Deepan Budlakoti is an Ottawa-born man best known for Canada's refusal to acknowledge him as a citizen. His case, supported by numerous human rights organizations and a broad mobilization of public support, was heard by several Canadian courts, and has captured domestic and international attention. Since Budlakoti does not hold any citizenship, his case raises questions of citizenship, statelessness, and deportation.
Budlakoti was born on October 17, 1989 in Ottawa, Ontario, to Indian nationals who had been employed at the Indian High Commission. Section 3(2) of the Citizenship Act states that children of diplomats and their staff, when born in Canada, are not entitled to Canadian citizenship. The Government of Canada alleged that at the time of Budlakoti's birth, his parents were working as cleaning staff at the High Commission; Budlakoti contended that his parents had left that job several months prior. After his birth, Budlakoti was issued an Ontario birth certificate, and subsequently two Canadian passports. In 1992, Budlakoti's parents applied for permanent residency, listing Budlakoti as a dependent. The application was accepted.
In late 2010, Budlakoti was convicted for weapons trafficking, firearm possession and cocaine trafficking, and sentenced to three years in prison. The Justice for Deepan Support Committee, which works with Budlakoti to raise awareness about the case, raise money for escalating legal fees, and put political pressure on elected officials to reverse the decision, contends that Budlakoti was entrapped by an undercover police officer, and that Budlakoti pleaded guilty due to the high legal fees.
While Budlakoti was in prison, Citizenship and Immigration Canada determined that he was not and had never been a Canadian citizen, and thus was inadmissible to Canada on the basis of section 36(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and issued a removal order accordingly. Budlakoti was released in 2012 while awaiting judicial review of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada's decision. As a result, Budlakoti lost all other corresponding Canadian identification, leaving him unable to work, access health care, exercise the full extent of his mobility rights, and live alone.
In June 2014, Budlakoti's case was heard before the Federal Court. Budlakoti argued that his section 7 Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person were violated. In the fall of 2014, the Federal Court dismissed Budlakoti's application for judicial review, holding that "[t]he fact that passports were issued to the Applicant is not, in this case, determinative of citizenship". The court found that issuing a declaration of citizenship would fall outside the court's authority. The court dismissed Budlakoti's section 7 Charter argument, finding that "denial of citizenship is not synonymous with deportation", and that "the denial of state funded health care does not violate s 7", per Chaoulli v Quebec (AG).
Budlakoti appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal, where the appeal was dismissed. The court held that Budlakoti was not stateless, per the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, since he could still "take steps to apply for citizenship in India and in Canada" through the general citizenship application process, or by invoking the "special and unusual hardship" rule in the Citizenship Act. The court found that he had not yet availed himself of either of these procedures in Canada or in India. Budlakoti argued that then-Minister of Citizenship Chris Alexander was biased, as a spokesperson for Alexander had previously denounced Budlakoti as a "criminal". The court rejected this argument, finding that if Budlakoti applied under the "special and unusual hardship" rule, the hardship would be "determinative... [and] neither the Minister nor his officials have commented on that issue".
This case is unique and has attracted international attention. Amnesty International has condemned the Canadian government's actions, arguing that as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Canada should "act to reduce statelessness and uphold the right to a nationality".
On November 8, 2017, charges were announced against Deepan Budlakoti, following a police operation called Project Landslide: A total of 83 counts of gun trafficking, possessing the proceeds of crime and breaching a gun ban. The results of the investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police’s organized crime enforcement bureau and Ottawa and Gatineau police were announced Wednesday. The guns seized included an AR-15 rifle, SKS semi-automatic rifle with a bayonet, an Uzi submachine-gun, half a dozen handguns and ammunition.
The drugs included 156,000 methamphetamine pills packed into pillow-sized clear plastic bags. Other items seized included a studded wooden club, a swastika-emblazoned butterfly knife and brass knuckles.
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- Globe and Mail, "Editorial", 20 December 2012.
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association "Deepan Budlakoti, Statelessness & Citizenship" Archived 2015-05-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- Budlakoti v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 855, para 2, 17, 25.
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- Government of Canada "Citizenship Act".
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- 2014 FC 855, para 20.
- 2014 FC 855, para 2.
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- 2014 FC 855, para 8.
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- 2014 FC 855, para 4.
- 2014 FC 855, para 9.
- Bozinoff, Nikki, Ritika Goel, Marcella Jones, and Faraz Vahid Shahid, "Canada made Deepan Budlakoti stateless, Now it is denying him health care", Rabble, 5 March 2015.
- 2014 FC 855, para 39.
- 2014 FC 855 at 29.
- 2014 FC 855, para 46.
- 2014 FC 855, para 47.
- 2015 FCA 139, paras 22–23.
- 2015 FCA 149, paras 52–54
- 2015 FCA 139, paras 55, 69.
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- 2015 FCA 139, para 66.
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- United Nations, "Signatories to the International Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness" Archived March 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.