Council of Canadians Supports Deepan

Statement by Council of Canadians

CouncilOfCanadiansDeepan Budlakoti is facing deportation from Canada.

As explained by writer Scott Neigh on rabble.ca, “Budlakoti was born in Canada, which in almost every instance confers Canadian citizenship. The Canadian government has, in the past, issued him a passport, which is something they only do for citizens. They did not contact him when he was 16 years old to tell him he was not a citizen, which is what they do if that is the case.”

Neigh continues, “It was only after he had some trouble with the law — something for which he has paid his debt to society, as determined by the courts — that the Canadian government decided to reverse their previous recognition of his citizenship and to claim on technical grounds that he is not a citizen. They are proceeding to try to deport him to India, a country where he has never lived and where has no family. Moreover, the Indian government has made it quite clear that they do not regard him as an Indian national and will not accept him. Budlakoti is, in effect, stateless.”

The Toronto Star details, “At issue is whether Budlakoti’s parents were still working (as domestic help) for the Indian embassy in Ottawa at the time of his birth 23 years ago and whether he should be recognized as a Canadian citizen. …While Ottawa grants citizenship to almost every person born on Canadian soil, an obscure provision in the citizenship act stipulates exceptions to those born to parents working in Canada for foreign governments or diplomatic officers.”

“Questions over his citizenship arose in 2010, after Budlakoti served a three-year jail sentence for drug and weapon charges. Upon his release, Ottawa initiated removal against him claiming he was born while his parents were employed by a foreign government.” But that may not be the case. This September, “A former high commissioner of India in Canada issued a statement asserting that the man’s father stopped working for him in June 1989, four months before Budlakoti was born.”

And the Globe and Mail notes, “Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, (says) ‘It’s a disgrace’ (and) calls the Harper government’s efforts to banish Mr. Budlakoti ‘tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment’. (She says) that sort of ‘abuse of process’ should worry all Canadians.”

That article adds, “(Budlakoti) admits to making big and criminal mistakes. But attempting to rebuild his life under the constant fear of a knock at the door is grim. …(He) cannot work because he does not have a work permit. No decision on whether to grant him one is expected for months. In the meantime, he cannot enroll in job-training courses because the conditions of his parole require him to remain inside his parents’ home from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.”

“Budlakoti’s lawyer, Peter Stieda, said his client is essentially stateless right now and only has three options to reclaim his citizenship: asking Immigration Minister Chris Alexander to intervene, demanding the Immigration and Refugee Board to reopen Budlakoti’s inadmissibility hearing, or filing a Charter challenge with the federal court.”

Civil society groups supporting Deepan’s campaign include the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor, CUPE 4600, No One Is Illegal, and South Asian Women’s Community Centre Montreal.