A campaign encouraging youth leadership has become the platform for a debate on abortion accessibility on Prince Edward Island.
The Active-8 program encourages people to make positive changes. It features eight young people from Atlantic Canada, who are meant to serve as an inspiration for building a better world.
People can pledge on the Active-8 website to do a good deed in support of one of the youth ambassadors and the person with the most pledges at the end of February wins $1,000. Almost 1,500 people have made pledges to the campaign this year.
But the contest, now in its third year, has encountered some controversy. One of the youth ambassadors, Kandace Hagan, has set as her goal improving access to abortion on P.E.I., which is the only province in Canada where legal abortions are not performed. That prompted Anne Marie Tomlins of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association to write an email urging people to vote against Hagan and instead vote for the current leader, Tara Brinston of New Brunswick.
The email was not sent on behalf of the Right to Life Association, and was meant to stay within a select group of people. But it leaked and went further.
"My initial reaction was, 'Gee, what if this makes the whole movement look bad.' So I got defensive and I felt a little bad about it," said Tomlins.
"But the more I thought about it, no. What I did was right and I stand by it."
No interest in negative pledges
Brinston's campaign is focused on fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. She said the Active-8 campaign is about supporting the work of all the young leaders, not one over another.
"If persons would like to pledge because they are inspired by the work I do within the disability movement then of course I would welcome their pledges," said Brinston.
"I would not welcome pledges that are not in the spirit of that campaign."
Officials with the Active-8 campaign said there have been some questionable pledges against Hagan. But there's no way to know how many are as a result of the email.
They will be reviewing all pledges and removing those that seem to be against the spirit of the campaign.