OTTAWA — An Ottawa man says he will appeal after losing a round in his court battle for Canadian citizenship.
Deepan Budlakoti was suddenly told by federal officials four years ago that he is not a citizen — even though he was born in Canada and had been issued a birth certificate and a Canadian passport.
The government argues Budlakoti did not automatically become a Canadian at birth in October 1989, as his parents were employed by a foreign diplomat, the Indian high commissioner.
Budlakoti, 24, was ordered out of Canada three years ago due to drug and firearms convictions. He unsuccessfully tried to challenge the order in court.
In December 2012 he completed his sentence and was released into custody of the Canada Border Services Agency.
Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan was not convinced by Budlakoti’s argument that his parents quit the Indian High Commission in June 1989, months before he was born.
“That employment terminated at some point in 1989 — the exact date is hotly contested and the facts in this record are difficult to make out,” Phelan says in his reasons for the judgment.
The judge says Budlakoti’s case is undermined by contemporary documentation, including a Dec. 6, 1989, employment authorization allowing his father to work for a new employer instead of the high commissioner.
In addition, Phelan says the fact Budlakoti was given a Canadian passport does not necessarily mean he was a Canadian citizen.
The judge dismissed the man’s claims that federal actions had violated his Charter of Rights guarantees to enter, remain in or leave Canada, and to life, liberty and security of the person.
In a statement Wednesday, Budlakoti and his supporters called the court ruling “shocking and deplorable.”
“Obviously, I will appeal,” Budlakoti said. “I refuse to be exiled from my homeland, to be made an outcast in my own society. This case is important for everyone in Canada, it sets a precedent that we should all be worried about.”
Budlakoti says he has been left stateless.
India has denied he is a citizen of that country or that he is entitled to citizenship, though Phelan says the record on this point “is sketchy at best” and “not a matter which this court can decide.”
The statement from Budlakoti’s supporters said the court decision fails to recognize any responsibility of Canada towards Budlakoti despite his lifelong, exclusive link to Canada.
“It is highly disappointing that the Federal Court is prepared to allow Deepan to languish as a stateless person indefinitely,” said Yavar Hameed, one of his lawyers.