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William John Copeland

Mayor of Burnaby: 1987-1996
Awarded Status of Freeman: May 7, 2001 (Presentation Made May 11, 2001)

Freemen - William Copeland

William “Bill” Copeland once joked that the reason he ran for mayor of Burnaby was because “there wasn’t a shadow of hope he would be successful” – and when the votes were tallied and he was declared victorious, Bill asked for a recount. Fortunately for the people of Burnaby, he was not serious and instead went on to become an overwhelmingly popular and much-respected leader of the community.

Bill’s service to his community began early in life. Born in Vancouver on May 19, 1927, Bill was still a young man when World War Two began but that did not stop him from serving in the Merchant Marines and in the Royal Canadian Navy. After the war, Bill and his wife Ruth raised three children and in 1955 he embarked on a career with the Burnaby Fire Department. Bill went on to serve Burnaby as a firefighter until his retirement in 1987 as an Assistant Fire Chief. During this lengthy tenure, Bill held a leadership role in the Firefighters’ Union Local 323 and served as Vice President of the 6th District of the International Association of Firefighters.

Over the years, Bill found various ways to contribute to the people of Burnaby. In conjunction with his work with the Fire Department, Bill was also President of the Burnaby Red Cross, Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Chairman of the St. John Ambulance, Life Member of the Burnaby North Lions Club and Member of the Deer Lake Chapter of the Rotary Club – to name but a very few of the numerous groups and organizations to which he belonged.

Immediately upon his retirement from the Fire Department in 1987, Bill was asked to run for the position of Mayor of Burnaby and was successful in his bid. As Mayor, Bill earned the respect of Council and the citizens of Burnaby for his outstanding work and dedication to the community.

Bill was an advocate of public participation and introduced the concept of “Area Advisory Committees” to the City with the appointment of the Hastings Street Advisory Committee. The success of this process has led to many other appointments for area advisory committees throughout Burnaby. Bill did not limit his good works to stay within the borders of the City, and as Mayor he was responsible for the two-year sister city twinning agreement with the city of El Zapotal, El Salvador. This campaign saw the citizens of Burnaby embark on numerous initiatives and fundraisers to offer support and assistance to this developing area.

In 1996, Bill retired from public life after serving three terms in office and in 1997, in recognition of Bill’s contribution to the community both as a firefighter and as Mayor, the newly constructed ice arena at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex was officially named the “Bill Copeland Sports Centre,” and in 2001, Bill was made a Freeman of the City.

William Copeland died August 30, 2002.

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