Ottawa-born man is in court to try and get his country back

16 June 2014, Ottawa Citizen

Is ex-convict Deepan Budlakoti a Canadian citizen? It’s up to Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan to sort out the facts.

A strange case

The Ottawa-born man was stripped of his citizenship and ordered to be deported back to India in 2011 after he was busted for drug and weapons trafficking.

But the Indian government doesn’t want him. Last year, it refused to issue the travel documents necessary to enact Budlakoti’s deportation, saying that he was not an Indian citizen.

Budlakoti was born at the old Grace Hospital in Ottawa, according to his 1989 birth certificate.

But the government says his criminal record trumps his birth certificate.

A man without a country

Now, the federal government argues that Budlakoti has never been a Canadian citizen because his parents worked for an Indian diplomat when he was born in 1989.

Unlike anyone else born in Canada, children born to foreign diplomatic staff do not automatically gain Canadian citizenship.

His parents got their Canadian citizenship in 1997 but they didn’t think to make an application for him because he was born here.

But Budlakoti’s lawyer, Yavar Hameed, told court that his client’s parents — both are now Canadian citizens — left the employ of the Indian High Commission in June 1989, four months before their son was born.

He provided the court with two affidavits to support that position, including one from the former Indian High Commissioner to Canada.

The former top diplomat testified that Budlakoti’s parents — they had come to Canada in 1985 to cook, clean and garden for the ambassador — left the high commission in June 1989 to work for a doctor in Nepean.

That physician, Dr. Harsha Dehejia, confirmed Budlakoti’s parents began to work for him at about that time.

Budlakoti’s lawyer showed the court a copy of a Statement of Live Birth, which gives his parent’s address as the same address as Dr. Dehejia’s Nepean home.

Federal lawyer Korinda McLaine, however, says Budlakoti has never held Canadian citizenship.

She presented the court with evidence that Budlakoti’s parents did not give up their diplomatic passports until January 1990 — months after Budlakoti was born — and did not leave the high commission’s employ, at least officially, until December 1989.

For his part, Budlakoti says he is in legal limbo.

It’s very stressful: it’s like being indefinitely detained… You have all the rights of a citizen and then, by the stroke of a pen somewhere, you’re told that you’re no longer a citizen. There’s no process, no adjudicator, nothing, it’s just taken away.
—Deepan Budlakoti