As word spread that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down as president of Egypt, students studying in Manitoba greeted the move with optimism.

"We are so happy. We didn't expect something like that to happen. But it did happen with the force of the people in Egypt," said Hesham Zare, who is from Egypt and is studying in Manitoba.

Mubarak left office on Friday, the 18th day of demonstrations by anti-government protesters.

On Thursday, he made a public address and said he was staying on until September. On Friday, however, the country's vice-president went on national television to announce that Mubarak was stepping down immediately as president and handing over control to an interim military council.

"We wanted the ruler always to say (I'm) quitting and he wouldn't say, but he was forced to say it. I'm really happy," said student Halim Mohamed.

While many Egyptian-Manitobans who spoke with CTV News said they're hopeful the economy and the lifestyles of Egyptian people will now improve, they also said they don't expect change to happen overnight.

"We'll not reach it in one day. We took so much to get to this. We'll take it one step by one step, but with good intentions," said Halim Mohamed.

Currently, the Egyptian military is honouring the will of the people who want a smooth transition. Some officials, however, said the country will also need support from western democracies, including Canada.

"I hope Parliament will take this opportunity to do some serious conversation and debate to reconnect with the Middle East and all its ramifications. I don't think Egypt is the end of the movement," said Lloyd Axworthy, President of the University of Winnipeg and a former minister of foreign affairs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will be pushing for free and fair elections in Egypt and respect for the rule of law.

- with a report from CTV's Eleanor Coopsammy