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The South African War (or Second Anglo-Boer War) was the first overseas War for the Canadian Military. Over 7,000 Canadian soldiers and support personnel were involved in the second Boer war from October 1899 to May 1902. With approximately 7,368 soldiers in a combat situation, the conflict became the largest military engagement involving Canadian soldiers from the time of Confederation until the Great War. Eventually, 270 soldiers died in the course of the Boer War. The Canadian public was initially divided on the decision to go to war as some citizens did not want Canada to become Britain's 'tool' for engaging in armed conflicts. Many Anglophone citizens were pro-Empire, and wanted the Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, to support the British in their conflict. On the other hand, many Francophone citizens felt threatened by the continuation of British Imperialism to their national sovereignty.

In the end, in order to appease the citizens who wanted war and avoid angering those who didn't, Laurier sent 1,000 volunteers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Otter to aid the confederation in its war to 'liberate' the peoples of the Boer controlled states in South Africa. The volunteers were provided to the British with the stipulation that the British pay costs of the battalion after it arrived in South Africa.

The supporters of the war claimed that it "pitted British Freedom, justice and civilization against Boer backwardness". The French Canadians' opposition to the Canadian involvement in a British 'colonial venture' eventually led to a three-day riot in various areas of Quebec.

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