Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Justin Trudeau's election rival on defensive after 'pro-life' and US citizenship reveals

Andrew Scheer had said that if elected he would shoot down any attempts to legislate a ban on abortion

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, TVA network host Pierre Bruneau, Liberal leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pose before a French language debate, October 2, 2019. Reuters
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, TVA network host Pierre Bruneau, Liberal leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pose before a French language debate, October 2, 2019. Reuters

The leader of Canada's conservative party, Andrew Scheer, found himself on the defensive twice on Thursday, when he said he is "pro-life" - and when he revealed he is a dual American citizen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's main rival in the upcoming elections, who is a devout Catholic and married with five children, has said since the start of the campaign that if elected he would shoot down any attempts to legislate a ban on abortion.

But Mr Scheer equivocated when pressed publicly for his personal views on the issue, including when it repeatedly came up in a debate with Trudeau and other party leaders Wednesday evening.

"Personally, I'm pro-life," he finally told reporters at a campaign stop in eastern Canada after weeks of ducking questions on abortion.

On Wednesday in response to pointed questions from Mr Trudeau - who has cast himself as a champion of women's rights - Mr Scheer kept falling back on a rehearsed line: "I won't reopen this divisive debate."

Pundits said Mr Scheer's stubborn refusal to give a clear answer was hampering his campaign. "Hard night for Scheer," shouted a headline in the Journal de Montreal.

And Thursday afternoon, Mr Scheer confirmed a Globe and Mail report that revealed he has dual Canadian and American citizenship through his father who was born in the US.

A Conservative spokesman confirmed that Mr Scheer has recently begun the process to renounce his US citizenship.

Asked why he had never brought it up before, Mr Scheer simply responded that no one had ever asked him.

"I've never tried to hide that," he said during a press conference.

"I've never been asked about it by Canadians. My father has always been open about where he comes from. I haven't been asked about it."

Radio Canada pointed out that Conservatives have attacked leaders of the New Democratic Party and Liberal Party because of their dual citizenship.

And Mr Scheer himself in 2005 criticised the dual French-Canadian citizenship of Canada's former governor general Michaelle Jean, according to media reports.

Liberal party spokesperson Zita Astravas said Mr Scheer has been "fundamentally dishonest with Canadians about who he is."

Mr Scheer has repeatedly accused Trudeau of lying to Canadian voters, particularly after the publication of photos showing the Liberal party leader in blackface between 1990 and 2001.

The Liberals and Conservatives are neck and neck in the race to the October 21 ballot. But it is largely attributable to the Liberals losing support to leftist parties, while Tory support has remained stagnant.

Canada legalised abortions in 1969 but they only became widely available after the Supreme Court in 1988 struck down all restrictions.

Updated: October 4, 2019 09:59 AM

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