New polling data suggests Afghanistan casualties among Canadian soldiers from Quebec have further reduced already low public support for the mission in this province.
So where is the prime minister? Where are his Quebec and other ministers, and his MPs? He, and they, should be here defending and explaining the mission.
Two of Stephen Harper's top people, Heritage Minister Josée Verner and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, have been in the province in the past few days, but their visits were short and low-profile.
Sixty-nine Canadian soldiers have died in the Afghanistan mission since 2002. Their families and fellow citizens want to believe their sacrifice has served a higher purpose. It is the job of the country's political leaders, who have committed our armed forces to the mission, to explain why we must continue it.
The deaths this week of two more soldiers from Quebec, just hours after the body of another Quebecer arrived back in Canada, sent support for the mission to new lows among Quebecers, an opinion survey indicated.
Part of the drop can, we believe, be attributed to a kind of "hometown" sense of loss. Within Quebec's close-knit francophone society, the deaths of three young men within a short period of time seems to have set off a chain reaction of anger, confirming again the province's longstanding public opposition to almost any military measures.
Only one Quebecer in three supports the idea that Canada should remain in Afghanistan until February 2009, our scheduled withdrawal date. By comparison, one in two people polled in the rest of Canada say they support the Afghanistan mission.
This is clear evidence of the need for federal politicians to get out among the electorate, especially in Quebec, and explain what Canadian soldiers are doing in a country where Canada has few direct bilateral interests.
There are good answers to that question, which we have cited in this space and will not repeat here. These answers will not, however, convince people who don't get to hear them explained.
Premier Jean Charest offered this week a welcome expression of support for the soldiers in Afghanistan, while steering around the merits of the mission. That's fair enough: he's a premier, not the federal PM. The Conservative government itself must carry the ball on this.
Harper should, however, be able to call on the opposition Liberals to defend the mission as well. Stéphane Dion has imposed a deadline - no further combat role beyond February 2009 - which is his right. But it would be fair and reasonable to ask Dion, and for that matter former prime minister Paul Martin, who first committed our troops - to help explain the mission better to all Canadians.
Grief colours perception. But the understandable sadness of a province for the loss of its young should not be allowed to cripple our efforts.