Couples who participate in paid surrogacy in Canada can receive a $500,000 (£233,900) fine or a decade in jail.

Yet these stiff punishments have not put an end to the practice. It has simply made people more secretive, CBC News reported.

Canadian law says that a surrogate can only be paid for costs directly related to the surrogacy, but may not receive a fee otherwise.

As a result of this climate of fear, surrogacy fees get paid off the books.

“They’re afraid to do it in Canada. A lot of people think they’re going to go to jail,” Stephanie Scott, the owner of a surrogacy agency in Texas, told the news service.

“If they send their surrogate, you know, $600 (£280) for her rent or whatever, they try to pay it in cash, under the table, so there’s no paper trails.”

Some couples who do not want to do that choose instead to use an American surrogate, and an American agency, the news service said.

This is despite the fact that it can be more expensive for the Canadian couple due to travel, and harder emotionally because they cannot be with the surrogate and intimately follow the progress on a day-to-day basis.

A surrogate in Canada told the CBC that some couples just use a random surrogate from the Internet.

Once the practice becomes unregulated, in such a manner, the couple becomes vulnerable to a number of problems, and may have no child in the end to show for it.

“Couples that I’ve spoken to have been ripped off, because of their own fear, forced to go without contracts,” an anonymous woman working in the surrogacy business told CBC.

“Or, [they] go with surrogates that maybe are a little bit less desirable to them because they’re just desperate.”

Despite this, a recent article in Maclean’s Magazine said that surrogacy among same-sex couples in Canada is increasing.

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