Saturday, April 06, 2019

The Wisdom of Solomon

"In the future if you ever go over there [to Canada] alone and bring the child with you ...  would not object to that so long as the child likes it and can adapt to it."

"I am just hoping that our son can stay a little longer."
"Our son should not be living like this."

"But for our child the bulk of his education should still be received here in China. ... The opportunities of the world exist in China."
"Therefore, he must be familiar with China and understand everything about China."
"It is OK for him to live in Canada for a while when he is young in order to establish the framework for English thinking."
['"Scales of Justice" statue representing the Roman goddess of justice personifying moral force. (Photo via wikimedia commons)']
Which court should settle this type of custody dispute? - SaltWire Network File

Richmond, British Columbia has been called the "epicentre" of Canada's birth tourism industry. During the 2017-18 fiscal year, 474 babies were born to non-residents in the Vancouver suburb, according to Vancouver Coastal Health, representing 22 percent of all babies born there in that time frame. Canada is among 30 nations that confer automatic citizenship to those born on Canadian soil.

According to a recent online survey of 800 residents of British Columbia, 66 percent of respondents felt that the issue of birth tourism has a degrading quality on the value of Canadian citizenship. Of the respondents, 73 percent supported the establishment of new guidelines for birthright citizenship. That expectant mothers from abroad travel to Canada for the specific purpose of giving birth so their offspring can have citizenship is a controversial topic.

On the other hand, the situation has given rise to a growth industry that welcomes these temporary arrivals, where hotels specialize in catering to the needs of these brief stays, and specialty food preparers also cater to the birth tourists. The Immigration Department shows "only a small proportion of more than 380,000 annual births in Canada are by women who do not reside in Canada".

But for those who do travel to the country for that very specific purpose, there are times when unforeseen complications may arise. Such as that with a Chinese pair eager for their son to have Canadian citizenship, whose son was born in Richmond, B.C. in,2015. The mother spent six months in Canada, then the family returned to China in 2016. And then the parents separated.

The father has permanent resident status in Canada, splitting his time between China and Canada. The mother arrived on a visitor's visa several months before her due date. The couple, unmarried, agreed that the boy would live primarily in Beijing with his television host mother and her parents. The remainder of the time would be spent nearby in Tianjin with his bottled-water-business-owner father and his family.

A year later, the father took his son with him on a trip to Vancouver on one-way tickets without the mother's knowledge. She followed several days later then returned to Beijing shortly after for work, agreeing to allow her son to remain in Canada until 2018. The father, however, refused to hand over the son's passport and the mother was prompted to apply in B.C. Supreme Court for a declaration the boy was a "habitual resident" of China, wrongfully removed.

Her purpose was to use Chinese courts to settle the matter of the child's residence, while the father argued that matters concerning the child be decided in British Columbia, reflecting his status as a Canadian citizen. Reviewing the evidence, Justice Andrew Mayer concluded it was clear the boy's habitual residence was indeed China; "Place of citizenship and place of habitual residence are not the same thing", stated the judge.

He ruled the father had no authority to remove the boy from China, concluding that B.C. was not the proper jurisdiction to settle the matter respecting the boy's guardianship and parenting arrangements in view of his "tenuous" connection to the province. The father appealed, and a three-person panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

A man and woman sit across a table from each other with a document in between them. In 2015, a Chinese couple arranged to give birth to their son in Richmond, B.C., so that he would have automatic Canadian citizenship. What they didn’t anticipate at the time was the legal and jurisdictional quagmire they would find themselves in when their relationship broke apart.Getty Images

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