Upwards of 250 demonstrators gathered at the steps of Parliament Hill last Saturday to call on the Canadian government to do more to support the people’s uprisings in Libya and Yemen.
Last weekend’s protest in Ottawa coincided with several others held throughout Canada as well as across the U.S. and Europe. The crowd brandished signs depicting dead Libyans and Yemenis while chanting out “Silence no more, Saleh out the door!” and “Canada, Canada be the guide, we are witnessing genocide!”
Both Libyan and Yemeni protesters have flooded the streets of their nations’ major cities in the hopes of ousting dictators Moammar Gadhafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, only to be met with violence from government supporters. It is estimated that over a thousand have died in Libya as a result of Gadhafi using his nation’s air force and mercenaries in attempts to quell the protests. In Yemen, Saleh has also authorized the use of deadly force to put down the unrest as troops fired on protesters in the Port of Aden last Friday, reportedly killing four and wounding over 40 others.
Among the those who spoke at the protest was Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a pro
fessor at the University of Waterloo and editor of news website the Canadian Charger. Elmasry was in Cairo at the time of the Egyptian revolution and even submitted footage which aired on CBC, CNN and on the New York Times website. He hoped that Canadians would not see the revolutions taking place in the Middle East and North Africa as being religiously aligned. “It was not an Islamic revolution, in the case of Tunisia, Egypt and now in Libya and Yemen; it’s a popular revolution which is pro democracy,” said Elmasry. “They were and are peaceful and deserve Canadian support.”
NDP member of Parliament Paul Dewar, who represents the Ottawa centre riding, also spoke to the crowd outside Parliament asking that Gadhafi be brought to justice. He called for a no-fly-zone to prevent further bombings of Libyan people as well as to prevent Gadhafi from moving his mercenary troops. Dewar asked that the dictator’s assets be frozen and for Prime Minister Harper to “push the United Nations to refer Gadhafi and all of his cronies to the ICC to be held accountable. Blood on his hands is blood that needs to be held to account.”
Abdul Aghliw, a Canadian-Libyan whose family is back in Libya, came out to support the Libyan protesters. “All that we ask for is for the dictator to leave,” he said. “And it doesn’t look like he is going to leave anytime soon and he is killing us. He is killing us.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama over the phone on Monday about joint efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Libya, reported the Washington Post. Both Canada and the U.S. have imposed financial sanctions against the Gadhafi family and the Libyan government.