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Federal Court refuses Budlakoti's declaration of citizenship

by Leslie Munoz

2014 has been a bad year for advocates of fair and just citizenship and immigration policy.

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, passed this June, has increased the government’s ability to revoke citizenship for reasons as vague and indefinable as being in the “national interest of Canada.”

On Sept. 10, 2014, Justice Michael Phelan of the Federal Court ruled against Deepan Budlakoti’s Charter claim and bid for citizenship. This decision has re-entrenched Budlakoti’s government-imposed statelessness, which began when his citizenship was revoked in 2010.

The judicial branch of government, often accused of supporting Charter-based activism instead of deferring to the House of Commons, has likewise disappointed by following in the legislature’s footsteps and permitting unjust citizenship revocation.

The arbitrary targeting of Deepan Budlakoti and his status as a Canadian citizen has become well known to the Ottawa community.

“I am stateless,” said Budlakoti when the Leveller asked about the most recent updates to his case, “I am stuck in [a] legal limbo for the next unknown amount of years and feel that the state has taken everything from me and render[ed] me a person with nothing.”

Budlakoti was born at Grace Hospital in the Ottawa valley in October 1989. However, unlike most Canadian-born 20-somethings, Budlakoti had his passport confiscated and his citizenship revoked. His parents are Indian nationals, but they, along with Budlakoti’s younger brother, hold Canadian citizenship status.

“This is a clear indication that this government does not care about human rights or even [the] international law[s against statelessness] that they are suppose to follow,” said Budlakoti. “The message it shows [is] that if you are born in Canada [the government] can take away your citizenship, [and your] rights...can be violated very easily.”

The Canadian government claims that Budlakoti is not a Canadian citizen because his parents worked for the Indian High Commission when he was born, a claim that both Budlakoti and his parents’ former employer have denied. India has additionally stated that Budlakoti does not hold citizenship in that country.

An argument wielded against Budlakoti’s campaign is that he is a convicted criminal and that he doesn’t deserve Canadian citizenship because of the laws he has previously broken. This argument is irrelevant, however, since many Canadian-born individuals and citizens are convicted criminals. Budlakoti seems to be the only person who has been forced to pay for his crimes with both jail-time, revocation of citizenship, and an out-of-the-blue deportation order.

What the Canadian government is forgetting in its treatment of Budlakoti is the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, a multilateral treaty that has been signed and ratified by the Canadian state.

Canada’s obligations in relation to this human rights treaty are to “grant its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless” (article 1). And, as the contractual party to the treaty, Canada is also obligated under article 8.1 to “not deprive a person of its nationality if such a deprivation would render him stateless.”

Despite these obligations, Canada has chosen to view Budlokati as disposable. The state has opted out of its international responsibilities, and Budlakoti has become the unfortunate target of its discrimination.

Budlakoti is currently waiting for the United Nations to respond to his case.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 7, No. 1

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Topics: Governance

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