OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — The leader of Canada's conservative party, Andrew Scheer, found himself on the defensive twice Thursday, when he said he is "pro-life," and when he revealed he is a dual U.S. citizen.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's main rival in the upcoming elections, a Catholic with five children, has said since the start of the campaign that if elected he would reject any attempts to legislate a ban on abortion.
But 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 Trudeau — who has cast himself as a champion of women's rights — Scheer kept falling back on a rehearsed line: "I won't reopen this divisive debate."
Pundits said 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.
On Thursday afternoon, Scheer confirmed a Globe and Mail report that revealed he has dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship through his father, who was born in the United States.
A Conservative spokesman confirmed that Scheer has begun the process to renounce his U.S. citizenship.
Asked why he had never brought it up before, Scheer responded that no one had ever asked him.
"I've never tried to hide that," he said during a news 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 Scheer himself in 2005 criticized the dual French-Canadian citizenship of Canada's former governor general Michaelle Jean.
Liberal party spokeswoman Zita Astravas said Scheer has been "fundamentally dishonest with Canadians about who he is."
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 Oct. 21 ballot. It is largely attributable to the Liberals losing support to leftist parties, while Tory support has remained stagnant.
Canada legalized abortion in 1969 but they became widely available only after the Supreme Court in 1988 struck down all restrictions.
© Agence France-Presse
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