Get to know Burnaby—read fun facts, learn our history and more
Burnaby is a city in British Columbia, Canada. Located in the centre of Metro Vancouver, it’s the third-largest city in the province with over 249,000 residents. Burnaby is known for its beautiful surrounding natural environments and diverse culture—making it a sought-after place to live, work and play.
The municipality of Burnaby received its charter of incorporation on September 22, 1892. Burnaby, which has always been home to the Coast Salish peoples, is located on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. We are grateful for the opportunity to be in this territory.
The earliest known human occupation of the Lower Fraser Valley dates to approximately 10,000 years ago, shortly after the retreat of the last glaciers. However, the present configuration of the Fraser River and the height of sea levels didn't stabilize until at least 5,000 years ago, creating the unique landforms and lush native vegetation of Burnaby.
The ancestors of several local Coast Salish Nations peoples utilized many locations around Burnaby as seasonal food gathering and campsites throughout the year and as sites for family gatherings and cultural or spiritual activities.
The year 1825 marked the founding of Fort Langley by the Hudson's Bay Company. The establishment of the fur trade economy and the immigration of Europeans to the region radically altered settlement patterns, health and the First Nations population. When gold was discovered on the sandbars of the Lower Fraser River, it started a human stampede to the newly incorporated Crown Colony of British Columbia in 1858.
The creation of the City of New Westminster in 1860, the arrival of the transcontinental railway and the 1886 incorporation of the City of Vancouver sparked Burnaby's development. The area's population along the Canadian Pacific line was about 200 persons, mainly employed in the agriculture or logging industries.
The property taxes the local landowners and residents paid went straight to Victoria, the new provincial capital of BC. The taxes provided no local benefits to the pioneers in Victoria. A group of community-minded neighbours consolidated to apply for a municipal charter to guarantee their taxes went towards local roads and services.
The municipality received its charter of incorporation on September 22, 1892. Burnaby got its name from Burnaby Lake, called so in honour of Robert Burnaby, who had explored the region around the lake in 1859. Robert Burnaby, a merchant and businessman, was active in various community affairs and helped develop much of the west coast. Robert Burnaby served five years in the BC legislature before returning to England because of poor health. In all, he has given his name to a city, a park, a lake, a hill, a Vancouver street, a mountain range in McKenzie Sound, an island and a narrows in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
By 1896, Burnaby had its first urban park, a store, post office, two schools and a church. Within five years, the population in South Burnaby grew to 400.
The opening of the Barnet Mill in North Burnaby in 1900 started another settlement within the municipality.
Burnaby's population has since grown to over 249,000. Burnaby's economic base has changed from logging and agriculture to service, commercial and industrial activities. Community, business and personal service industries account for approximately 27% of the City's employment, reflecting Burnaby's growing role as a diverse urban centre.
In 1992, the City of Burnaby celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Corporation of the District of Burnaby officially changed to the City of Burnaby.
Truth and reconciliation
Burnaby's founding and growth took place within the traditional, ancestral and unceded lands of First Nations, whose rights and the title was ignored and dismissed by BC's early governments. As non-First Nations settlement in BC grew, First Nations peoples were displaced from the places where they gathered their food and practiced their cultures and customs. Their village sites disappeared and they were confined to reserves outside of the City's boundaries.
In 2016, the City of Burnaby recognized the truth and importance of this history. Since then, the City has been committed to pursuing reconciliation. Steps include building relationships with local First Nations and exploring ways to make Burnaby a welcoming and safe place for Indigenous peoples.
Quick facts about Burnaby
- Burnaby has one of the highest open-space-to-resident ratios in North America, with 25% of the land designated to parks and open spaces.
- Burnaby takes its name from Burnaby Lake, named after Robert Burnaby, an English merchant, politician and civil servant who travelled the area in 1859.
- Burnaby is culturally rich and diverse. Roughly 54% of residents have a primary language that is neither English nor French—Canada’s two official languages.
- Two of BC’s largest post-secondary institutions, Simon Fraser University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, are based in Burnaby.
- Burnaby is home to Metropolis at Metrotown, BC's largest and Canada's fifth-largest shopping centre.
- Singer Michael Buble, actors Michael J. Fox and Carrie-Anne Moss, Brad Loree, ice hockey player Joe Sakic, national team soccer player Christine Sinclair and many others call Burnaby their hometown.
As a previous winner of Maclean’s ‘Best Run City in Canada’ award, Burnaby is committed to excellence. Multiple City programs, attributes and achievements have been recognized locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.
- Burnaby’s housing strategy process shines in national public participation awards.
- UBCM Community Excellence Awards Honourable Mention for Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing—Your Voice. Your Home.
- Indigenous History in Burnaby Resource Guide Wins National Award.
- BCRPA Community Leadership Award for City of Burnaby Warning Centre Team.
- Willingdon Linear Park Earns Envision Silver Award for Sustainable Infrastructure.
- Burnaby City Employees Receive United Way Award.
- City of Burnaby Wins Financial Achievement Awards.
- Plan for Burnaby’s Green Future wins Award of Excellence.
Sister and friendship cities
Burnaby has a strong tradition of international sister and friendship city relationships. Sister and friendship cities have intrinsic long-term benefits for the community—like spreading economic and cultural awareness.
The sister city relationship with Kushiro, Japan, was initiated by then-Mayor Reeve Alan Emmott. Kushiro was chosen because it’s on the same latitude as the City of Burnaby and the two cities resemble each other in size and structure. In 1965, delegates from the City of Kushiro visited Burnaby and signed an Exchange Affiliation Agreement. The City of Burnaby celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Exchange Affiliation Agreement with Kushiro in 2015.
The sister city relationship between Mesa, Arizona and Burnaby began in 1998 through a relationship between Rotary Clubs in both communities. Mesa is the second-largest city in a broad metropolitan area centred around Phoenix and is the third-largest city in Arizona. There's a fundamental commonality between the two communities, given that Burnaby is also part of a large metropolitan area and is the third-largest city in BC. Both communities are fast-growing, have a significant retail component, support the development of clean industry and are concerned about their respective environments.
Then-Mayor Derek Corrigan first visited Hwaseong in 2007. At the time, the two cities developed a mutual understanding that they will enter a future formal relationship. During a visit to Hwaseong City in September 2010, Burnaby signed a Sister City Agreement with Hwaseong.
Located in the western area of the Korean Peninsula, Hwaseong City has a population of just over half a million and enjoys the largest area of farmland of any city or county in Gyeonggi province. As an aside, Gyeonggi province shares a twinning relationship with BC.
In December 2007, Mayor Li Qihong of Zhongshan City sent a letter to then-Mayor Derek Corrigan introducing Zhongshan and expressing a desire to promote friendship and cooperation between the two cities. Since that time, several visits have occurred between Burnaby and Zhongshan, culminating in signing a Friendship Agreement in May 2009 and a Sister City Agreement in September 2011.
In early 2007, the provincial government released its Asia Pacific Initiative, a plan designed to help develop the strategies necessary to integrate British Columbia with the Asia Pacific better. The Province's goal called for BC to be recognized internationally as North America's capital for Asia Pacific commerce and culture.
Under the Asia Pacific program, Burnaby received one-time funding to support friendship city initiatives with Asia-Pacific cities. The City matched these funds and over two years, confirmed Friendship Agreements with the following cities:
- Taichung, Taiwan
- Dongcheng District (formerly Chongwen District) of Beijing, P.R. China
- Dongli District of Tianjin
- Changshu, P.R. China
- Kunming, Yunnan Province, P.R. China
- Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China
- Tianjin City, Dongli District, China
- Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China
- Chongqing City, Yubei District, China
The City Council has appointed the International Relations and Friendship Cities Committee to advise and assist with Sister and Friendship Cities matters. For more information on this committee, contact the City Clerk's Office at 604-294-7290 or [email protected].