MONTREAL Ottawa should pull its troops out of Afghanistan immediately and return the military to its peacekeeping roots, the godfather of the latest Canadian soldier to die in the war-torn country said Tuesday.
Just two weeks into her first tour of duty, 21-year-old Karine Blais was killed late Monday by a roadside bomb north of Kandahar City.
“I think she did this for absolutely nothing,” Mario Blais said during a telephone interview.
“The Russians were in Afghanistan for many years and they couldn't push them back. I ask myself what Canada is doing. We were blue berets, now we're fighters.”
Mr. Blais had a simple message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Get the troops out of there as fast as possible.
“I'm worried for all those who are there,” he added, echoing the view of many Quebeckers who've been among the most vocal opponents of Canada's participation in the Afghan mission.
“I don't think it's our place at all, at all, at all. We should be leading peacekeeping missions, not combat missions like we're doing.”
Trooper Blais is the second female to die in action since the mission began in 2002.
Her godfather said news of Karine's death came as a “shock” to her many friends and relatives who are now grieving in her home town of Les Mechins in eastern Quebec.
“This is a hard blow for the family,” he said, adding nobody was particularly thrilled when she decided to take up a career in the military.
He said she didn't talk much about the mission before she deployed, perhaps so as not to upset them or perhaps because she didn't realize how bad it would be.
Mr. Blais described his goddaughter as a very social girl who grew up working at the local convenience store.
He said she enjoyed adventure and signed up for the army a few years ago when recruiters stopped by her school.
He believes she hoped the army would help her learn a trade that she could then apply outside of the military.
At gatherings during the Christmas holidays, relatives begged her to take up an administrative position, but she'd already signed up for a role on the front lines as a truck driver.
Mr. Blais said she was living with a man who is also in the army and that the two planned to buy a house.
Trooper Blais is survived by her father Gino Blais, her mother Josee Simard and her younger brother Billy.
Some 37 people had added their names to a Facebook page launched in her honour Tuesday morning.
In a posting by her cousin Sarah Harrisson, Trooper Blais is described as an “extraordinary” sister to Billy.
“I'm in shock,” she writes. “It's a big loss. A fighter who chose a risky job, my beautiful cousin, you will always be in our hearts.”
Michele Senneville said she knew Trooper Blais for two years and has fond memories of her.
“I remember a young woman with an incredible sense of humour,” she wrote. “It's rare that I ever saw her angry.
“I know for her parents and for Billy, her little brother, this must be hell.”