Born in Canada, Not a Citizen, but No Place to Go

We like to believe that our citizenship is integral to our identity. Unless we renounce it, we like to believe it cannot be taken away from us, and that is why we cherish it so much.

Of course that changed in 2014 with Bill C-24, which strengthened the ability of the government to revoke citizenship. Unless it was obtained fraudulently, the government was not able to enact this measure in modern times.

The number of revocations under Bill C-24 have actually increased under the new government, which appeared to criticize it while in opposition and restored citizenship to some individuals who had lost it. The one supposedly redeeming quality of these powers is that they only applied to individuals who have dual citizenship or immigrated to Canada.

This double standard has been seen with citizenship in our past as well. During the 1920s, hundreds of naturalized Canadians lost their status because they were believed to be communists. These measures were subsequently justified given similar actions in the U.S., due to the American counterintelligence program, the Venona project, which identified that Soviet infiltrators were seeking to undermine western countries from within.

But for citizens born in Canada, we presume with greater confidence in the security of our citizenship. Except in the bizarre case of Deepan Budlakoti. A short film of his ordeal, Stateless, was screened during the opening night of the Jayu Film Festival.

Budlakoti was born in Canada in 1989. He lived in Canada his entire life, believing himself to be a citizen, and even holding a Canadian passport. His life came under greater scrutiny however when he was convicted of several crimes in 2009-2010 and was incarcerated for several years.

In 2011, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration investigated his states, and determined that he was a permanent resident, and not a Canadian citizen. Given the nature of his crimes, the Minister then sought an order from the Immigration and Refugee Board to have him removed from Canada as someone who would be inadmissible due to serious criminality under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The reason for this determination is that around the time he was born, Budlakoti’s parents were apparently employees of the officials at the Indian High Commission. Although s. 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act provides citizenship to persons born in Canada, s. 3(2) states that this right is not applicable to diplomatic, consular officers, or other representative of a foreign government, or their employees.

Budlakoti claims that he was born after his parents’ employment with the Indian High Commission had already ended. His mother stopped working while she was pregnant with him, and his father said he left the job just months before Budlakoti was born to

The Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that that he was not a citizen because he was unable to prove his parents’ status,

[10] If we look at the two Indian passports of Mr. Chander Budlakoti we can say that his diplomatic status was renewed after his son’s birth and that it was revoked, by the Canadian authorities, on January 2nd, 1990 (P-1, page 21). He used his diplomatic passport on the 13th of December 1989 (P-1, page #22). We can reasonably say that he still had diplomatic status on December 13th, 1989, two months after his son’s birth. He may have started procedures to change his status in Canada earlier but it appears that he still had diplomatic status until January 1990. Mr. Deepan Budlakoti was not able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that he is a Canadian citizen.

On judicial review at the Federal Court, the court rejected the employment issue on the doctrine of issue estoppel, and also considered the Charter implications. The documentary evidence on the employment issue was itself internally inconsistent, providing conflicting information about the dates and status for Budlakoti’s parents.

His s. 6 rights were not engaged, according to the Federal Court, because Budlakoti was never actually a citizen. The Federal Court of Appeal confirmed in Solis v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) that the notion of citizenship has no independent meaning from statute, and permanent residents do not benefit from this provision in the Charter.

Budlakoti was entitled to s. 7 rights, but the Federal Court was unable to find a violation here as well. The court referenced Lee v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) to support the proposition that s. 7 rights would only emerge on deportation, at which point an applicant can make an application based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The court referenced para 104 of Chaoulli v Quebec (Attorney General) to support the position that there is no freestanding constitutional right to health care, and the denial of the same does not violate s. 7.

The problem with these s. 7 arguments is that in Lee, the applicant, who was also born in Canada to a diplomat, grew up in Malaysia and held Malaysian citizenship. Budlakoti has never lived in India, and does not hold Indian citizenship. He is effectively, in his submissions, stateless.

Additionally, the passage referenced in Chaoulli also states that where the government does provide a scheme to provide health care, it must be Charter compliant. This decision preceded the decisions in Canadian Doctors For Refugee Care v Canada (AG) and Charkaoui, which jointly might provide a different interpretation of s. 7 in the context of non-citizens.

The Federal Court of Appeal addressed these issues in Budlakoti by interpreting Article 1 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness as where a person cannot obtain citizenship or national status elsewhere. The court concluded that Budlakoti is not “yet” stateless, because he can apply for citizenship in Canada and in India. He was also not deprived of medical care because he did have coverage up until the point where he lost his permanent resident status as a result of his crimes.

Although Budlakoti had never lived in India, the court stated that he could apply for citizenship on the basis of his parents. He could also apply for citizenship in Canada under under s. 5(4) of the Citizenship Act for “special and unusual hardship.”

Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on this particular decision has been denied, but it’s expected that Budlakoti will presumably attempt some form of citizenship application and subsequent review of any decisions as necessary.

In the meantime, Deepan Budlakoti is stuck in Canada, without Canadian citizenship or permanent residence status, with no other country to call his home. It’s a nightmare that even the Federal Court of Appeal described at para 24 as “an unfortunate confluence of factors both within and beyond his control.”



  1. The timing in this statement seems incorrect: “During the 1920s, hundreds of naturalized Canadians lost their status because they were believed to be communists. These measures were justified given similar actions in the U.S., due to the American counterintelligence program, the Venona project, which identified that Soviet infiltrators were seeking to undermine western countries from within.”

    Venona didn’t start until WWII, so that couldn’t have been the predicate cause. However, there was a revocation process created in the 1919 Naturalization Act, and there is evidence of its extensive use in the 1930s primarily to target foreign-born labour activists (see Christopher G Anderson, “A Long Standing Canadian Tradition: Citizenship Revocation and Second-Class Citizenship under the Liberals, 1993–2006” (2008) 42:3 J Can Studies 80). Presumably the power was also used in the 1920s, but I’m not sure there is much documented evidence of that.

  2. This is quite the unfortunate situation that Deepan finds himself in. Me and my family can relate to this situation being Puerto Rican nationals and due to a racist decision by a Judge in the U.S. Supreme Court in the insular cases from 1901, we are not allowed to vote for the U.S. presidency although we are U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth and since we are “aliens”,not of “anglo-saxon” origins, we are considered to not being able to comprehend American methodology. Thus my family became citizens of a country where they respect the democratic rights of their citizens and hopefully it especially respect’s those of natural citizenship (those that are born in Canada).

  3. Bob,

    You’re entirely right, Venona ran from 1943-1980. The sentence should indicate that it was subsequently justified. I’ll amend this accordingly. It’s also worth adding that with the rise of McCarthyism in the U.S. following WWII, there were similar acts of persecution in Canada. In the case of Leopold Insfeld, his Canadian-born children were stripped of their citizenship, which according to Lewis Pyenson, who wrote the introduction to his book, was the only time that an order in council was applied to citizens born in Canada.

    However, we do have documentation that this occurred during the 20s and 30s following the Naturalization Act, but prior to WWII. Walkom mentions it in passing, in the context of Bill C-14. Barbara Ann Roberts details some of these measures in Whence They Came. Patryc Polec also provides some details of deportation activities from the 20s-40s in Hurrah Revolutionaries. However, these decisions were made without a hearing, meaning there would not be any reported decisions, and documentation outside of media reports would enjoy privilege under Cabinet confidence.

    Audrey Macklin goes even further in applying these to a contemporary context, referencing anti-Communist activities (citing Anderson), but also detailing plans to denationalizing and deporting thousands of people of Japanese ancestry, including many who were born in Canada and had never even visited Japan.

    In light of the rise of “nativism” in western nations, this is a troubling historical pattern that we need to be particularly cautious about.

  4. Budlakoti was charged with weapons trafficking – and his parents were from India, not Iran or someplace like that, those are two things that strike me as relevant. If anything this case would disprove the existence of xenophobia in Canada.
    As to anti-communism, my own research into Doukhobor history (my ancestry-russian immigrants) suggests
    McCarthyism was not strong in Canada. During the depression there were government inquiries (google :DOUKHOBOR LANDS ALLOTMENT INQUIRY ACT) into what can only be described as communism on a small scale, communal industry which was thriving while the larger economy was suffering. The inquiry not only did not condemn the business for it’s overt communism, but praised it as being an example to be learned from.

  5. Robert,

    Nowhere in the summary above do I suggest that Budlakoti’s situation is based on xenophobia. What his case does suggest is that on an unusual and likely unique set of facts, a gap in the law exists that allows him to languish.

    The broader concern is how the historic backdrop around citizenship gives rise to future concerns. I reject the proposition that nativist xenophobia accurately distinguishes, for example, between India or Iran, nor do I believe that the country of origin should necessarily be determinative of how C-24 should be applied.

    The few examples I cite above in the antebellum era does demonstrate the spillover effect from the U.S. As with many of these effects, they are often moderated in Canada.

  6. Marion Vermeersch

    In December 2015 I wrote in response to an article about Justin Trudeau and citizenship in Canada. Our family had ours revoked (no warning, hearing or way to appeal) in 2004. Under C-24, I thought I might finally be able to have it restored as we had citizenship since arrival in 1946 (parents were a soldier with Canadian Military and British War Bride). However, after many months, I was told that I did not have a Canadian Parent as required by law as I was born in WWII Britain. Further, my father was not regarded as Canadian because he had arrived originally as a Home Child from Scotland 15 years prior to service in WWII. Now my children, born here but also entitled to dual British citizenship because of a parents’ birth there, are “second class citizens” liable to the same revocation.

    No one in my family was either a terrorist or a fraudster. In fact, we all worked hard for 50+ years, served the country (my brother is a retired Canadian Navy Veteran) but we evidently did not pass somebody’s view of what was required for Canadian Citizenship.

    I noted that your second paragraph in the above article states that “the government was not able to enact this measure in modern times”. As I am only one of many thousands who had citizenship revoked for 12 ridiculous reasons (see details in Don Chapman’s book, “The Lost Canadians”) I know that was not the case.

    Thank you.