News / Ottawa

Deepan Budlakoti vows to continue legal fight for Canadian citizenship

A man who says the Canadian government has rendered him stateless is vowing to take his legal fight to the country's top court after the Federal Court of Appeal rejected his bid to be declared a Canadian citizen.

Deepan Budlakoti, 25, was born in Ottawa to Indian parents. Four years ago, at age 21, he was suddenly told that he’s not a Canadian citizen, despite being issued a Canadian birth certificate and passport. He was ordered out of Canada due to drug and firearms convictions.

He had asked that his citizenship be reinstated and argued that the government is infringing on his charter right to life, liberty and security of the person. The Federal Court ruled against him, and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the ruling this week.

In the decision, a three-judge panel ruled Budlakoti isn't yet stateless because he can take steps to apply for citizenship in India and Canada.

Justice David Stratas, writing for the panel, said Budlakoti "must first try to obtain citizenship from the Indian and Canadian authorities. Those avenues have been practically and legally available to him for years. Yet he has refrained from pursuing them."

On Tuesday, a frustrated Budlakoti heavily criticized the "narrow" decision that he said fails to recognize the fact that, in his view, he's stateless under international law.

Budlakoti said he plans to apply for a leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada. However, Yavar Hameed, his lawyer, said Budlakoti's legal team is weighing their options and assessing their prospect for an application.

Hameed pointed out that while the court says Budlakoti can apply for Canadian citizenship, they also acknowledged the immigration and Refugee Board determined that he's not a citizen.

"We would have hoped one way or another that the court would engage with the substance here," he said. "The real substance of this case is what do you do with a stateless person?"