Surrey | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Surrey, British Columbia, incorporated as a city in 1993, population 568,322 (2021 census), 517,887 (2016 census). The city of Surrey is the second-largest municipality by population in British Columbia, after Vancouver. Part of Metro Vancouver, it is bounded by the Fraser River on the north and Washington state on the south. The municipalities of Langley and Delta lie to the east and west.


The Kwantlen and Semiahmoo people, part of the Straits Salish group, have lived in the Fraser River and Boundary Bay area for more than 6,000 years (see Coast Salish). Decimated by disease after the arrival of Europeans, the Kwantlen were given a small reserve in Surrey. Since then, the city has purchased the reserve and turned it into a park. The Semiahmoo have a reserve near the international boundary. Incorporated as a district municipality in 1879, Surrey was named by an early pioneer after Surrey County in England.


Surrey grew slowly in the beginning, with lumbering and agriculture as the main industries. A double-span bridge across the Fraser River (1904) provided Surrey’s only access to New Westminster and Vancouver until the Pattullo Bridge (1937) was built. Railways and roads brought steady industrial and commercial growth. This growth was furthered by an influx of people from the drought-stricken Prairies in the 1930s. Political unrest led to the secession in 1957 of Ward 7, which became the municipality of White Rock (see also Canadian Place Names that Reference Geography).

The opening of the Port Mann Bridge (1960) and subsequent freeway development brought further growth and change. A six-town concept emerged, with Whalley, Guildford, Newton, Fleetwood, Cloverdale and South Surrey developing around shopping malls, recreation facilities, housing, green belts, industrial lands and farms. In 1990, British Columbia extended the SkyTrain across the Fraser River into Surrey. The city now has four SkyTrain stations.


Industries employing the large numbers of people in Surrey include retail, healthcare and social assistance, construction, manufacturing, accommodation and food services.

Cultural Life

Surrey is home to campuses of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and has a campus of Simon Fraser University. With more than 200 parks, the city is known as the “City of Parks.” Cloverdale, Surrey's agricultural heart, boasts harness horse racing and Canada's second-largest rodeo. The Historic Stewart Farm has a restored Victorian-style farmhouse depicting life at the turn of the century. The arts are centered at the Surrey Arts Centre, which houses the Surrey Art Gallery and two theatres. The culture and history of Surrey are displayed at the Museum of Surrey.