Immigration officials have recommended that Ottawa remove citizenship rights to babies born in Canada to non-citizens and non-residents despite the small number of cases not justifying the costs.
The proposal, with inputs from various federal departments, found less than 500 cases of children being born to foreign nationals in Canada each year. The issue of citizenship by birth on Canadian soil has again raised concerns among critics over the current government’s policy considerations being based on ideologies rather than evidence and objective cost-benefit analyses.
According to a 17-page report prepared for former immigration minister Jason Kenney, “Eliminating birth on soil in order to ensure that everyone who obtains citizenship at birth has a strong connection to Canada would have significant cost implications.”
The office of Chris Alexander confirmed that the government is still reviewing citizenship policy with regard to the issue of “birth tourism” — a term referring to foreigners travelling to give birth in Canada so the baby can claim automatic citizenship here. Dubbed “anchor babies,” these children are eligible to sponsor their foreign parents to Canada once they turn 18. It is unknown how many of them actually return to their birth country with their parents, but it’s believed the number is low.
Currently Canada and the United States are the only countries to have birth on soil provisions. The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries restrict citizenship by birth on soil to children born to parents who are either citizens or permanent residents.
The 17-page report recommended the removal of the birth rights by suggesting “there may be some support for a restrictive policy” despite the “significant operational and cost implication” for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In the 1990s, the then Liberal government also toyed with the idea of removing citizenship as a birth right but was met with public opposition, and a letter campaign to then immigration minister Lucienne Robillard opposing the plan was launched.
The letter was signed by more than 230 national organizations and said that, “Canada has signed international conventions that commit us not to make people stateless. There is a very real risk that some children will be stateless as a result of this proposed change. A move to end automatic citizenship for babies sends xenophobic messages to the public. Such a legislative change would send a message to newcomers about whose children count and whose children are not welcome. It would reinforce feelings of exclusion and marginalization making integration even more difficult.”
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
These developments if pursued will represent a continued trend by the current government to restrict Canada’s immigration policies.
Source: The Star