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Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien said a Canadian Alliance government would threaten a woman's right to an abortion as he addressed a rally of more than one thousand Liberal women in the Montreal suburb of Laval.

"We have had social peace on the question of abortion," Mr. Chrétien said yesterday. The leader of the Alliance, Stockwell Day, is opposed to abortion, though he has said he would not make it a priority to introduce a law restricting abortions.

However, he has said he is open to holding a referendum on abortion, as well as other moral issues.

"I don't believe that Canadian women will be very happy with that," Mr. Chrétien said to applause.

In recent polls, the Liberal Party enjoys a huge advantage over the Alliance among women voters. However, in Quebec, the Liberals' main opposition is the Bloc Québécois, which has been aggressively courting the women's vote.

Yesterday's meeting was designed to showcase the Liberal Party's 19 women candidates in the province (one more than the BQ) before a mainly female audience.

Mr. Chrétien recited a list of women he has appointed to high offices, including Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Beverley McLachlin.

He also cited the government's gun-registration legislation, which he said is especially important to women, who are more frequently the victims of domestic violence than men.

"There are five times fewer deaths due to firearms in Canada than in the United States because of this law on guns," Mr. Chrétien said.

Outside the Liberal meeting, there was a group of about 50 protesters, demanding more funds for social housing, poverty and the fight against domestic abuse.

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