• How does a person become a citizen in your country? Is it based on birth (jus soli) or blood (jus sanguinis)?
  • Could a person not born in your country or of another race become a citizen? Would it be difficult?
  • How easy is it for someone to become Canadian? Why do you think it is this way? Is there any danger to this policy?


Tory crackdown on ‘birth tourists’ will eliminate Canadian passport babies

Joseph Brean

Jason Kenney

The law that anyone born in Canada is automatically Canadian is an “outdated” relic from a time when immigrants arrived on a one-way boat ticket, and it leaves Canada’s modern welfare state open to exploitation by “birth tourists,” according to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Known in legal circles by the Latin name jus soli, or right of soil, as opposed to jus sanguinis, or right of blood, the citizenship policy is unique, among developed nations, to Canada and the United States. All other countries that take in immigrants base their citizenship on blood, and require at least one parent to be a citizen, or to have lived there for a certain time, in order to confer citizenship on the child.

“I think [automatic citizenship by place of birth] is outdated in this respect. When we established that legal approach, specifically in the 1947 Citizenship Act, most immigrants, if they came to Canada, they were not going back. People would come by sea, and they would leave behind their countries of origin, and rarely if ever have the chance to go back,” Mr. Kenney said in an interview Monday about his proposal to scrap jus soli by the end of the year.

“With today’s inexpensive and rapid modern travel, someone can fly in for a couple of weeks, have a child and fly out, and otherwise never actually live in the country and have no intention of doing so, but establish a basis for the family to become Canadian permanent residents,” he said. “So it strikes me that times have changed and perhaps we should modernize our approach to reflect the international norm and the vulnerability we have to people who want to cut the corners.”

The issue of birth tourism, or “passport babies,” came to light most recently in reports of a scam in China, in which crooked immigration consultants coach women on how to avoid detection of their pregnancy at the border, and then to lie low until they give birth to an automatically Canadian child, who can then take advantage of Canada’s health care and education, and sponsor his parents when he turns 18.

It is a perennial issue, and previous immigration ministers, Liberal and Tory, have made similar proposals for similar reasons, with little in the way of results. Mr. Kenney said he hears frequent complaints about it, including from hospitals that get stuck paying the cost of a foreign woman’s delivery, and considers it “a pretty blatant violation of Canada’s generosity.”

He said hot spots for birth tourism include Chinese passing through Vancouver, and people from French-speaking African countries or the Middle East passing through Montreal, with the remainder coming from Latin American countries with no visa requirement.

China is of particular concern, especially as its people become more wealthy and keen to put down roots in the West. Births in Hong Kong by mothers from the mainland, for example, doubled from 2005 to 2010, likely motivated by a desire to give their children a Western-style education.

“We don’t have reliable statistics on this because the provinces just don’t keep those numbers. It’s hard to quantify,” Mr. Kenney said. “But my view is that regardless of how often it happens, it undermines the value of Canadian citizenship.”

Mr. Kenney has been active in remaking the immigration system, taking action against people who obtained citizenship by fraud, introducing a new citizenship guide and test, restricting the ability of foreign-born Canadians to pass citizenship to their foreign-born children, and revising the rules for citizenship ceremonies to require all new Canadians to show their face.

But this proposal, while still in the fact-finding stages, has drawn criticism for the hassle it is likely to create, and because it looks like dramatic action to correct a minor problem, or at least a problem of unknown scope.

“Typically, immigration policy under Minister Kenney has been driven by common sense and hard data. This one has neither,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who has tracked the issue of passport babies, and pegs the numbers at a couple of hundred each year, out of 200 million entries to Canada.


  • What are “passport babies?” Why would people have them?
  • Outline the steps people take in order to become Canadian citizens by having a child here.
  • How is Canada planning to change its citizenship laws to avoid this problem? Do you think it is a good idea?
  • What possible problems could the new rules make for people who are already citizens?

Further Discussion

  • Canada is a country based on immigration. Do you think this has harmed the country?
  • If you were the Prime Minister of Canada, how would you encourage a Canadian identity?