04/17/2012 06:07 EDT | Updated 06/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Baby Sex Selection Ad Targets Indo-Canadians

Indo-Canadian Voice/screengrab

A Washington-based reproductive clinic is advertising gender selection services in a Canadian newspaper that targets South Asian communities, CBC News has learned.

Using reproduction medicine to select the gender of a child was made illegal in Canada in 2004.

In its ad, the Washington Centre for Reproductive Medicine, based in Bellevue, offers to help Indo-Canadian families "Create the Family You Want: Boy or Girl." It accomplishes that by telling the parents the gender of an embryo before it is selected for transfer.

"The way I feel about this is that all the American companies that are using these ads do it for their own greed and business enhancement," says Charan Gill, founding president of the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society in Surrey, B.C. "They know the Indo-Canadian community wants more boys.

"Simply, it's an issue of sex selection to which we are totally opposed. We think it is disgusting," says Gill.

This news comes after research was published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showing significantly higher male-to-female ratios in third-born children to Indian born mothers in Ontario.

Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act became law in 2004. It bans the use of in vitro fertilization to select the gender of a child in Canada, except when diagnosing or preventing gender-based diseases.

"Canada has a very strict law respecting gender equity and the difficulty is that they have no way to enforce it due to the extremely porous nature of the border," says Roger Pierson.

Pierson, the director of research at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan, says he is not surprised American fertility clinics are targeting the Indo-Canadian market.

"From the American perspective this is business, and you are not only creating, you are working to expand your market."

The newspaper carrying the ad, the Indo-Canadian Voice, based in Surrey, B.C., says it didn't know the advertised procedure was illegal in Canada and would contact their lawyers to discuss whether to continue carrying the advertisement.

The paper points out it has turned down advertising in the past from a U.S. clinic that was offering to perform sex selective abortions, something the paper says it is opposed to.

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