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16 October 2013, Ottawa – Deepan Budlakoti, a Canadian-born man under a deportation order to his parent’s country of origin, has asked the Federal Court to declare that he is a citizen. Budlakoti’s application to the Federal Court under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms argues that the federal government has violated international law and numerous charter rights in its treatment of him. It also says that the government has acted in bad faith, misled the public, and intentionally concealed information from the 23-year old construction worker. (Read full application here.)
“What the government is doing to me is wrong and now we know the government has known this since March 18th. Yet they violated my rights and released me on bail with strict conditions and put my parents under strict conditions as well. I did my time and paid my debt to society and yet the government wants to deport me to my parents’ homeland, not mine: I am a born Canadian citizen.” said Budlakoti.
The challenge was launched after a Privacy Act request uncovered an internal government memo admitting that the Indian High Commission had informed Canada on 18 March 2013 that Budlakoti was not an Indian national.
“The government has a lot of explaining to do,” said Yavar Hameed, a member of Budlakoti’s legal team who launched the application. “They have rendered my client stateless, deprived him of his fundamental rights to freedom of movement, placed him in indefinite detention contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and International Law. The Minister is acting very unfairly in maintaining his position that Deepan is not Canadian in the face of information from India that Deepan is not Indian. Astoundingly, the Minister has known about India’s position for months and has withheld this information from Deepan.”
A former High Commissioner of India, SJS Chhatwal, has also weighed into the affair. In a letter dated 28 August 2013, he states that Budlakoti’s father, who originally came to Canada as household staff for Chhatwal, was not with the Indian High Commission “in any capacity” at the time of Budlakoti’s birth. This flatly contradicts the government’s argument that Budlakoti falls under a legal exception whereby children born in Canada to foreign diplomats are not citizens.
“In its comments to the media, the government stubbornly refuses to admit its own mistakes, instead making much of the fact that Deepan has a criminal record, as though that somehow justifies throwing him out of the country. Racialized people should not be exiled from their homes in Canada because the Minister does not like them. Deepan has already served his criminal sentence, and he should not be deported just because his parents were born in India,” said Zoe Maggio, a member of the Justice for Deepan support committee.
The application could be heard in court as early as January.
To set up interviews:
Justice for Deepan, tel. 613-216-1295
Ahmad Ramadan, legal counsel, tel. 613-716-8852 (before 4pm)
Yavar Hameed, legal counsel, tel. 613.232.2688 ext 228 (after 4pm)
Justice for Deepan Support Committee