Foreign affairs minister urges Egypt to implement changes to curb violence

OTTAWA – As anger spreads throughout Egypt over a military crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Canada is calling for calm while Egyptian Canadians watch in horror from a distance.

Canada’s foreign affairs department issued a warning Wednesday against all non-essential travel to Egypt, except for Red Sea coastal resorts.

But even there, the department advised Canadians to be very cautious as violence linked to the crackdown was seen in parts of the country outside Cairo.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also issued a statement, expressing deep concern over the violence and calling on Egypt to implement much-needed changes to ease tensions.

Canada supports “a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of its citizens, and that encourages and respects civil society and all other segments of the population,” the statement said.

Such a system would restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the country’s future stability and prosperity, it continues.

“We urge both parties to avoid violence, and engage in a meaningful political dialogue for the good of all Egyptians.”

All day Wednesday, pictures and video images of the violence could be seen on the Facebook site Egyptian Canadians For Democracy.

One video posted on the page showed footage of body bags lined up on a sidewalk. Another post read “God have mercy on Egypt.”

The Egyptian government declared a state of emergency shortly after security forces used bulldozers and armoured vehicles to clear two sit-in camps full of Morsi supporters.

The country’s interim administration, which replaced Morsi after he was ousted on July 3, had been warning for days that the assault was coming. The two makeshift camps had been set up in late June at major intersections on opposite sides of the Egyptian capital.

Protesters — many of them supporters of the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood — have demanded his reinstatement.

The violence has taken a heavy toll. By late Wednesday, Egypt’s health ministry was reporting that nearly 100 people had been killed, although Morsi supporters said the number was much higher.

Among the casualties was a cameraman who was working for Britain’s Sky News.

“Our thoughts go out to the families and friends of those killed by today’s violence, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery,” Baird added.

“All Egyptians should show restraint and resolve in the coming days.”

The Harper government and others around the world should insist that Egypt tell its military to cease the crackdown, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar told a news conference in Ottawa.

“Canada must work with international partners and urge the interim government to direct the army to show restraint and comply with international human rights obligations,” Dewar said.

“We ask all parties to sit down through dialogue, reach a peaceful solution to this crisis that includes a road map to democratic elections.”