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Not allowing single men in Syrian refugee plan “discriminatory”: lawyer

HALIFAX –  An immigration lawyer says the federal government’s decision to exclude single men in its plan for Syrian refugees isn’t fair.

“I think it is discrimination,” said Lee Cohen, who runs M. Lee Cohen & Associates.

Single adult men are only permitted if they are coming with their parents as a family unit, if they are members of the LGBTI community, or if they are privately sponsored.

“I believe the decision is the product of concern expressed throughout Canada, and a realistic concern in the aftermath of Paris,” said Cohen.

At a press conference, Lena Diab, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Immigration, said the policy is not discriminatory.

“I’ve lived through war myself, and so, as I said to you, I believe it’s incumbent on us to take those who are most vulnerable and who are in need of most of our help,” she said.

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John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, echoed her statements in Ottawa.

He was asked if there is a security concern with single, heterosexual men.

“Well, yes, in the sense that most of the people who have conducted terrorist operations come from that category,” said McCallum.

“If we were to be designing a plan that would be excluding women from the group, then there would quite properly be a public concern and public criticism of that,” said Cohen.

He said that he feels conflicted with the plan because, while he wants Syrians to be helped, “I just wish we were doing it differently.”

With files from Global’s Leslie Young.

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