Any baby born in Canada is automatically accorded Canadian citizenship. (iStock)

Doctor worries ‘birth tourism’ strains health resources

There is an increasing number of foreign nationals coming to Canada to have their babies here, thus ensuring the infants get Canadian citizenship and access to social services like health and education. Unlike Canada, most countries do not accord citizenship to babies born on their soil. The U.K. stopped the practice in 1981. That country, Australia and New Zealand now grant citizenship only if one or both parents are citizens or legal residents.

Researcher Andrew Griffith has found that over 3,200 babies were born in Canada to women who were not Canadian residents in 2016. The figure may not be precise because foreign nationals may give health officials local addresses when the births are recorded and not all mothers may have expressly come to Canada to have their babies here so they can acquire citizenship.

The western province of British Columbia appears to have the highest incidence of so-called birth tourism. A provincial politician suggested to CBC that there are 26 birth houses that cater to foreign nationals in the city of Richmond alone.

Dr. Kathleen Ross recently delivered two infants to birth tourists at the Royal Columbian Hospital in British Columbia and the fees were never paid. (Google Maps/CBC)

Birth tourism costs Canadian taxpayers, says doctor

The head of that province’s association of doctors is concerned that the increasing number of foreign nationals giving birth in Canadian facilities is straining the health care system.  Foreign nationals may be billed $8,000 to $20,000 for an uncomplicated delivery. Some pay. Some skip out on the payments. But even when it is paid, the fee doesn’t include a portion of the cost of running the birth facilities.

“The biggest concern I have is actually that Canadians are providing a large amount of infrastructure for our birth tourism,” says Kathleen Ross, president of B.C. “The increasing incidence is causing an increase in occupancy and our birth, labour, delivery wards, operating rooms, etc. And I’m concerned that in a country struggling to meet the health care needs of its own citizens and population, I’m concerned that we can’t afford to continue to fund the health care services of foreign nationals.” 

The government is studying the issue, but with a federal election on October 21, 2019, it’s not clear which party will be in power, or how the issue may be dealt with.

Dr. Kathleen Ross explains her concern that foreign nationals giving birth in Canada are straining the health care system.

Dr. Kathleen Ross is concerned that foreign nationals giving birth in Canada are straining the health care system.
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