The Canadian government may end its longstanding policy of providing citizenship to Canadian-born babies of non-citizens or residents of the country.
According to media reports, Canadian immigration officials are recommending that the Conservative government consider ending the practice of offering citizenship to babies born to non-citizens or residents, even though the number of children affected would be relatively small and the costs insignificant.
It’s estimated that of the 360,000 births taking place in Canada each year, only about 500 of those babies were born to foreign nationals.
When the Canadian government overhauled its immigration laws earlier this year, the “birth on soil” provision—the law providing citizenship to babies born in Canada to non-citizens—was initially unchanged. One reason for that may have been the cost.
The internal immigration report suggesting the change to “the birth on soil” law explained that, despite the small number of children affected, there would be significant costs associated with changing the law. That same internal government document, obtained by Canadian media through Freedom Of Information laws, states that changing the ‘birth on soil’ law would have “significant costs” that might be difficult to justify to the public in a time of government deficits.
For his part, Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander acknowledged that the issue of so-called “anchor babies”—wherein non-residents or citizens of Canada have a child in the country so that child can later sponsor them for citizenship when he turns 18—is of concern to the federal government.
The Conservative government has said it’s strongly opposed to so-called “birth tourism” resulting in so-called “anchor babies”. Currently only Canada and the United States have policies providing for birth on soil citizenship.
Unlike the U.S. and Canada, other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and most of Europe only provide citizenship rights to children born to parents who are either permanent residents or citizens.
Almost 20 years ago, the previous Liberal government gave serious consideration to removing the birth on soil Canadian citizenship provision, however a strong public outcry of opposition forced that government to back down.
Janet Dench, a spokesperson for the Canadian Council For Refugees, said her organization strongly opposes changing the birth on soil citizenship provision.
“Citizenship by birth in Canada is an important part of the Canadian identity, and makes us a better society,” Dench said.