Trend of ‘birth tourism’ is testing some Canadians’ patience with birthright citizenship

If an expectant mother comes to Canada just to have a baby, should that baby automatically be a Canadian citizen?

Lesson #
January 17, 2019

Each year, thousands of mothers travel to Canada just to have a baby. They leave a month later, with a passport for their newborn. Some companies in China offer full-service birth tourism services, just like a travel agency. It's perfectly legal, but should it be? Some Canadians think so-called birth tourism is an abuse of the system. Plus, learn what it means to test someone's patience.


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Transcript

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If an expectant mother comes to Canada just to have a baby, should that baby automatically be a Canadian citizen? So-called “birth tourism” is testing some Canadians’ patience.

Like many countries, Canada gives automatic citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil. But that has led to thousands of expectant mothers coming to Canada simply to give birth—and to give their child Canadian citizenship. It’s perfectly legal, but some people in Canada think it’s an abuse of the system.

Hi everyone, welcome back to Plain English. I’m Jeff, JR is the producer, and this is a great podcast for practicing your English. We talk about current events, topics of general interest, things like that. And we do it all at a slower-than-normal pace. We do it that way so you can hear every word, process it, and understand more than if you were listening at full speed. If you need a little extra help understanding the program, you can always read our interactive transcripts online. Today is episode 121, for example, and you can find the transcript online at PlainEnglish.com/121.

Today is also January 17, and that means I’m more than halfway there. I’m talking about “dry January.” I’m doing it. JR’s doing it. And one of your fellow listeners, Gabriel from Sao Paolo, is doing it. Dry January means giving up alcohol for the first month of the year. It was the topic on one of the very, very first episodes of Plain English, number 15, which you can listen to at PlainEnglish.com/15. That’s reaching way back into the archives. I do it for health purposes—better nutrition, better sleep, things like that. It helps me get the year off to a good start, but I’m not going to lie—it’s not easy.

As time goes by, though, my dry January is changing. I’ve given up alcohol for one month a year for a long time, probably close to eight, if not ten, years now. At the beginning, the weekends were hardest. I’d want to go out with friends and I had to resist the temptation. Nowadays it’s different. The hardest now is at social occasions at work. I’ve had a pretty good dry January to date; I haven’t had many temptations. But last week I was at a conference at work, and I saw a bunch of colleagues that I only get to see a few times a year, from other cities. Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Boston. We’ve worked together over the years and we had a two-day meeting in New Jersey. And there was happy hour, and there were two dinners, and I really just wanted to enjoy a few drinks with them. But I was good. I was drinking one Diet Coke after another, but I made it. JR’s here in Chicago for a few days. He sent me a video when he was out with friends—the video was of his hand reaching for a cocktail, but then correcting himself and reaching for a water instead. Good choice, JR!

In all seriousness, it’s a good thing to do, good for your health and sleep patterns. Although there are some tough moments, I have to say it overall has been a good thing for me. So, to hear more about what it is, why people do it, and what the experts say about it, check out PlainEnglish.com/15.


Birth tourism is testing some Canadians’ patience

It’s the law in many countries, such as the United States, Mexico, and Brazil: if you are born in the country, you are automatically a citizen. It’s the law in Canada too, and it has led to a booming business called “birth tourism.” Women who are six or seven months pregnant travel to Canada with the express purpose of giving birth. Once they have a chance to get a passport for their new baby, sometimes less than a month later, they go home. Their child, however, would be a Canadian citizen and would be able to exercise benefits of that citizenship for life.

Much, but not all, of this happens in the westernmost province of British Columbia, which includes Vancouver and its surroundings. At one hospital in Richmond, a city near Vancouver, statistics show that one in five new births is to a mother that is not a resident. A cottage industry has developed around this type of tourism. Companies advertise online in China and even have in-person sales offices, just like a travel agency. There are specific houses and apartments in the Vancouver area that are just for expectant mothers. They are staffed by Mandarin-speaking nurses and caregivers, who shop at local Chinese grocery stores and provide prenatal care. The companies also arrange for delivery, when the time comes, at a local hospital with Mandarin-speaking doctors. A three-month stay, including the cost of giving birth, starts at about $25,000 Canadian dollars, which for reference is about $18,000 US dollars, but costs can be much higher. One recent news report said there are about two dozen such baby houses in operation in Vancouver; some of them operate openly, while others present themselves as short-term vacation rentals.

You can imagine that this is causing some controversy in Canada, especially among the people who live in British Columbia. Those who are against the practice say that it’s an abuse of the system. The purpose of birthright citizenship, they say, is intended to give rights to people who have a link to Canada, who will live in and contribute to the country. Children who are born there and are immediately taken away, sometimes just a month old, are not citizens in any meaningful way, these critics say. This gives the impression of wealthy parents in China taking a shortcut around the system, making sure their children are entitled to study at a Canadian university in the future at a highly discounted rate, for example, whereas other deserving kids would not have the same rights. Some first-generation immigrants to Canada, who had to wait in long lines, apply, and be accepted as citizens, think that birth tourism represents wealthy Chinese mothers skipping the line for their kids.

The Canadian government briefly considered changing the law last year, when the Conservative party was in power, but they abandoned the idea, saying that it would be too complicated and costly. The current government, controlled by the Liberal party, has no intention of revisiting the laws, though the issue could come up in the next national election. About 2,000 children are born to nonresident mothers each year, so it’s not a huge number nationally.

The mothers, for their part, say they are following the law. There is, after all, nothing illegal about what they are doing. And far from taking up Canadian resources, they say, they are actually contributing to the economy. Canadian citizens get free health care, but foreign tourists have to pay. One mother said she paid $60,000 Canadian dollars in hospital fees and other expenses, had her baby, and then went back to China. Neither she nor her new baby were entitled to, or used, any type of government benefit—so far from being a burden on the Canadian economy, her visit was a net contribution. Others say they are doing it to increase the educational opportunities of the children, who may want to study outside of China someday.

Right now the problem seems relatively small in comparison to the total Canadian population, with most births to nonresident mothers taking place in Vancouver and the Toronto area. But if you will permit me, I would like to make two generalities about the Canadian people, based on my experience. First, they are extremely friendly and welcoming. But they also like to follow a process and they value a sense of fair play. So the issue of birth tourism is pitting these two generally admirable Canadian qualities against one another. For the moment, though, I think there will not be many changes in the laws. The idea of birthright citizenship is a fairly strong principle in both Canada and the United States.


Who do we have to say “hi” to today? Oh yes, Sari from Finland, the winter wonderland, she calls it. She joined us last spring—another long-time listener. And although she has lived abroad over that time, she is back home and listens to us while out Nordic walking with her two Labrador retrievers, listening to us on Spotify. Listening to Spotify while Nordic walking in Finland in the wintertime—how perfectly Scandinavian, right? Labradors are great dogs, too. Sari, I just love that mental image, and I’m really glad you’re taking us along for your walks.

Federico from Italy wrote to say he loves English and is on a mission to get better. He listens and reads the transcript out loud—perfect practice to improve your confidence. And finally Lucas from Sao Paulo is a computer developer and has been studying English for the last few months. Thanks to Sari, Federico, and Lucas for your notes this week. I love hearing from listeners, so send me a note to [email protected] and say hi, let me know where you’re from, and why you’re studying English.

¿Hablas español?

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你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

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Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

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Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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