Richmond demands to shut down birth tourism businesses

City passes vote to ask the federal government to make changes in the Immigration Act

Richmond city council listens to a public speaker during its debate on birth tourism at Richmond City Hall Monday night. Photo Steven Chang
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By Steven Chang

The City of Richmond took its first step against birth tourism after city council voted 6-3 to ask the federal government to change the Immigration Act.

Multiple public speakers attended the council meeting on Monday night to express their thoughts on stopping birth tourism in Richmond, which led to Coun. Kelly Greene raising her concern about the exclusion of refugees from government services if citizenship rules are changed.

A disruption to the community

Coun. Harold Steves said Canada should open its door to refugees, but that refugees are an entirely different issue than ending birth tourism.

“The resolution is to keep it simple. I don’t care if they come back or not. These are wealthy people clogging our housing space and hospital space,” Steves said.

An SFU grad student, one of several public speakers who was at council Monday night, presented his thesis on birth tourism and said 66 per cent of all non-resident births in B.C. are born in Richmond.

Richmond is seeking help from the federal government to prevent automatic citizenship for babies born in Canada to non-resident parents. Birth tourism is an ongoing practice by foreigners who come to Canada to give birth so their child can receive Canadian citizenship with the option of returning to Canada in the future.

Motion passed, mixed opinions

Greene said she is 100 per cent against birth tourism. But changing the Immigration Act will also harm vulnerable people and refugees who are trying to resettle in Canada, she said.

“It has been extremely disruptive to our neighbourhood, hospitals and maternity services. I have been personally impacted by birth tourism,” Greene said. “This motion doesn’t ask the federal government to stop birth tourism. It is ending birthright citizenship for everyone who aren’t Canadian citizens.”

Councillors Greene, Alexa Loo and Michael Wolfe opposed the motion.

The challenge of birth tourism is beyond the city’s jurisdiction, said the city’s spokesperson, Clay Adams.

Adams said while the city is concerned about birth tourism, it can only enforce businesses licences and bylaws.

“Changing the immigration law is not meant to punish people from gaining a Canadian citizenship. The issue is people are essentially paying money to get their child a Canadian passport,” Adams said.

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