Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

CHAPTER 3: The Issues Crystallize

Canadians in South Africa (3 pages)

The Boer War and Reasons for Participation

Less than 15 years after the North West Rebellion a crisis erupting on the fringes of the southern hemisphere brought new upheaval in relations between Canadians of British and French origin.

Britain had long been at daggers drawn with the Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State, located in present-day South Africa. In late summer 1899 all of Britain's dominions except Canada proclaimed their readiness to lend a hand to the mother country. In Canada a coalition formed in part by the ethnic British population, working through their Members of Parliament and the small but influential Imperial Federation League, demanded that the Laurier government take a stand. The coalition was dominated by the voice of Governor General Lord Minto, who gave Laurier to understand that Canada's support might prompt London, in turn, to support the Canadian viewpoint in discussions over the boundary between Canada and Alaska (this question would not reach arbitration until 1904, with an outcome somewhat unfavourable to Canada).