Is Revoking Birthright Citizenship Ethical?
Canada has a birthright citizenship policy which classifies everyone born on Canadian soil as a Canadian citizen except in some cases. Recently, there has been much discussion about amending this policy. President Trump of the United States, recently announced that an executive order would be issued to remove automatic citizenship for children born on US soil.
In Canada, members of the Conservative Party passed a motion to end birthright citizenship if they end up forming the government. It would apply to families where none of the parents is a permanent resident or citizen. Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido also supported a petition to end this form of citizenship.
The rise of Birth Tourism
Eliminating a right in the US Constitution will not be easy. In Canada, simply amending the Citizenship Act will be needed to remove the birth citizenship clause. Giving rise to this movement is ‘Birth Tourism’. Migrants from many countries are engaging in birth tourism which many people are seeing as a violation of the integrity of citizenship. Real, Canadian facts do not support this argument.
As per research by Policy Options, Andrew Griffith, a former director of IRCC found a sharp increase in birth tourism in few Canadian hospitals. Though it is a significant number, only 1.2 per cent of the birth mothers were neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents. Returning international students, Canadian expatriates and other temporary residents were not excluded from these numbers. So, the figures would ultimately be lower for non-resident mothers giving birth in Canada.
Though an increasing trend, it doesn’t support the argument to end birthright citizenship.
Impact of Policy Changes
The impact of removing the birthright citizenship would have far-reaching effects. Every child born in Canada would need a citizenship application processed on Canadian tax dollars. Grant of citizenship would come in the administrative duties of clerks in Canada. The children would be stateless until they receive a decision on their citizenship.
The social impact would be both emotionally challenging and expensive.
Freedom of movement, right to education, employment, health care would become tricky due to the rise in numbers of stateless persons. Registering a birth, getting a phone or a bank account, access to a doctor would become challenging. Arrest, detention and deportation would come into play.
The vulnerable would be affected the most. People with mental illness, children who under the state’s care, and in precarious family situations would not be able to complete their documentation and get their citizenship.
Removing birthright citizenship would fuel discrimination and can divide people. It would support the argument that migrants are not worthy of citizenship. It would stress that children of migrants do not contribute to Canadian society, which would be completely untrue. Socio-economic discrimination would rise as the marginalized would be the most affected by this policy change. They would be deprived of genuine citizenship benefits and treated as outsiders.
Myanmar and many other countries are proof that denial of citizenship encourages persecution and discrimination against stateless people.
By signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Canada has a responsibility to not increase statelessness. If need be, authorization of persons entering the country should be reviewed by amending the immigration law. Such a step would be more reasonable instead of making the process of citizenship tougher.
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