PEI

Robert Mitchell says he attended anti-abortion rally 'to listen'

P.E.I.’s interim Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell says he supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, but attended a March for Life rally on Sunday because he feels it is important to “listen to all Islanders on all issues.”

'As part of a democratic process, people want their voices to be heard,' says interim Liberal leader

Robert Mitchell's attendance (in foreground) at a March for Life rally on Sunday drew criticism from pro-choice supporters. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

P.E.I.'s  interim Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell says he supports a woman's right to choose an abortion, but attended a March for Life rally on Sunday because he feels it is important to "listen to all Islanders on all issues."

His attendance drew criticism from abortion rights supporters. One group started an online petition calling for Mitchell to resign.

On Sunday, Mitchell would not comment to CBC about his attendance at the rally.

On Monday, after further reflection, he said he attended the anti-abortion rally in Charlottetown at the request of a constituent.

Mitchell says he supported and still stands by the former Liberal government's decision to provide access to abortion on P.E.I. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"As part of a democratic process, people want their voices to be heard," he said.

"So you know, as part of being there yesterday, it was simply to be there to listen to what was being said. It was in my opinion a very respectful event."

Mitchell, a former health minister, noted he was part of the Liberal cabinet that brought abortion access to the province in 2016.

"I supported that government decision earlier, and I stand by that today. But I think it's important that I listen to all Islanders on all issues."

Pat Wiedemer, executive director of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, says Mitchell was doing what parliamentarians are supposed to do — 'listen to what their constituents have to say.' (Steve Bruce/CBC )

Pat Wiedemer, executive director of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, said all party leaders were invited to attend the rally.

While Mitchell was the only one to show up, she said she didn't didn't perceive that as a sign he supports the anti-abortion cause.

"Our parliamentarians are there in order to listen to what their constituents have to say. We're part of that. We're there, we got our message across, he listened, and he'll take that into his work day. That's what they're supposed to do," she said.

Mitchell said he got an invitation to a pro-choice rally next weekend and that he will be attending. He said he will be also attending a rally on Tuesday calling for his resignation. 

When contacted by CBC, the group that started the online petition calling for the leader's resignation declined to provide an interview or specifics on who is in the group. But wrote that they are "a collective of concerned citizens dedicated to standing up for gender equity and reproductive justice on PEI." 

More P.E.I. news

With files from Steve Bruce

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