The first 225 Canadians - mostly stranded tourists - are hoping to escape the turmoil gripping Egypt later Monday and head to Frankfurt, Germany, before returning home.
An Air Canada Boeing 777 is at the Cairo airport and ready to leave - the first of two flights expected in the country to evacuate up to 600 Canadians today, with more to come in future days _ but there are conflict reports about what is causing continued delays in departure.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday that the Canadian government is working Australia and other countries to get all their citizens to safety as quickly as possible.
Many of the stranded Canadians are angry, saying they were abandoned during the crisis by their tour operators. The companies say they are not responsible in cases of civil strife such as what is now engulfing much of the country.
Some were dropped in Luxor, Egypt, by their tour companies. Some were in Sinai and couldn't get back to their scheduled flights.
At least a few of the stranded Canadians have spent two full days in the Cairo airport, partly because of city-wide curfew which restricts all movement and partly because they are nervous because of the images they see on TV of the strife in the streets.
All of those interviewed Monday by The Globe said they are grateful to the Canadian government for offering this escape route. The government is paying $400 toward the cost of the flight to Frankfurt. From there, they are on their own.
Some, like two women from New Brunswick, one who had been to Egypt before, assures her friend, "that it's not always like this," and they were determined to come back.
Another Calgary woman told The Globe she told her husband to stay, "that it was just too cold [here]"
A lot of the stranded tourists have no idea what they are going to do on arrival in Frankfurt but just want to get out of Cairo as fast as possible.
"The government is recommending that Canadians leave Egypt," Mr. Cannon announced at a hastily convened press conference Sunday evening. "… The situation is deteriorating, the situation is not under control."
Foreign Affairs estimates that there are about 6,500 Canadians in Egypt right now. The government, using Air Canada to charter at least one flight a day, will fly evacuees from Cairo to European airports. Before boarding, passengers must sign a contract promising to repay their portion of the cost of the flight, and they will also be expected to make their own way home from Europe.
The operation will continue until everyone who wants to leave has left. Mr. Cannon said the government does not know how many Canadians in Egypt will take advantage of the offer.
One Western diplomat who asked not to be identified cautioned against such a move, saying there is no sign Westerners are at risk. The official warned that evacuating Canadians at this time would be an insult to the Egyptian government, suggesting that Canada believes President Hosni Mubarak isn't in sufficient control to protect foreigners.
However, there were complaints both from Canadians in Egypt and their friends and family at home that the government wasn't providing information or assistance to people who felt trapped amid reports and scenes of violence.
Mr. Cannon said those who wish to take advantage of the evacuation flights should contact the Canadian embassy in Cairo or the Foreign Affairs Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa.
Globe readers uploaded these images from weekend protests in Canada to our Flickr pool: