At incorporation, the municipality's citizens unanimously chose to name it after legislator, speaker, Freemason and explorer, Robert Burnaby, who had been private secretary to Colonel Richard Moody, British Columbia's land commissioner in the mid-1800s. In 1859, Mr. Burnaby had surveyed the freshwater lake near what is now the city's geographical centre; Moody chose to name it Burnaby Lake.
Burnaby occupies 98.60 square kilometers (38.07 sq mi) and is located at the geographical centre of the Metro Vancouver area. Situated between the City of Vancouver on the west and Port Moody, Coquitlam, and New Westminster on the east, the City is further bounded by Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River on the North and South respectively. Burnaby, Vancouver and New Westminster collectively occupy the major portion of the Burrard Peninsula. The elevation of Burnaby ranges from sea level to a maximum of 370 metres (1,200 ft) atop Burnaby Mountain. Overall, the physical landscape of Burnaby is one of hills, ridges, valleys and an alluvial plain. The land features and their relative locations have had an influence on the location, type and form of development in the City.
Burnaby is a maturing, increasingly integrated community, which is centrally located within a rapidly growing metropolitan area. Burnaby's characteristic has shifted from rural to suburban to largely urban. Still, Burnaby's ratio of park land to residents is one of the highest in North America, and it maintains some agricultural land, particularly along the Fraser foreshore flats in the Big Bend neighbourhood along its southern perimeter.
The SkyTrain rapid transit system crosses Burnaby from east to west in two places: in the south along the Expo Line (completed in 1986) and in the middle along the Millennium Line (completed in 2002). The SkyTrain has encouraged closer connections to New Westminster, Vancouver, and Surrey, as well as dense urban development at Lougheed Town Centre on the city's eastern border, at Brentwood Town Centre in the centre-west, and most notably at Metrotown in the south.
Major north-south streets crossing the City include Boundary Road, Willingdon Avenue, Royal Oak Avenue, Kensington Avenue, Sperling Avenue, Gaglardi Way, Cariboo Road, and North Road. East-west routes linking Burnaby's neighbouring cities to each other include East Hastings Street, Barnet Highway, the Lougheed Highway, Kingsway (which follows the old horse trail between Vancouver and New Westminster), Canada Way and Marine Drive/Marine Way. Douglas Road, which used to cross the city from northwest to southeast, has largely been absorbed by the Trans-Canada Highway and Canada Way. Since the 1990s, Burnaby has developed a network of cycling trails. It is also well served by Greater Vancouver's bus system, run by the Coast Mountain Bus Company, a division of TransLink.
Source Data: Burnaby Community Profile from 2001 Census at Statistics Canada
While Burnaby occupies about 4% of the land area of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, it accounted for about 10% of the Region's population in 2001. It is the third most populated urban centre in British Columbia (after Vancouver and Surrey) with an estimated population of 205,261. Like much of Greater Vancouver, Burnaby has always had large ethnic and immigrant communities: to cite two examples, North Burnaby near Hastings Street has long been home to many Italian restaurants and recreational bocce games, while Metrotown's ever-sprouting condominium towers in the south have been fueled in part by more recent arrivals from China (including Hong Kong & Macau), South Korea, Taiwan, and the former Yugoslavia. According to the 2006 Census, 54% of Burnaby residents have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French.
Politically, Burnaby has maintained a centre-left city council (which recently completely eliminated the city's debt) and school board for many years, while sometimes electing more conservative legislators provincially (for the Social Credit and BC Liberal parties) and federally (for the Reform, Alliance, and Conservative parties). Its longest-serving politician had been Svend Robinson of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada's first openly homosexual member of Parliament, but after 25 years and seven elections he resigned his post in early 2004 after stealing and then returning an expensive ring. Burnaby voters endorsed his assistant, Bill Siksay, as his replacement in the spring 2004 Canadian federal election. In the May 2005 provincial election, residents of the city sent a mix of BC Liberal and NDP representatives to the British Columbia legislature.