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Ottawa man facing deportation speaks at Dal

Deepan Budlakoti is a stateless man. Born and raised in Ottawa, he is now facing deportation from his own country.

Seated in front of a captive audience, Budlakoti spoke at the Dalhousie Student Union Building on Jan. 23, his eighth stop on a whirlwind speaking tour across the country.

Questions regarding Budlakoti’s status as a Canadian citizen began in 2010, while he was imprisoned for drug trafficking and weapons charges.

Budlakoti’s parents were born in India, and previously worked for the Indian High Commission in Ottawa.

This country’s Citizenship Act states that the children of foreign diplomats will not be granted Canadian citizenship if they are born in Canada, yet Budlakoti’s parents, the family maintains, had left the Indian High Commission four months before he was born. The government asserts that his parents were still working at the Indian embassy at the time, which precludes him from citizenship.

During Budlakoti’s time in prison, his right to Canadian citizenship was called into question—and subsequently revoked.

“No adjudication, no lawyer present, no trial, no nothing. My passport was just taken away,” he said.

The Canadian government issued an order for Budlakoti’s deportation, claiming that he should be banished like any convicted criminal who is not a legitimate Canadian citizen or landed immigrant. The deportation would send Budlakoti to India, a country he has never been to and has no connections with.

“Foreign Affairs in India has written a letter stating that I am not an Indian national, that I have no Indian documents, and that they will not respond to Canada’s request,” he said.

Despite pleas to various political parties and government organizations from his lawyers and supporters, no changes have been made to Budlakoti’s situation. He remains stateless.

The Conservative government has offered limited statements regarding the order for Budlakoti’s deportation, and previous support offered by the Liberal party has disappeared.

“In 2011, Justin Trudeau gave me a letter promising his support. But now, in 2014, he’s not doing nothing. He’s going back on his own word,” said Budlakoti during his speech.

Lee Cohen, a Halifax-based immigration lawyer, spoke alongside Budlakoti at Dalhousie, offering his comments on the legal aspects of the case.

“This event could not be happening at a worse time in Canadian history. It could not be a worse time for immigrants, refugees, or citizens in Canada. The concept of citizenship is the highest status that you can get in this country… he was a citizen, and they took that away from him,” Cohen commented.

Cohen warns that Budlakoti’s time in his birthplace might be running short.

“Sooner or later the Canadian government is going to move to execute that deportation order. When a person is deported, they are removed from Canada unceremoniously.”

Both Budlakoti and Cohen emphasized the importance of gaining support from the public in order to alter the deportation order, saying the prospect of losing a significant number of votes could create a change in the current government stance.

This case of a Canadian citizen facing deportation from his own country is unprecedented in the nation’s history, the lawyer explained.

Cohen summarized the urgent nature of Budlakoti’s case, “if [the government] can do that to him, then what’s to stop them from doing that to any of us?”

Eleanor Davidson
Eleanor Davidson
Eleanor is the Gazette's News Editor.
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