Tuesday, October 25, 2011


See this interesting story in today's Globe and Mail: under Canadian immigration law, the child is NOT a Canadian citizen, as he was not born in Canada, and neither of his parents is a Canadian citizen. In fact, the child is not even a permanent resident, as the parents had not completed the residency process by landing in Canada prior to his birth and, in any event, the child had not been part of the immigration application.

So what is the child's status? it appears that he is a citizen of India, and that he will have to be sponsored by his parents after they complete landing in Canada. In the meantime, the child may be issued a visitor's visa and remain with the parents in Canada, but even that has its mechanical challenges given that the child will be at the Port of Entry. I believe, however, that discretionary entry may be granted.

Canadian pediatrician helps deliver baby in plane flying over Kazakhstan - The Globe and Mail

In-flight birth

Canadian pediatrician helps deliver baby in plane flying over Kazakhstan

Timothy Appleby

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 7:25PM EDT

Last updated Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 10:13PM EDT

Scotch whisky was used to sterilize the scissors that snipped the umbilical cord, and the baby’s swaddling clothes were warmed up in the microwave at the back of the Toronto-bound Air India jet.

The birthplace was high over Kazakhstan, and the baby’s citizenship is unclear so far.

Pediatrician Balvinder Singh Ahuja of Brampton, Ont., was just settling in for the long flight from Amritsar to Toronto’s Pearson airport on the weekend after a trip to his Punjab home town of Hoshiarpur to finish some business when the call was piped through the Boeing 777’s address system:

Was there a doctor in the house? There was.

Dr. Singh made his way to the back of the crowded plane, the world’s largest twin jet with seating for 300-plus passengers, and discovered that a woman in her mid-20s was about to give birth. Like most foreign-schooled doctors, he would have to be retrained and recertified to practise medicine in Canada, where he is now seeking work in the medical field or the trucking industry.

However, he has been in delivery rooms many times in India.

“I saw this lady, she was on the floor with her husband. She was having pains and she had started labour.”

Dr. Singh guesses he has attended nearly 1,000 births. But this was about to be a first, he said, “because my field [of expertise] starts when the baby is out.”

The captain offered to divert the plane to Frankfurt, which would have required dumping 60 or 70 tonnes of jet fuel.

But Frankfurt was three hours away, and Kuljeet Kaur was about to have the baby very soon.

Sheets and pillows were brought from the first-class section. Food boxes were used to prop up Ms. Kaur’s legs, and about 45 minutes later, a baby girl slipped into the world, weighing 2.8 or 2.9 kilos – about seven pounds.

Some improvisation was called for. The plane’s first-aid kit had rubber gloves, scissors and antiseptic ointment, but nothing with which to sterilize the scissors, so Dr. Singh used scotch, while a swaddling blanket was warmed in the microwave.

Mother and child, together with husband Ranjodh Singh Gill and the couple’s seven-year-old daughter, got an instant upgrade to first class. Breastfeeding began, and nine hours or so later, the plane touched down in Toronto, where paramedics were waiting.

For Air India, the in-flight birth appears to be a first, an airline spokesman said.

Dr. Singh estimates Ms. Kaur was about 37 weeks pregnant when she delivered. Airline guidelines usually require that after a pregnancy passes the 35-week mark, a doctor’s letter is required, stating that the mother is fit to travel.

As for the newborn’s citizenship, it appears that no Canadian passport will be forthcoming.

Had she been born on Canadian soil, citizenship would be all-but-automatic. And five years ago, a child born to an Egyptian-American woman in the skies above Maritime Canada was granted citizenship.

But the family was immigrating to Canada, and is believed to hold the status of non-citizen permanent residents.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Bill Brown said that if a Canadian citizen gives birth outside the country, citizenship can usually be transferred to the baby.

But for non-citizens, including landed immigrants, the process is less clear, particularly if the child was not born in any country at all. So it may be that the baby girl begins life as an Indian citizen, or conceivably as a citizen of Kazakhstan, although her parents will be able to apply for her to be naturalized.

“This doesn’t happen every day,” Mr. Brown said.

For Dr. Singh, the main thing is that the unlikely tale had a happy ending.

“Everyone was quite thankful.”

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