Difficult case puts Liberals rather confusingly on the same side as Conservatives
The concept is called “jus soli”, a Latin term which means that anyone born in a country automatically becomes a citizen of that country.
Canada is one of only 34 countries in the world that automatically confers citizenship in this way.
Canada adopted the policy in 1947 with its first Immigration Act, at a time when international travel was not as easy, fast, or inexpensive as now.
In recent years this has led to a practice known as “birth tourism”, where pregnant women from abroad, come in to a country to have their babies so that they automatically become citizens.
At their recent convention, the opposition Conservative Party of Canada adopted a resolution saying the practice of jus soli should be ended as there are people “taking advantage” of Canada.
The New Democratic Party, traditionally in third place condemned the resolution in a tweet by its leader, Jagmeet Singh which said in part, “The NDP unequivocally condemns the division & hate being peddled by the CPC”.
Ruling Liberals criticise resolution but fight jus soli in court
The ruling Liberal party also criticised the resolution. Gerald Butts, principle secretary to the Prime Minister, has labelled this resolution as “a deeply wrong and disturbing idea”.
A spokesman for the Liberal Immigration Minister also said it’s a “shame to see the Conservatives going back down the path established by the Harper (former Conservative) government, which seeks to strip away the citizenship of people who have only ever known Canada as a home.”
Yet for all that, the federal Liberals are fighting against just such a birthright case in court.
It’s not entirely a clear cut similarity however as the case involved the Canadian-born children of two Russian spies.
The two boys, Alexander and Timothy, now young men aged 24 and 28, were born in Toronto to Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley.
The parents were arrested in the U.S. eight years ago and their actual identities revealed as Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova and charged with conspiring to act as secret agents for Russia.
They were sent to Russia in a prisoner exchange.
The two boys have been fighting to maintain their Canadian citizenship.
In 2014, Canada later denied Alexander, who had finished school in Russia, a passport saying his parents were employees of a foreign government at the time of his birth. The children of diplomats and embassy staff serving in Canada get the citizenship of their parent’s country.
The case went to court in 2017 where it was ruled that the parents (spies) did not have diplomatic status while in Canada and so jus soli applies, and Alexander was given a Canadian passport as a citizen. The same basic principle applies to his brother.
The Liberal government is now fighting jus soli in court saying the parents, although working undercover, were in fact working for a foreign government as employees.
The case has proceeded to the Supreme Court where it will be heard in December.
U.S and Canada different stands on birth tourism
As for birth tourism, almost 700 such babies were born in Canada in 2012, while in 2016 this was down to 313 babies born to non-Canadian mothers. In British Columbia alone, a newspaper investigation found the provincial government was aware of some 26 so-called birth houses or maternity hotels for foreigners.
The U.S is another country which has accepted the concept of jus soli, but is more proactive on enforcing visa rules.
In January of this year for example U.S. federal agents raided some 20 so-called maternity hotels in California, saying it is visa fraud to apply for a tourist visa for the purpose of having a U.S born child.
additional information – sources
- Canadian Press (via PostMedia) J Bronskill: Sep 8/18: Liberals-birthplace should not guarantee citizenship
- New York Post: G Fonrouge: Jan 10/18: US crackdown on birth tourism
- Canadian Press (via CBC): J Bronskill: Aug 10/18: Children of spies shold not get citizenship
- Global TV: K Dangerfield: Aug 27/18: Conservatives to end birth tourism
- CBC: Common/Syed: Apr 11/18: Son of spies returns to Canada