Outrage tourism

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If you’ve never heard of “birth tourism” before, you are probably not alone.

Birth tourism is the latest monster the Conservative government has decided to warn us is hiding under Canada’s bed. The premise of the idea is there is that certain immigrant women are so desperate to come to Canada that they get on a plane while they are nine months into their pregnancy, land in Canada as a tourist, and then immediately go into labour, giving birth to a child that will then be granted complete Canadian citizenship without the rigours of the immigration process. In essence, these evil foreign women are determined to leverage their pregnancy into a free ticket to Canada.

The idea is, once these mothers give birth in Canada, thus ensuring their children are Canadians, they can immigrate more easily to Canada because their child is a Canadian. And Canadians, being generous, accepting, and compassionate people, will probably not decide to separate a mother from her child. The government’s argument is that this makes it more likely she will be accepted into Canada as an immigrant.

“This is, in many cases, being used to exploit Canada’s generosity,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenny said in an interview with the CBC. “We need to send the message that Canadian citizenship isn’t just some kind of an access key to the Canadian welfare state by cynically misrepresenting yourself.” Shortly thereafter in the same interview, he admitted he had no real clue as to how extensive the problem is.

Which brings me back to my original point: no one has really even considered birth tourism before now. Why has the government suddenly determined that the big issue we should be afraid of is the unknown numbers of expectant mothers who come to Canada to give birth? Where are the statistics that show a concerning number of tourists giving birth to children in Canada?

The answer I would propose is that it is a tactic to deflect attention from the growing “robocalls” scandal that has engulfed Ottawa and implicated the Conservative government in alleged election fraud. The government is shouting to Canadians, “Hey look, a distraction!” and no doubt some of us will lose focus on what could be the largest voter-suppression scheme in Canadian history. Combined with the various other tactics of obfuscation to distract Canadians, including blaming everyone from the official Opposition to Elections Canada itself, might just get the Conservatives out of a tight situation and save their government from more embarrassment.

But really, opening the non-issue of birth tourism right now should actually add to the embarrassment of this government. What happened to the Conservative Party that was elected on the campaign promise of making government more transparent? That party seemingly died upon gaining power in 2006. The new government now resorts to throwing up smokescreens everywhere to hide what is really going on in Canada. While these smokescreens might obscure the facts surrounding the robocalls scandal, the old adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is proving truer every day. We need to continue scrutinizing the Harper government’s possible role in robocalls, regardless of how much the smoke might sting our eyes.

Edward Dodd
Op-Ed Editor

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