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Across country, Canadians celebrate end of Mubarak's rule

Members of the Egyptian and Arabic communities in Toronto chant slogans as they gather to celebrate the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday February 12, 2011.

Chris Young/Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Egyptian-Canadians who staged celebrations this weekend to mark the end of the Mubarak regime were joined by many who had their eye on expanding the reform movement to other countries.

Hundreds of revellers gathered in several Canadian cities Saturday to rejoice in the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year authoritarian rule on Friday.

Many expressed optimism the Egyptian military will heed people's wishes and peacefully pass power to an elected civilian government.

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In Toronto, a victory rally started with a moment of silence to commemorate the 300 Egyptians who died during clashes with Mubarak supporters.

Several hundred jubilant people waved flags and sang popular Egyptian songs.

"What I'm hoping for is Egypt to start rewriting history again, and I'm proud that's going to happen," said Khaled Lashin, a Canadian-Egyptian living in Toronto.

"Every step has challenges, but I'm very confident in the Egyptian people. They've been waiting for too long. I'm sure they're going to succeed, and not just succeed - they're going to impress the whole world."

Hamid Harhash, one of the Toronto rally organizers and a volunteer with the Toronto Arab Solidarity Campaign, said his family in Egypt was helping with the cleanup of Tahrir Square in Cairo.

"They are taking back the country. That is something that indicates how positive things are," said Mr. Harhash.

"We hope for a speeding up of the democratic shift, more economic stability very soon, and hopefully that this will set a good example for the people of the Middle East who deserve much better than a dictatorship."

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Several people from Uganda, including Toronto student Henry Luyonbya, came out to the Toronto rally to show solidarity with Egypt.

The Uganda opposition has threatened Egypt-style protests if next Friday's election is rigged to allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his 25-year rule.

"What happened in Egypt is not only for the Egyptians but for the whole world," said Mr. Luyonbya.

"It's for all of us Canadians, all of us Africans and all people who believe in democracy and transparency."

In Montreal, about 300 people marched through the snowy streets, but most seemed to have reform protests in Algeria on their minds.

Many of them waved Algerian flags and wore scarves and hats with the country's trademark red and green, while others held Egyptian and Tunisian flags, chanting "Solidarity with Algeria!"

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"We are protesting to bring real democracy to Algeria," said 54-year-old Zinedine Yad, who moved to Montreal more than a decade ago.

"We don't want another fake democracy."

Thousands in Algeria defied government warnings on Saturday and dodged barricades to rally in the capital Algiers to demand democratic reforms.

Montreal professor Omar Aktouf, a native of Algeria who helped organize several rallies over the past month, said he is confident the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt will continue to spread through the region.

"I'm here to support the Algerians in the streets," he said.

"We are on their side... and we support their call to get this government out."

Tunisians and Palestinians were among the Egyptians gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa calling for the same action to spread throughout the Middle East.

Roughly 250 people danced and shared hot food and drinks.

The Egyptian military has promised a peaceful transition of power to an democratically elected government.

Weekend rallies held in New York, Chicago and other cities followed spontaneous demonstrations that broke out Friday when Mr. Mubarak agreed to step down. Egyptians in the U.S. expressed hope about the future, even as a leading human rights group said major reforms are still needed in the Middle Eastern nation.

"Happy does not even describe it," said graduate student Ola Elsaid, a native of Egypt now living near Detroit. "We hope for a democracy in Egypt. We hope for a smooth transition. We don't want any violence. We just hope for free and fair elections."

With a report from the Associated Press

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