Re­vo­king birth right ci­ti­zens­hip af­fects ever­yo­ne, not just fo­reig­ners…

La Jornada (Canada) - - PORTADA -

The­re’s been a lot of talk about get­ting rid of birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip in Ca­na­da and the Uni­ted Sta­tes. Pre­si­dent Do­nald Trump an­noun­ced that he’ll is­sue an exe­cu­ti­ve or­der and the Con­ser­va­ti­ve Party of Ca­na­da pas­sed a mo­tion that, should they be the next fe­de­ral go­vern­ment, birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip will be no mo­re.

In the U. S., the pre­si­dent will ha­ve to con­tend with the fact that he can’t just uni­la­te­rally eli­mi­na­te a right in the 14th Amend­ment of the cons­ti­tu­tion.

In Ca­na­da, birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip can be eli­mi­na­ted simply by amen­ding or re­pea­ling parts of the Ci­ti­zens­hip Act.

In both coun­tries, the preoc­cu­pa­tion with en­ding birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip is tied to the ar­gu­ment that mi­grants are en­ga­ging in “birth tou­rism” and cha­llen­ging the in­te­grity of ci­ti­zens­hip. But the facts say ot­her­wi­se.

As Andrew Grif­fith, for­mer di­rec­tor ge­ne­ral at Ci­ti­zens­hip and Im­mi­gra­tion Ca­na­da, points out, fe­wer than 0.1 per cent of to­tal births in Ca­na­da in the last 10 years (ex­cept 2012) in­vol­ved births of chil­dren to fo­reign mot­hers. Grif­fiths con­clu­des, “An im­par­tial ob­ser­ver would con­clu­de that the­re is cu­rrently no bu­si­ness ca­se for chan­ging Ca­na­da’s birth po­licy.”

Asi­de from the bu­si­ness ca­se, what’s not tal­ked about is how the eli­mi­na­tion of birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip would af­fect not just mi­grants, but all of us. Un­doub­tedly, such a po­licy would in­crea­se the num­ber of sta­te­less per­sons in Ca­na­da.

Every per­son born in Ca­na­da would ha­ve to apply for ci­ti­zens­hip. Mo­re tax do­llars would be nee­ded to process the ap­pli­ca­tions. Clerks would sud­denly ha­ve the po­wer to ma­ke subs­tan­ti­ve and le­gal de­ter­mi­na­tions about the sta­tus of every per­son who ap­plies for ci­ti­zens­hip. Li­ke any ad­mi­nis­tra­ti­ve sys­tem, mis­ta­kes would be ma­de. Bad or wrong de­ci­sions would be cha­llen­ged in the courts at great ex­pen­se to both the sta­te and peo­ple af­fec­ted. Peo­ple would strug­gle with the fact that they are sta­te­less in the in­ter­im.

Being sta­te­less has se­rious im­pli­ca­tions.

Sta­te­less per­sons ha­ve dif­fi­culty ac­ces­sing edu­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, health ca­re, so­cial ser­vi­ces and free­dom of mo­ve­ment. Sim­ple things li­ke ob­tai­ning a bank ac­count, cellp­ho­ne

ac­count or re­gis­te­ri­ng birth, ma­rria­ge or death are com­pli­ca­ted, if not im­pos­si­ble. Sta­te­less per­sons would be sub­ject to arrest, de­ten­tion and po­ten­tial re­mo­val to pla­ces they may ne­ver ha­ve been to be­fo­re.

The eli­mi­na­tion of birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip would af­fect the most vul­ne­ra­ble the grea­test: the in­di­gent, less edu­ca­ted, tho­se with men­tal ill­ness, chil­dren in pre­ca­rious fa­mily si­tua­tions or wards of the sta­te. The­se are the peo­ple who may not ha­ve the ap­pro­pria­te pa­per­work or proof that they do qua­lify for ci­ti­zens­hip or they won’t ha­ve sup­port for ob­tai­ning ci­ti­zens­hip.

This one po­licy would crea­te an ex­pen­si­ve so­cial pro­blem for the sta­te.

The eli­mi­na­tion of birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip is then not an act to pre­ser­ve or pro­tect the in­te­grity of ci­ti­zens­hip. The po­licy is a di­vi­ding tool that fuels dis­cri­mi­na­tion against tho­se of dif­fe­rent ra­ces and so­cio-eco­no­mic clas­ses. It’s a tool to de­le­gi­ti­mi­ze per­sons who ha­ve a ge­nui­ne and ef­fec­ti­ve link to Ca­na­da. It would crea­te ba­rriers to im­por­tant rights that co­me with ci­ti­zens­hip, in­clu­ding the right to vo­te.

We only need to look at how strip­ping ci­ti­zens­hip and the de­nial of ci­ti­zens­hip in ot­her pla­ces of the world ha­ve en­cou­ra­ged dis­cri­mi­na­tion, per­se­cu­tion and vio­len­ce against sta­te­less per­sons. For exam­ple, the op­pres­sion of and the ge­no­ci­de against Rohing­ya was pre­ci­pi­ta­ted by their de­nial of ci­ti­zens­hip in Myan­mar, a country they ca­lled ho­me for ge­ne­ra­tions.

Ca­na­dians should be cau­tious when con­si­de­ring the idea to get rid of birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip. It wouldn’t stop mi­grants from co­ming. Ins­tead of ma­king it har­der to get ci­ti­zens­hip, we should trust our well-oi­led im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to deal with the entry of per­sons wit­hin our country.

Such a po­licy would not build con­fi­den­ce in the in­te­grity of Ca­na­dian ci­ti­zens­hip. Ins­tead, ci­ti­zens­hip would be mo­re pre­ca­rious than ever be­fo­re.

Ca­na­dians should al­so be mind­ful that Ca­na­da has sig­ned on­to the 1961 Con­ven­tion on the Re­duc­tion of Sta­te- less­ness and the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child, both of which obli­ga­te Ca­na­da not to crea­te si­tua­tions of sta­te­less­ness.

My fat­her was born sta­te­less be­cau­se the sta­te he was born in­to didn’t con­fer birth­right ci­ti­zens­hip. It af­fec­ted his op­por­tu­nity for edu­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment and his men­tal health.

Being a child of a pre­viously sta­te­less per­son, I’m proof enough that wel­co­ming sta­te­less per­sons to Ca­na­da with the con­fe­rral of ci­ti­zens­hip is the best way to build a na­tion.

-TROYMEDIA Dr. Guy­lè­ne Thé­riault is a fa­mily phy­si­cian who prac­ti­ses fa­mily me­di­ci­ne in Ga­ti­neau, Qué. She is the as­sis­tant dean of Dis­tri­bu­ted Me­di­cal Edu­ca­tion, in the De­part­ment of Fa­mily Me­di­ci­ne at McGill Uni­ver­sity. Dr. Wendy Le­vin­son is the chair of Choo­sing Wi­sely Ca­na­da, a con­tri­bu­tor with Evi­den­ceNet­work.ca, which is ba­sed at the Uni­ver­sity of Win­ni­peg, and a pro­fes­sor of Me­di­ci­ne at the Uni­ver­sity of To­ron­to.

Sta­te­less per­sons ha­ve dif­fi­culty ac­ces­sing edu­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, health ca­re, so­cial ser­vi­ces and free­dom of mo­ve­ment

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