to birth tourism in principle, they could discourage some birth tourism and would address the cases where birth tourists are not paying their hospital bills,” he writes.