How many babies are really born to foreign parents in Canada?

 

The Canadian government is seeking a better understanding of how many women travel to Canada to have babies, for their children to gain Canadian citizenship.

Using numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which captures billing information directly from hospitals, researcher Andrew Griffith found 3,200 babies were born in Canada in 2016 to women who were not Canadian residents, compared with the 313 babies of foreign patients recorded by Statistics Canada.

The research published in Policy Options, by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, suggests that there is growth in the number of babies born in hospitals to women who are residents of other countries, for all provinces except Quebec.

A petition tabled in the House of Commons by Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido calls on Canada to take stronger measures to end birth tourism as it abuses Canada's social-welfare system.

The issue of birth tourism has been polarising in Canada, with the Liberals defending the current law that gives automatic citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil except for children of foreign diplomats. The Conservative party wants the government to end birthright citizenship unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

The birth-on-soil principle has been enshrined in legislation since Canadian citizenship first came into existence in 1947.

There are however problems with the Andrew Griffith data. CIHI captured the number of mothers who paid out-of-pocket for their hospital bills, and this includes Canadian expatriates, refugees awaiting citizenship and foreign students whose hospital expenses were not covered by Canadian Medicare.

Statistics Canada generates its data from demographic information provided by vital-statistics registries in the provinces and territories. Parents complete these registry forms and are responsible for filing them with local registrars. Andrew Griffith believes Statistics Canada might record lower numbers of non-resident births because parents put local addresses on these forms that aren't their real permanent addresses.

Canada does not collect information on whether a woman is pregnant when entering Canada, nor can a woman legally be denied entry solely because she is pregnant or might give birth in Canada.

For a more detailed analysis of the medical travel sector in Canada, visit the IMTJ Canada Country Profile.

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