‘Stateless’ Ottawa-born man loses bid for citizenship

Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen, 10 September 2014

Deepan Budlakoti said, ‘I was born here, raised here, lived here my whole entire life. But I’m not Canadian? Being stateless, it’s a terrible place to be.’

Ottawa-born Deepan Budlakoti, a 24-year-old who has never lived outside this country, has lost his bid to be declared a Canadian citizen by the Federal Court of Canada.

In a decision released Wednesday, Justice Michael Phelan ruled that Budlakoti, born to employees of the Indian Embassy in October 1989, does not have a claim to Canadian citizenship by virtue of his birth.

Unlike others, children born to foreign diplomatic staff in Canada do not automatically become citizens of this country.

Budlakoti had presented two sworn affidavits to support his contention that his parents had already left the Indian Embassy by the time he was born in Ottawa’s Grace Hospital — a fact that, if true, would make him a Canadian citizen. But Phelan rejected that material in favour of what he said was more reliable documentary evidence that indicated Budlakoti’s parents left the embassy in December 1989, two months after their son was born.

Budlakoti had no idea he wasn’t an official Canadian citizen until May 2010 when he ran afoul of the law. He was sentenced to three years in prison for weapons and cocaine trafficking, and ordered deported in December 2011 based on what federal officials deemed his “serious criminality.”

But India rejected him. Indian officials said Budlakoti is not a citizen and have refused Canada’s request to issue him travel documents.

It means that Budlakoti continues to live under the restrictive terms of a federal deportation order that can’t be enforced. He must report every month to the Canada Border Services Agency and live with his family. His other family members, including his parents, are all Canadian citizens.
For his part, Budlakoti contends he is effectively stateless: living in a legal limbo without health care, social services or employment opportunities.

“I was born here, raised here, lived here my whole entire life,” he said. “But I’m not Canadian? Being stateless, it’s a terrible place to be. I have nothing.”

Canada pledged in a 1961 UN treaty to reduce the incidence of statelessness but Budlakoti said Canada has violated that treaty by leaving him without a country. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has taken his case to the UN.

Budlakoti’s lawyers argued in Federal Court that his treatment offended the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But Justice Phelan said Budlakoti failed to establish a Charter violation.

Budlakoti said he intends to appeal Phelan’s ruling. “The judge completely ignores the fact I’m stateless and that Canada has an obligation to remedy it,” he said.

Federal lawyers have argued that Budlakoti is not stateless because there’s no evidence that he has applied for citizenship in either Canada or India.

During his 24 years in Canada, Budlakoti has been issued an Ontario birth certificate and two Canadian passports, and until last year received health-care services.