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Major-General George Randolph Pearkes

Awarded Status of Freeman: May 27, 1968 (Presentation Made June 14, 1968)

Freemen - George Randolph Pearkes

In 1968, Burnaby’s Council at the time decided that the honour of being named Burnaby’s first Freeman should go to then Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, His Honour, Major-General G.R. Pearkes, V.C., P.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., C.D. in recognition of the outstanding services performed by him over many decades of service, both as a soldier and a politician. This decision was unanimously confirmed by the members of Council and Major-General George Randolph Pearkes became the first person to be awarded the honour of being a Freeman of Burnaby.

Born in Waterford, England on February 26, 1888, Major-General Pearkes immigrated to Canada in 1906, homesteading in Alberta and serving with the Royal North-West Mounted Police. When World War One was declared in Europe in 1914, Major-General Pearkes answered the call to serve and in early 1915 he enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles where he rose quickly through the ranks and was awarded the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Passchendaele. This was to be one of many citations and awards he was to earn for his bravery and skills and at the end of the First World War, he made the decision to remain in the permanent force and in 1919 he was appointed to the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.

At the outbreak of World War Two, Major-General Pearkes was given command of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade, and in 1940 was promoted to command the 1st Division. In 1942, he was made the General Officer Commanding Pacific Command – a post in which he remained until 1945. At the end of World War Two, Major-General Pearkes decided to retire from active duty and stepped into the political realm where he ran successfully for Parliament serving Esquimalt-Saanich – a riding he represented until 1960. During his tenure as Member of Parliament, Major-General Pearkes acted as the Minister of National Defence from 1957 to 1960.

On October 13, 1960, Major-General Pearkes was made Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and was such a popular choice that he was asked to extend his term and he served in this capacity until July, 1968. When he finally retired from a life of public service in 1968, he still remained active in the community as the grand president of the Royal Canadian Legion – a position he held until 1976.

For his life of dedicated service to country, province and community, it is not hard to appreciate why Major-General Pearkes was chosen to be honoured as the first Freeman of the Municipality in 1968.

Major-General George Randolph Pearkes died on May 30, 1984.

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