Anti-Mubarak rallies held across Canada
Published Saturday, February 5, 2011 10:29PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:51AM EDT
Mass demonstrations were held in several Canadian cities Saturday afternoon, in a show of support for the ongoing popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Hundreds gathered at Toronto's Queen's Park on Saturday, chanting and holding signs reading "leave" and "Defend Egypt's Democracy Movement, Mubarak Out Now."
Hundreds more marched through Montreal's downtown core, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at rallies in Windsor, Ont., Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Toronto's rally organizer Ramy Attalla said the demonstration was joining the call for Mubarak to step down immediately, after almost 30 years as president.
"This is a changing moment not just for the Egyptian people but for the Middle East as a whole," Attalla told CTV News Channel.
"We want our government to step up. We don't Egypt to just change. We want the whole Middle East to change, but we don't know right now how this change is going to happen. Whatever way it is going to happen, we know that the people's voices are being heard and that is why we are happy."
Attalla said Mubarak didn't have to leave Egypt right now, but he does have to step down immediately.
"Your deadline was yesterday; your deadline was 10 years ago," he said. "We need more action and we need quick action for the people to be satisfied."
The rallies were promoted as family-friendly events to support the Egyptian people's demands for the country's autocratic, 82-year-old leader to step down.
The Toronto rally held a moment of silence for the Egyptian demonstrators who have died since the uprising began on Jan. 25. Reports suggest at least 109 people have been killed, while demonstrators suggest it is as many as 300.
Canada's role in process
NDP Leader Jack Layton, who addressed the crowd in Toronto, told CTV News Channel that Canada's government should join the call for Mubarak to step down. He said Canada should support a transparent election process by sending observers.
"It is a moment for a democratic impulse to take hold and Canada should be a part of helping to facilitate that," Layton said.
"It seems that right now Mubarak has become the obstacle. He seems to understand that, he has agreed not to run again. Let's move more quickly here."
So far Canada has refrained from pressuring Mubarak to step down.
While in Washington earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said change is coming to Egypt and the transition to democracy must be guided by the rule of law.
Mass demonstrations began in the North African country -- the Arab world's largest -- on Jan. 25. Protesters there are demanding that Mubarak pave the way for democratic reforms by stepping down.
Foreigners have been fleeing the unrest since the demonstrations began, including many with Canadian passports. Ottawa has been organizing chartered flights to help them leave the North African country.
Peterborough, Ont., resident Lindsay Rielly flew out of Cairo on one of those flights. She said she's glad to be away from the political upheaval.
The 25-year-old high school teacher felt helpless hearing gunshots and watching the red streaks of tracer bullets from her balcony in the Egyptian capital, she said.
Many Egyptian-Canadians have been watching events unfold with bated breath, concerned for the welfare of friends or family living there.
"I can't really concentrate on life here because a big part of me is back there," said 24-year-old Shady Ghobrial, who is studying business administration at the University of New Brunswick.
"I took a number of days off from work," he told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
Ghobrial said his loved ones protected their windows from tear gas and stray bullets. His friends guarded their neighbourhood in shifts to protect it from looters.
Meanwhile in British Columbia, Tamir Moustafa, an expert on Egyptian constitutional law at Simon Fraser University, called the mass demonstrations "a remarkable change."
Moustafa has also been watching the events unfold on TV since the protests began on Jan. 25. He said that as each day passes, "we use a different benchmark to describe how momentous this is."
With files from The Canadian Press