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July 24, 2006 permalink
Currently, a substantial number of Ontario births go unregistered, impeding baby theft under pretense of protection. Ontario is making it easier for parents to register births. The article omits one of the most compelling reasons to avoid registration — mothers give birth at home to avoid having their children stolen from the delivery room.
Ontario to eliminate fees for registering births
The Globe and Mail, POSTED ON 24/07/06, PETER CHENEY
TORONTO -- Ontario intends to eliminate fees for registering children's births after learning that record numbers of children never go on the books, creating a vast population of unknown people in Canada's largest province.
"This is a problem that we take seriously, and we're going to fix it," Paul de Zara, a spokesman for Ontario Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips, said yesterday.
The births of more than 30,000 babies have gone unreported in Ontario in the past decade, making it impossible for the province to keep an accurate count of its own population. Mr. de Zara said user fees will be cancelled in less than a year as part of a sweeping overhaul that will streamline the birth registration process.
Mr. de Zara said the current problems are due to a cumbersome bureaucracy that forces parents to deal with three levels of government (and pay three sets of fees) to register a child's birth, acquire a birth certificate and get a social insurance number: Births are registered with the local municipality, birth certificates are issued by the province and social insurance numbers are issued by the federal government. Mr. de Zara says the Ontario ministry will introduce a system known as Integrated Birth Registration by next spring.
Under the IBR system, the province will take over birth registrations and offer parents what Mr. de Zara called "one-stop shopping." When a child is born, the hospital will give parents all the documents they need to register the birth and apply for a birth certificate and social insurance number.
There will be no fee to register the birth.
Mr. de Zara says studies have shown that the fees now charged by municipalities to register births result in some parents failing to record their children -- an oversight that creates a crippling set of problems later on, since it's impossible to get a birth certificate unless a child's birth has been registered.
Parents have always been required to register births with their local government, which forwards the forms to the province. But not until 1996, after the Conservative provincial government downloaded a raft of new responsibilities to Ontario municipalities, did local governments gain the right to charge people for the service. Since then, 71 of Ontario's 445 municipalities, particularly those covering urban centres such as Ottawa, Hamilton and Windsor, have introduced fees that generally run between $10 and $30 to register births. In Toronto, where 30 per cent of Ontario babies are born, the fee jumped to $35 this summer.
The IBR system has been tested at eight hospitals around the province and has resulted in a dramatic improvement in birth reporting rates.
The current system, on the other hand, has produced the highest rate of unreported births in the country. Over the past decade, about 4 per cent of Ontario babies have gone missing from the system. In the rest of Canada, the rate of missing records is nearly nil.
Statistics Canada has found that the births of more than 5,400 babies are missing from Ontario's registry in 2003. The most glaring deficiency occurs in the case of Ontario children who die before they reach their first birthday (there are more than 200 a year) -- about 30 per cent of these children are never registered. The number runs between 0 per cent and 3 per cent in other provinces.
Experts blame a combination of factors for Ontario's chronic underreporting: the fees to register a birth, a notoriously backlogged registrar's office and an unusual lack of awareness. Experts say this statistical error skews planning for public health, education and housing, and may distort the entire country's population figures, since Ontario births of 130,000 a year account for 40 per cent of the national total.
Source: Globe and Mail