Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: James William “Jim” Burns (1929-2019)


Born at Winnipeg on 27 December 1929, son of Charles William Burns and Helen Gladys MacKay (1896-1995), brother of Charles M. Burns, he grew up in Tuxedo and attended Gordon Bell High School and the University of Manitoba. After receiving an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School in 1953, he joined Great West Life Assurance, rising to the role of President in 1971. He also served as Deputy Chairman of its parent company, Power Corporation of Canada, and was a member of the board for many other companies, including IBM Canada, Investors Group, Power Financial, Consolidated Bathurst, and Montreal Trust.

On 12 August 1953, he married Barbara Mary Copeland (?-2003), daughter of G. Franklin Copeland, and they had three children. He was President of the Lakewood Country Club (2001-2004), Chair of the Conference Board of Canada, Chair of the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on Executive Compensation in Government, a founding director of the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, and Honorary Colonel of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He was also involved with CentreVenture, CancerCare Manitoba, and the Save The Jets campaign, and was a founding member of the Manitoba Museum.

In recognition of his community service, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba (1987), Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and was inducted into the Order of Canada (1989) and Order of Manitoba (2003). He was inducted into the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame (2014).

He died at Winnipeg on 11 February 2019.


“Engagement notices,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 July 1953, page 13.

Obituary [Charles William Burns], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 May 1967, page 25.

Obituary [Helen Gladys Burns], Winnipeg Free Press, 10 November 1995, page 53.

Obituary [Barbara Mary Burns], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 April 2003.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 February 2019.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 14 February 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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