The city of Burnaby, British Columbia is named for him, as well as at least ten other urban and geographical features, including a mountain, a lake, a park, a Haida Gwaii Island and a street in Vancouver. On the strength of his recommendation by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Colonel Richard Moody decided to hire him as his personal secretary.
Though he served in this role only briefly, he played a part in planning the settlement of the towns of Queensborough, Hope and Yale.
Burnaby also explored the area around Burnaby Lake, which Moody decided to name after him. Due to high risk, speculation in a coal mine in Burrard Inlet that never materialized, and a recession, it folded in 1865.
He then went into real estate and insurance. In 1862 he contended that he had a claim prior to that of the "Three Greenhorn Englishmen" to what is now known as the West End of Vancouver, but Judge Chartres Brew dismissed the documents he produced as forgeries, "obviously written by a liar or a knave."
Soon after his arrival in Victoria, Burnaby ran for the Legislative Assembly.
He was elected as the member from Esquimalt and Metchosin, and served for five years.
In 1860 Burnaby helped to found Victoria Lodge Number. 1085, the first Masonic lodge in what is now British Columbia, and was elected its first Past Master. When a District Grand Lodge for British Columbia was formed in 1868, under the Grand Lodge of England, Burnaby headed it as District Grand Master.
At first he opposed a plan put forward by lodges affiliated with the Scottish Grand Lodge to form an independent Grand Lodge, but seeing growing tension between English and Scottish lodges, he later agreed to put the matter to a general vote.
Finding wide support, he tabled the motion to create the new Grand Lodge of British Columbia on October 21, 1871. Burnaby refused the post of Grand Master due poor health, but was elected first Past Grand Master.
Burnaby helped found the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and was president of the Amateur Dramatic Association of Victoria. The most lasting contribution Burnaby made to British Columbia may have been to simply lend his name to its maps.
When the area around Burnaby Lake was later incorporated in 1892, the new municipality also chose the name Burnaby.
An island and a narrows in the Queen Charlottes are named for him, as well as a street, a hill, and a park in the Lower Mainland. In all, at least eleven urban and geographical features in British Columbia bear his name. Burnaby"s failing health lead to his retirement in 1869 and his return to England in 1874.
He died in 1878.