An expert on Egyptian politics based in Vancouver is criticizing the Canadian government’s stance on the conflict in Cairo, which reached its 11th day Friday as hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators continued to call for President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.
Simon Fraser University history professor Paul Sedra said he is “extremely disappointed” in Canada’s response to the ongoing protests.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters in Ottawa Thursday there should be an “orderly transition” to democracy in the country, and indicated support for the Mubarak regime's gradual transition plan to a new leader, the Globe and Mail reported.
Other countries have pressed for a more rapid transition, including the Obama administration, which according to the New York Times has been in discussion with Egyptian officials over a proposal for the president to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government led by the recently-appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman.
But Sedra argues Canada should be taking a strong stance in support of the pro-democracy demonstrators, thousands of which packed Tahrir Square Friday in what protesters called the “day of departure”.
“For me the bottom line is that Canada does not want to be on the wrong side of history on this issue,” he told the Straight by phone today (February 4). “To think that we are adopting a position which is even less strong than that of the United States—that to me is scandalous.”
“If we’re to have any credibility on the international stage, as an advocate for democracy, as an advocate for human rights, as an advocate for international development—if we hold back on this issue of democracy in Egypt, I’m fearful of what the consequences could be for our international reputation,” he added.
Sedra argued an overhaul of the current regime is needed to address the concerns of the demonstrators.
“Mubarak in a sense is a metaphor for the problem, he represents the problem in an important way, but he is not the extent of the problem,” Sedra said. “The full extent of the problem is a constitutional framework that favours the rise of the military man to the executive.”
“What Egypt needs now, and what I feel that the protesters in Tahrir Square are calling for, is a democratically elected civilian to be ruling them—and that’s what we need to call for as well,” he added.
Sedra predicted the ongoing protests likely mark just the beginning of what could be extended protests.
Mubarak told a television station this week that he won’t resign before presidential elections scheduled for September, but protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating until the president steps down.
Protests in Tahrir Square Friday were reportedly largely peaceful, while the same day two Globe and Mail journalists were targeted by a mob of Mubarak supporters in Cairo’s Mohandessin neighbourhood.
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