By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, in Vancouver, Wednesday February 22, 2012, (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY)
OTTAWA - Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the government is considering citizenship law changes to prevent so-called anchor babies from automatically becoming citizens.
Kenney says his department is not sure how widespread the problem is of foreign women duping the system by coming to Canada on tourist and visitor visas for the sole purpose of having a child.
"This is not a new phenomena. We have been aware of this happening for some time," Kennedy said in Vancouver where he announced changes to speed up the recognition of foreign credentials.
"In fact ... hospital administrators in Montreal have raised the problem with me ...in that they have seen a growing number of people ostensibly as visitors giving birth to children and immediately leaving without paying their hospital bill."
Kenney was reacting to reports in Canada and Asia that pregnant Chinese women are coming to Canada to have a baby so the child is a citizen.
The Chinese fraud is mostly based in Hong Kong where bogus immigration agents are coaching wealthy mainlanders how to keep their pregnancies hidden while entering Canada.
All babies born in Canada are considered citizens - meaning they could return later in life as students, for example, and sponsor their parents under family reunification applications. Many other countries do not grant automatic citizenship to babies born to foreigners.
Kenney could not say if the problem is widespread outside the Chinese community.
"We don't want people to get the idea that citizenship is a way to get a passport of convenience, that Canada is a country to be exploited," he said.
Opposition politicians said any changes being considered should be brought before Parliament, and not left for the minister to arbitrarily implement as he has done in the past.
"Allow politicians from all political parties to weigh in on the issue as opposed to 'Gee whiz, I hear about this, I want to glorify the issue and I want to talk tough,"' said Liberal immigration critic Kevin Lamoureux.
Kenney's officials say the matter will be brought before the Commons citizenship and immigration committee before changes are made.