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One Family's Journey: Canfor and the Transformation of BC's Forest Industry

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

A BC legend who passed away recently left a legacy well beyond the forest company his family founded here. Peter Bentley, who received the highest honours our nation can bestow, including the Order of Canada and the Order of BC, began his life as a humble immigrant from Vienna, Austria. His family fled the Nazis, moving to BC where his father founded a paneling veneer company that later became Canfor Corporation, a globally recognized leader in sustainably harvested wood products. Attending family business meetings at the young age of only 11, he spent much of his youth in remote BC logging camps and mills, and summers as a "forest fire watcher", learning forestry from the ground up. Along the way, Peter volunteered his time at many organizations, including FORED BC. He was both a chair on our board, and a funding champion who helped gather donors from governments, foundations, companies, suppliers, peers, and retirees who supported our independent, apolitical and educational activities that carefully balanced preservation needs as well as economic, social and Indigenous forest values. Peter's always maintained a strong belief in education. For that, he's been recognized by many universities and other charitable organizations. He's been the University of Northern BC (UNBC) chancellor and received many honorary degrees from various institutions, including UBC. A strong supporter of university programs including UBC Forestry and UBC Commerce, he was also recognized with Simon Fraser University's Distinguished Community Leadership Award. Health care was also a priority for Peter. He was the founder and later chairman emeritus of the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital Foundations, raising over a billion dollars for patients. He also co-founded SierraSil Health Inc. with his son, to share the healing benefits of the company's minerals, originating from the Sierra Mountains. Yet, he still found time among his corporate day-to-day work to serve on the Vancouver Playhouse Theater board as well as sports organizations. Peter spearheaded the effort to get the Vancouver Canucks hockey team into the National Hockey League (NHL) after another group tried unsuccessfully for the 1967 expansion. Like the work ethic of another famous business leader, Jim Pattison, Peter still went into the office regularly into his 80s.


From his early life of family adversity, Peter proved that like the millions of trees his family company planted over its forestry history, we can all grow to great heights.

Peter Bentley: One Family's Journey

Peter may have found some affinity in the words of Carl Sagan, the late Astronomer and scientist: “This oak tree and me, we're made of the same stuff.” For all of his unmatched philanthropy and leadership, FORED BC bestowed a posthumous honourary tribute to this business leader and charitable volunteer. Want to learn more about Peter's remarkable story? Read his book or one of many summaries of his family's life. Our signed copy of his book (pictured) will forever be treasured. #forest #forestry #timber #wood #charity #philanthropy #education #leadership #Canfor #donor #donation #lodgepolepine #nonprofit #volunteer #makeadifference #instagood #givingtuesday



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