The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has adopted a policy position that some might interpret as part of an anti-immigrant lean that right-wing parties around the world are embracing with growing openness.
On Saturday (August 24), CPC members meeting in Halifax voted in favour of eliminating the right to Canadian citizenship that’s given to individuals born on Canadian soil.
The vote means that if the Conservatives were to win a federal election, its representatives in Parliament would be pressured to pass a bill that would end birthright citizenship.
Instead, the position says, a baby born in Canada would have to have at least one parent as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for the infant to be called a Canadian citizen and receive the rights that come with citizenship.
According to CBC News, the resolution was based on a petition against so-called “birth tourism” that Conservative MP for Richmond Centre, Alice Wong, created in 2016. Birth tourism refers to a practice where a citizen of a third country travels to Canada specifically for the purpose of giving birth here so that the infant will secure Canadian citizenship and the benefits that come with it such as access to health care and the right to work in Canada.
It’s not an issue that affects many people or the country in a significant way. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016—the most recent year for which data is available—there were just 313 babies born across the country to mothers who were not Canadian citizens.
Since the federal Conservatives’ adopted a policy against birthright citizenship, critics have decried the vote as divisive.
“#CPC18 delegates voted in favour of ending birthright citizenship for children born in Canada unless one parent is Canadian or a permanent resident,” federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote on social media. “Even Trump has resisted this idea. The NDP unequivocally condemns the division & hate being peddled by [CPC leader] @AndrewScheer & the CPC.”
Immigration and issues of race were already hot topics in Conservative circles. Just a few days before the Halifax convention, Maxine Bernier, then the Conservative MP for Beauce, wrote a series of messages on Twitter that opponents widely described as xenophobic.
“Trudeau keeps pushing his ‘diversity is our strength’ slogan,” wrote Bernier, who in May 2017 was almost voted leader of the federal Conservatives. “Yes, Canada is a huge and diverse country. This diversity is part of us and should be celebrated. But where do we draw the line?
“Ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and other minorities were unjustly repressed in the past. We’ve done a lot to redress those injustices and give everyone equal rights,” he continued. “But why should we promote ever more diversity?
“Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong,” Bernier wrote. “People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.”
Bernier was subsequently forced to part ways with the Conservatives. He’s since announced plans to form a new political party.
Since then, CPC leader Andrew Scheer has distanced himself and the party from such rhetoric. “The reason why waves and waves of immigrants from all corners of the world have chosen Canada is because we are free, open, and equal,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday (August 27). “Diversity is a product of our strength, and our strength is and ever has been our freedom.”
However, new poll results that EKOS Research Associates president Frank Graves recently shared online suggest that if Bernier’s party takes a line against immigration that’s harder than that of the Conservatives, he might find a receptive following.
“Forgetting about the overall number of immigrants coming to Canada,” the poll question reads, “of those who come would you say there are too few, too many or the right amount who are members of a visible minority?”
Of all respondents, 38 percent said they feel the country allows too many people of a visible minority to immigrate to Canada.
For supporters of the Conservatives, that number was 73 percent.