What’s next?

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Thousands across Canada call for the immediate removal of President Mulbarak

Ed Kapp
News Writer

In a showing of solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of protesters that have spent the last two weeks demonstrating across Egypt, Canadians have taking to the streets as well.

On Saturday, Feb. 5 a number of demonstrations encouraging the immediate resignation of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took place in a number of cities across Canada. The demonstrations, orchestrated by the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), took place in several of Canada’s largest cities – including Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, and Winnipeg.

According to Lemme Ibrahim, one of the demonstration organizers in Toronto, the demonstrations were organized both to show anti- Mubarak protesters they are not alone in their plight for presidential regime reform, but also in hopes that wide-spread protests across Canada will encourage the federal government to call for Mubarak’s immediate resignation.

On Feb. 1, after a week of violent protests across Egypt, Mubarak declared that he would not pursue re-election in the nation’s September elections. However, at the same time, Mubarak also made it clear that he had to no intention of immediately stepping down – much to the chagrin of hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators across Egypt and many anxious outside observers around the globe.

Unfortunately for the protesters, both in Canada and Egypt, two days prior to the Canadian demonstrations, the federal government publicly supported Mubarak’s highly unpopular plan to gradually secede power. This was in contrast to the thousands of anti-Mubarak demonstrators who insist Egyptians would benefit greater from a quick presidential transition.

On Thursday, Feb. 3, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, insisted a rushed change in Egyptian leadership could be detrimental to stability in the Middle East and is not something the Canadian federal government plans on pushing on Mubarak’s regime.

“I think the question is, ‘what’s next?’ A vacuum does not mean transition. The transition must be orderly; we have said it from the beginning,” Cannon explained outside the House of Commons. “These things must be settled by the Egyptians themselves.”

Although the Canadian federal government called for an eventual transition to a democratic political system, their response to the situation in Egypt is at odds with many other Western nations.

As a testament to their growing frustration with Mubarak’s unwillingness to remove himself from office, last Wednesday White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated that when the United States called for transition to begin “now”, now in fact, “[meant] yesterday.”

Additionally, last Thursday, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain all called for the democratic transition in Egypt to begin immediately.

NDP leader Jack Layton, who attended the anti-Mubarak rally in Toronto, also differed in opinion from the federal government.

“It is a moment for a democratic impulse to take hold and Canada should be a part of helping to facilitate that,” Layton said, after addressing the estimated 400 demonstrators in Toronto. “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.”

At this point it is unclear if the widespread demonstrations will have any impact on the Canadian federal government’s decision to support President Mubarak’s drawn-out transition process or switch gears and pursue an immediate departure from office. Despite this, the CPA’s protests signify exactly what hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets for – the right to assemble, voice their displeasure, and, if Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal government doesn’t heed their advice, the right to vote for his removal from office in a free and fair election in the coming months.

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