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Deepan Budlakoti

South Asia Mail

Ottawa is wrong to deport to India a 23-year-old man who was born in Canada. The government claims it made a mistake in issuing Deepan Budlakoti a passport when he was 14. But Mr. Budlakoti and his parents, who worked cleaning toilets and gardening at the Indian High Commission, relied on Canada's acceptance of him as a citizen. Why should they be penalized for the government's error?

The case sets a dangerous precedent and undermines the integrity of Canada's immigration laws. It opens the door to the possibility that the government could seek revenge on any Canadian or permanent resident who falls on the wrong side of the law.

Mr. Budlakoti is not a sympathetic figure. He has a criminal record that includes hundreds of convictions for minor break-and-enters, and a more serious federal jail sentence for trying to sell a gun to an undercover police officer.

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And yet he is as much a citizen as anyone else, and the infringement of his rights should concern all Canadians. Why should he be removed to Mumbai, India, a country he has never lived in?

Canadian law stipulates that all those born on Canadian soil are automatically citizens – with the exception of children born to foreign diplomats. They must apply to become naturalized citizens. However, after the government mistakenly issued Mr. Budlakoti a passport, his family, understandably, did not apply for citizenship for him, though they did for themselves and for his brother.

"The government has found a way to repudiate Mr. Budlakoti as a Canadian," said Audrey Macklin, a law professor at University of Toronto who specializes in immigration.

By chipping away at citizenship rights, the government is eroding a key pillar in our democracy, our nation-building vision, and in our ability to attract immigrants.

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