John Brink was born in Nazi-occupied Holland at the beginning of the Second World War. From the time he could walk, his days often consisted of foraging for food with his brother and sister. His mother was left to raise the three kids alone when their father was drafted into the Dutch Army. They wouldn’t know if he was alive until the liberation of their village, by Canadian soldiers, on April 12, 1945.
This was the exact moment John determined he would make his life in Canada … the land of his heroes. He was only five years old.
Like many others who lived through that time, John has lived his entire life with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting from being in a warzone.
At 15 years old, John apprenticed at a major Dutch lumber company, rapidly progressing through the management ranks.
The experience would prove invaluable to John in his later life. He developed an in depth knowledge of the European forest industry and maintained relationships from the European lumber industry throughout his life. He still frequently advises and speaks at international venues on global forest industry issues.
John emigrated to Canada in July 1965 to pursue his lifelong dream to build a lumber mill in Canada, from the ground up. He left Amsterdam with $150 and one suitcase, filled mostly with books and one set of clothes. When he arrived in Prince George, B.C. he had precisely $25.47 in his pocket. He could not speak the language, had no job, and did not know a soul. However, through some good luck, he was able to find a job as cleanup man and gradually built his language skills and sawmill expertise. Within a year he was a supervisor.
In 1967 John was offered a job managing a sawmill in Watson Lake, Yukon. John would spend five years in Watson Lake managing the mill and developing his entrepreneurial skills by venturing into other businesses. During his time in Watson Lake he also developed a business plan for his dream, a lumber manufacturing facility with a focus on new products for new markets.
He moved back to Prince George in 1972. He incorporated Brink Forest Products Ltd. and, with a bank loan of $25,000 and three employees, started operations October 1, 1975. His focus was on adding value to low-grade lumber. With his innovative mindset, John introduced finger-jointing of dimension lumber to Canada. There were no standards, regulations or market for the product at that time. Today, Brink Forest Products Ltd. is the largest secondary lumber manufacturer in Canada and the largest producer of finger-jointed studs in North America, exporting 90 per cent of its product to the U.S. Brink employs 400 people in three locations in northern B.C. He is recognized for innovation, research, and development of products.
He was the longest serving director (35 years) of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), the largest industry organization in Canada. John also was founding president of the 800-member,B.C. Council of Value Added Manufacturers, and the founding chair of the Wood Works Initiative, promoting the use of wood in large structures throughout North America. John also sat on the Forest Stewardship Council, promoting better stewardship of the forest.
He has represented Canada in all five softwood lumber disputes with the U.S.
John also has a reputation of challenging the industry status quo. In 1986, he determined that international grading rules were being unfairly applied across North America. Unable to accept this, John challenged the practices which resulted in changes to grading rules throughout North America. The process nearly cost him his company. Amidst this, Brink rebuilt his company to be even stronger and bigger than before.
The John A. Brink Trades and Technology Centre at the College of New Caledonia was established in 2005, recognizing John’s contribution of $500,000. Brink believes that the greatest deterrent to the success and expansion of the forestry industry in Canada will not be access to timber, markets, or capital, but rather access to a trained workforce.
Brink provides in excess of $500,000 in financial resources to more than 50 charities annually. He has sponsored hundreds of Canadian athletes, in all age categories, from amateur to Olympic-level. He is a strong supporter of the Special Olympics program.
John was awarded the prestigious BC Community Achievement Award and cited as a leader in the economic development of Northern British Columbia. Brink was recognized as playing an integral role in regional workforce education through his support of post-secondary wood technology and training.
In recognition of John’s lifelong achievements, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree by the University of Northern British Columbia. Less than a month later, he also received the Order of B.C. in June 2019.
In September 0f 2019, John committed to a $1 million dollar donation to the College of New Caledonia to help support the Trades And Technology Centre. John’s vision with this donation is to create a Centre of Excellence for Northern British Columbia that helps enhance Northern work forces, economies and population growth.