The Boer War in South Africa was Canada's first trial by fire.
The pre-eminent superpower of the day, Great Britain, had decided to wage one of its 'little wars' against two white Protestant, Dutch-speaking republics in southern Africa, who had declared their independence from all European empires. At stake was control of rich resources--gold and diamonds--and strategic advantage. Canada was divided. Many Canadians wanted to see their country prove its loyalty to the Empire by sending troops to fight alongside the British. Others felt Canada had no quarrel with the Boers, and no justification for taking up arms against them and their much-demonized leader. In the end, the Canadian government sent 7,000 Canadian troops to South Africa, to augment a British force 200,000 strong. Some contributed to conventional military victories; others became part of a horrifying 'dirty war,' where the British used scorched-earth tactics and created concentration camps that imprisoned women and children. Canadian experiences both home and abroad foreshadowed their experiences in the great conflagration to come, the First World War.