Two studies in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined more than six million births from 1990 through 2012 and determined that there are about 4,400 “missing girls” among Canada’s Indian immigrant community.

Researchers found that Indian-born women who immigrated to Canada give birth to 138 boys for every 100 girls. The global ratio for boy to girls births is about 107 boys to 100 girls and Ontario rate is 105 boys for every 100 girls.

Among Indian-born Canadian families, women who already had three girls had 166 boys for every 100 girls. (The ratio should still be 105:100.) Furthermore, among Indo-Canadian mothers who had two daughters and an abortion preceding the fourth birth, the ratio was 326 boys to 100 girls, and among Indo-Canadian women who had more than one abortion, the ratio was 409:100. If the abortion was done after 14 weeks’ gestation, when the gender of the preborn child can be determined, the ratio rose to 663:100.

The research indicates that if normal birth ratios were maintained, there would be an additional 4,472 Indo-Canadian baby girls born over the past two decades.

Lead researcher Marcelo Urquia of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto said, “the main implication” is that in some immigrant communities “males are placed at a higher value than females.” Urquia insisted the gender imbalance “is not just about abortions, it is about gender equality.” Previous studies have suggested similar phenomenon among Chinese-Canadians where preferences for sons lead to sex-selective abortion.

Urquia said that the next step is to study if ratios change over time or among second- and third-generation Indo-Canadians, to see if cultural attitudes about gender change.

Kripa Sekhar of the South Asian Women’s Center in Brampton told the Toronto Star that she suspects many women who abort their baby girls are being coerced by their husbands. “A woman who has a male child feels she has fulfilled her obligations to her family.” Yet, Sekhar stressed “in no way should this become an excuse to ban abortions.” She said Indo-Canadian women must “be able to make their own choices.”

The CMAJ article notes that sex-selection in artificial reproduction is illegal in Canada, but that federal law is silent on sex-selective abortion.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, a former physician, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the practice of sex-selective abortion, but did not indicate he would take any provincial action against it.

In 2014, Mark Warawa (CPC, Langley) introduced a private member’s motion calling for a parliamentary condemnation of the practice of sex-selective abortion but it was deemed non-votable. The 2014 National March for Life saw 20,000 Canadians call for an end to gendercide.

While Campaign Life Coalition called for an end to sex-selective abortions, they see it as just another poor reason for terminating a pregnancy. “This issue ought to help Canadians see that all abortions are discriminatory and unjust,” CLC national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said in a press release. “If these unborn baby girls are not human beings, then what does it matter if parents choose to ‘terminate a pregnancy’? But if they are human beings, then any reason to end the life of a pre-born child, female or male, should be ‘deeply disturbing’ to all Canadians