The Queen’s Journal
Stateless man seeks citizenship
Ottawa resident shares story on losing his rights as a Canadian
BY SEBASTIAN LECK, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Deepan Budlakoti, as of now, has no nationality.
It’s the first case of its kind in Canada. Budlakoti, who held two talks in Kingston yesterday, was born in Ottawa to parents of Indian origin, which theoretically makes him a Canadian citizen.
The Canadian government, however, believes that his parents had Indian diplomatic status when he was born, which invalidates his citizenship.
Yet when the government stripped him of his citizenship in 2010, India rejected Canada’s request to grant him Indian documentation, since he isn’t an Indian citizen either.
This led to a protracted three-year battle with the government in Canadian courts over his legal status in the country.
Budlakoti spoke to a group of 30 people to promote his cause and discuss his experiences as a stateless person.
The talks were organized by No One is Illegal and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) in Kingston.
During the event, Budlakoti detailed his experiences dealing with the Canadian justice system and immigration services, including the three years he spent in jail.
He lost his citizenship after he was incarcerated for a violent crime, according to Budlakoti. When he was in police custody, he said, a jail guard questioned him about his legal status.
“I feel I was targeted when I was inside the Canadian justice system,” he said.
Budlakoti’s parents currently live in Ottawa, and they are Canadian citizens along with the rest of his extended family. He has never been to India, he said, and has no relatives currently living in the country.
Budlakoti lost his work permit and his photo IDs when he lost his citizenship, he added, leaving him without access to social services or a source of income.
“I currently have no healthcare … I had to go to court to get my driving license back,” he said.
He also had great difficulty procuring a social insurance card.
No One Is Illegal is running an online petition to grant Budlakoti his citizenship, while his personal website asks for one-time or monthly donations to help him pay his legal fees.
He now has his work permit, but he’s still waiting for a federal court date to contest his status. He said he’s also filed an appeal to the United Nations, citing Article 15 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 15 states that every person has the right to a nationality.
“In nine months I should have an answer from the UN, although Canada doesn’t necessarily have to abide by it,” he said.
An organizer from No One Is Illegal was present at the event, but declined to speak with the Journal or give her name.
Prea Hutchinson, an OPIRG organizer, said No One is Illegal started the talk series, while OPIRG helped them with logistics.
“I think it’s an important conversation, and I think for OPIRG, what legitimate reason is there for someone to lose their citizenship. And what happens when you do?” she said.
OPIRG’s role is to prevent injustice, she said, and Budlakoti’s is an example of a situation caused by an unfair bureaucratic system.
“What if it was someone needing cancer treatments? Would he have to forgo his treatments while they came up with a solution?” she said.
“That’s not the world I like to imagine, and that’s where OPIRG fits in.”