Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona.
This is obviously an evening for delicate debate. The situation in Egypt is, at best, one could say fluid, but extremely risky at this point. The information we are being fed from the ground is that all sorts of maneuvering is going on by the various elements of power in that country. There is really a great risk of a great number of people being injured if it turns violent, more than it has up to this point.
I want to personalize this a bit because of the feedback I have been getting from my Windsor community. We have a fairly sizable Coptic Christian community in Windsor and we also have a large number of members of the Egyptian diaspora from the Muslim community living in the Windsor-Essex county area. Although they have different concerns, there are basic concerns that they both have, and that is very much a fear for the safety of their relatives and friends still in Egypt, particularly in Alexandria and Cairo. Within the Coptic community in particular, there is a desire for change because it is the only way they can foresee any release from the bondage they have been suffering under, the systemic discrimination they have suffered under the current administration, leading, at times, as we have seen, particularly during the last few months, to a number of incidents of murder in the Christian community.
Their real hope is that if the Mubarak regime is gone it will be replaced by a democratic government that recognizes international human rights standards, including the right for that community to practice their faith free from discrimination and certainly free from the type of violence they have been subject to the last number of months and year, specifically in terms of number of murders that have occurred.
However, they also have, which was expressed very clearly to me, a very real concern that may not be what happens. This brings forth the role that Canada and democracies across the world can play. They need to make it very clear to whatever administration comes in next that those international human rights standards must be respected.
Obviously we want a democracy established there, a meaningful, informed, vibrant democracy that recognizes those international standards. Fear and hope commingle now and into the future for the Coptic community.
In terms of the Muslim community, a good number of people from the Windsor area, as I said earlier, have friends and close family still living in Egypt. They are very worried because many of them have not been able to find out about them.
There is a young woman who was a close friend of my daughter through elementary and high school. I believe she is back. Knowing her and how engaged she was in politics in Canada, she is probably very much one of those young people who precipitated this thrust for democracy in Egypt. I am sure her father is very worried about her, if in fact she is still there, as are any number of other members of the Windsor community about children, brothers, sisters, parents and friends.
They share with the Coptic Christian community the same concern, the hope that Mubarak leaves, the expectation that people will have a right to hope that democracy will be established, that there will be real freedom, a real and vibrant democracy, with the young people in particular having a major say in that. I am not talking of teenagers; I am talking of people in their 20s and 30s who, clearly, have led the way in these demonstrations and in forcing the president to announce his intent not to run again.
Both communities are very worried about what is going to happen over the next 24, 48 or 72 hours, because they are hearing the same things as us. Other groups are moving in and attempting to control the situation, groups that are operating with a significantly different agenda from the young people who created this movement in a very short period of time. If that happens, it will be a tragedy of monumental proportion.
What has happened is that a very large segment of the population, the youth of that country, in the last 8 or 10 days, has had its hopes raised that finally people would be able to live in a free society, a society, a government, an administration in which they would have full and meaningful participation. If that gets usurped by some of the other groups that appear to be attempting to move in now, it will be a tragedy.
This comes back to the role I believe Canada should be playing more aggressively, not just as an individual country. We certainly have to recognize the sovereignty of that country, but at the international level, it obviously begs the question of whether we would not be in a much better position if we had secured that position on the Security Council last year and been able to speak with greater authority from that position. It is water under the bridge, but we still have a role to play.
We have a role in saying to the rest of the democratic world that we have to bring whatever pressures we can to bear to get Mubarak and his administration out, and assisting in whatever ways we can in providing the democratic forces there, representing the Egyptian community as a whole, the opportunity, first, for an interim government and then for meaningful, free and informed elections for both the presidency and parliament.
That is a role we can play and we need to be doing it publicly. That is why the NDP foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre, has been critical of the government for not taking a more aggressive stance in that regard. We have to be able to do that, because if we do not, there is a huge risk not only of more violence, which would be very tragic, but also that the democratic movement there will be lost, even without violence.
I urge the government to consider moving more dramatically than it has been willing to, and for it to provide some leadership at the international level as well.