The angry protests on the streets of Cairo have led Ottawa to shift its tone toward Egypt, calling for Hosni Mubarak's government to avoid violence, respect political rights and accelerate democratic reforms.
Though Egypt's stable but repressive regime was long treated as a bulwark in the Middle East, Ottawa's latest statement, while calling for restraint on all sides, expresses sympathy for the reformist agenda of protesters and calls on Mr. Mubarak's regime "to respond to these protests peacefully."
"We call on Egypt to renew its commitment to strengthening the basis for democracy, consultation, dialogue and co-operation," said a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs after Mr. Mubarak spoke on television in Egypt on Friday.
"We urge the Egyptian government to accelerate the pace of democratic and economic reforms in order to meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people."
The Canadian government had previously made only cautious statements about developments in Egypt, as the future of Mr. Mubarak's government hung in the balance. Canadian officials were monitoring developments both with concern about how Mr. Mubarak's government would react, and about what kind of forces might step in were he to be ousted.
But the Foreign Affairs statement last night indicated that Canada now believes the protesters' agenda must be accommodated.
The statement also expressed concern about reports that Mohamed ElBaradei had been placed under house arrest. The Nobel Prize-winning former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency had returned to Egypt this week in an bid to shape the protests into regime change. "We continue to call for the full respect of freedom of expression in Egypt," it said.
The Canadian statement describes "democratic development" as a priority for foreign policy, but it's a phrase that didn't figure in descriptions of Canada's policy toward Egypt even days ago, before the protests.
The government summary of Canada-Egypt relations, posted on the Foreign Affairs Department website, still echoes the view that mattered until a week ago, when Egypt was seen as important because it was stable and aided regional security.
The relationship, it says, is "founded on a common interest in peace, stability and security in the Middle East, development co-operation, cross-cultural understanding and growing trade relations."