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Sandy Burpee named Coquitlam's new Freedom of the City recipient

Coquitlam has a new Freedom of the City recipient, the municipality announced today (Tuesday).

Coquitlam has a new Freedom of the City recipient.

Today (Tuesday), the city announced that homelessness and anti-poverty advocate Sandy Burpee will be the 12th municipal honouree.

The award — the highest accolade that a Coquitlam resident can receive from the city — will be officially bestowed on him in the new year.

“It’s certainly an honour,” Burpee told the Tri-City News this morning. “I’m at the stage of my life now where, looking back, it’s nice to feel good about what you’ve accomplished.”

“It’s just something nice to hold dear,” he added. 

Burpee took the long way to get to Coquitlam.

In 1971, he and his then-girlfriend (and now wife) Cathy hopped on a motorcycle to drive from Toronto to B.C. for an engineering job with BC Hydro.

The couple moved around the province for years — working on Vancouver Island and up north — before settling with their two children, Jill and Dan, in Coquitlam in 1993.

After he retired, Burpee became heavily involved in the community.

He was named the founding chair of the Tri-Cities Housing Coalition and chaired the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group for a dozen years while also serving as the interim chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness.

Burpee worked to get the permanent shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave. built and he volunteered with the temporary winter shelters at Tri-City churches.

The volunteer coordinator for the SHARE food bank for a decade, Burpee also spent more than a decade with Coquitlam Search and Rescue. In 2015, the team presented him with a life membership and the Rollie Award for Excellence.

“Sandy was consistently an outstanding member during his active tenure with Coquitlam SAR and it’s no surprise that he continues to make positive contributions throughout our community,” Coquitlam SAR president Helena Michelis told the Tri-City News. “We are both proud and privileged to see one of our own receiving this illustrious award.”

In addition, Burpee was a founding chair of the Fraser-Burrard Community Justice Society — now called Communities Embracing Restorative Action (CERA) — and founded a local Together Against Violence committee.

For his volunteerism and ongoing campaigns to help people at risk, Burpee received many distinctions, including with Cathy.

In 2018, Douglas College presented honorary fellow awards to the pair; he was a member of the community advisory committee for Douglas College’s Centre for Health and Community Partnerships, from 2008 to 2011.

Currently, Burpee said he’s on the strata council for his Burquitlam building, is an advisory board member for the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam, and continues to do needle sweeps in the area around 3030 Gordon Ave.

Still, "the work has been curtailed somewhat because of the pandemic,” he said. “I’d love to get more active and keep working.”

Coquitlam's other Freedom of the City recipients are Don Cunnings, Fern Bouvier, Rev. John Davies, Dorothy Fleming, Larry Fleming, Rene Gamache, Dr. J. Crosby Johnston, Jean Lambert, Bob McNary, Eunice Parker and Leonore Peyton.

With the honour, the recipients receive a parking pass that’s valid for anywhere in Coquitlam. They also have the right to be registered and vote in an election and, if Canadian, they are qualified to be nominated, elected and hold office in Coquitlam.