Status for all

‘Birth tourism’ claims don’t add up

Media coverage of study by Harper-era immigration official fuels misconceptions
Photo: Ian D. Keating
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It is critical to clarify the media stories about “birth tourism” and “anchor babies” that are based on a study by former Harper-era immigration official Andrew Griffith.

First, the study and media describe a significant rise in “birth tourism” based on hospital coding of patients as “other country resident self-pay.”

But this number includes international students, temporary foreign workers without full access to health care, undocumented people, and non-resident Canadians.

That is to say, it includes people who are in fact residents, not “tourists” simply visiting Canada for a short period. They work and live here full-time but are denied permanent residency.

Second, much of the media coverage suggests that giving birth in Canada gives parents privileged access to permanent residency and citizenship.

This is absurdly false. While being born in Canada does give a child access to citizenship, few parents get any immigration benefits.

If the family is undocumented and apprehended, the children are kept in immigration prison (it's not just the U.S. that jails immigrant children) and even deported in some cases.

As can be seen from the case of Deepan Budlakoti — who was born in Ottawa but whose citizenship was challenged by the government decades later — not all children born in Canada get citizenship either.

The media by and large has missed the most significant conclusions to be made from the study. Canada's immigration system is largely impermanent, as over 70% of permits issued each year are temporary. And these families are largely unable to access Canada's universal health care.

Just this year the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that Canada had violated the rights of Nell Toussaint — an undocumented person affected by serious medical problems while trying to apply for permanent residency — by denying her essential health care.

We need health care for all, not the furthering of xenophobia and racism. We need status for all.

Syed Hussan is a coordinator for the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada.

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