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City of Burnaby marks 110th anniversary of the Great Northern Railway disaster

The City of Burnaby and the BC Labour Heritage Centre are unveiling a plaque to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the Great Northern Railway disaster. 

On November 28, 1909, a tragic rail accident claimed the lives of 23 Japanese railway workers. The men were travelling through Burnaby on their way to complete track repairs in the Fraser Valley when their boxcar plunged into the Lost Creek ravine.

A plaque marking the location of the Great Northern Railway Disaster has been installed along the Central Valley Greenway, where Lost Creek flows into the Brunette River. The plaque was created by the BC Labour Heritage Centre through its Remembering Working People: Plaques Around the Province program, which marks important events, groups, individuals and places that demonstrate the contributions of working people to the history of B.C. 

Financial support for the project is provided by BC Labour Heritage Centre’s project fund, WorkSafeBC and the Boag Foundation. 

The Great Northern Railway disaster was nominated for the program by the City of Burnaby’s Mayor and Council, on the recommendation of the Community Heritage Commission.

A replica of the plaque will be unveiled in a private ceremony on November 28, 2019 at McGill Branch of the Burnaby Public Library. 

For more information contact:
Lisa Codd
Heritage Planner
604-294-7435 |

Donna Sacuta, Executive Director
BC Labour Heritage Centre
604-419-0400 |


Lorene Oikawa, President, National Association of Japanese Canadians – 
“There were many Japanese Canadian railway workers in BC, but not many people know their stories. Japanese Canadians were long-time settlers in B.C., like my family who came in the 1800s. I hope the plaque will bring awareness to this story, and to the working conditions of Japanese Canadians and other racialized and Indigenous workers in the early 20th century.”

Colleen Jordan, City Councillor and Chair, Community Heritage Commission – 
“The accident serves as a reminder of the precarious conditions faced by migrants who helped build British Columbia. They travelled to this province in search of opportunity, but faced racism, discrimination and dangerous working conditions.”

Joey Hartman, President, BC Labour Heritage Centre – 
“Very few of the historical markers scattered across B.C. pay tribute to events that have shaped the lives of working men and women. This plaque helps tell a story that many have never heard before, in the exact location where it happened.”

Sherri Kajiwara, Director and Curator, Nikkei National Museum – 
“The National Nikkei Museum was happy to provide research support for this project which memorializes a previously little-known tragedy of Japanese Canadian railway workers who lost their lives in 1909.”

Great Northern Railway Disaster

Backgrounder: Great Northern Railway Disaster »

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