Tunisians in Canada against Ben Ali

Canadian Tunisians are pleased about the political change, but angry at rumours Ben Ali's family may seek refuge there.

      Canadian Tunisians have used the internet to post details of a house said to belong to Ben Ali's daughter [Al Jazeera]

    This past weekend, Tunisians took to the streets of Montreal, waving their country's flag and singing the national anthem to celebrate the sudden departure of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

    More than 1,000 Tunisians braved the frigid Canadian winter to mark the historic event.

    “I want to congratulate the Tunisian people for their sacrifices," Noureddinne Khemili a Canadian Tunisian told Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer.

    "For the first time in history we are seeing a digital revolution, a cyber-revolution,” Khemili said, referring to how much of the information about the beginnings of the revolt were disseminated via Twitter and Facebook.

    Spicer reported from Montreal, where Tunisians were jubilant about the political change in the North African state, which forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia on Friday in the face of protests against his 23-year rule.

    But Tunisians were also angered by rumours that Ben Ali's family may now be trying to seek refuge in the north American country.

    Canada is home to some 20, 000 people with roots in Tunisia, many of whom reside in the French-speaking Montreal region. 

    Venting Online

    Canadian media reported rumours that Ben Ali's daughter Nesrine and her husband El Materi may have fled to Montreal, and Canadian Tunisians have vented their resulting anger online.

    Some individuals posted directions to a house they said belongs to El Materi. Al Jazeera's Spicer investigated the rumour, finding that the house was owned by another family who were growing concerned at the mysterious traffic outside their home.

    Despite a public denial from El Materi about the family being in Canada, Tunisians still made their way to the airport to give him "the welcome he deserved," one man said to Al Jazeera, planning to post the footage on YouTube.

    There is great resentment to the wealth of Ben Ali’s family.

    "That money belongs to the people, and it must come back to the people. We will never accept that they come back here and are happy in their castle," one woman told our correspondent.

    A leaked WikiLeaks cable from the US ambassador to Tunisia echoed similar sentiments, saying: "The opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live and their behaviour make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali's family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians."

    Many parents brought their children to the weekend's rally, some in strollers. Mohamed Najib, 37, brought his 20-month-old daughter Myriam to celebrate "this second independence" - the first of which was from France in 1956.

    Lawrence Cannon, Canada's foreign minister, on Saturday said that Canada regretted the loss of life in the last month of violence in Tunisia.

    He added that "Canada welcomes news that free elections will be held in the near future, which will give all Tunisians a voice in building a new government committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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