The Laurier Era

Essay by xmegxHigh School, 10th grade April 2004

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The Laurier Era lasted from 1896 to 1911 and was a monumental time in Canadian history. Sir Wilfred Laurier had the immense task of leading our country, which evidently involved many defining moments, such as the Boer War, the Naval Service Bill, and the Alaska Boundary Dispute.

The Boer War was the first event to, in reality, launch the French Canadian Nationalist Movement because Quebec was inherently against fighting a war for England. Troops were sent a Quebec politician, Henri Bourassa, who had to forfeit his seat in parliament. Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, who was also Quebecois, had a duty to appease the overwhelming desire of the English-speaking majority, and therefore was forced to go against his own anti-war sentiments by sending soldiers to South Africa. Laurier thought the Dutch farmers were not an impeding threat to Britain and therefore support from the colonies was not essential.

Despite opposition from Laurier and his native province, Canadians did go to war.

The first troop of 1,039 soldiers arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on November 29, 1899. The soldiers were paid their first wages before departure and went wild spending money like they were millionaires--drinking champagne and relaxing in expensive hotels. But, alas, it would be one of the last joyous occasions for these Canadian men for a long time. The soldiers were not expecting the harsh dry weather and cruel sandstorms of the desert, nor were they prepared for the deadly epidemics that emerged as a result of exhaustion and malnutrition.

The first assignment for the troops was to march to a holding camp at De Aar. Long, grueling marches would become a staple of the Boer War, one that wiped out many soldiers. The troops would become so thirsty they would drink out of swamps and pools...