Accession consists of records related to the Jewish communal and public service activities of Phil Givens. Included are textual records and photographs as well as a small number of artifacts. Included are numerous speeches, municipal, provincial and federal election materials, professional records related to Givens' legal career, Jewish communal records including the Canadian Zionist Federation, the Upper Canada Lodge B'nai Brith chapter, and the Yiddish Committee, biographical materials, letters of thanks, certificates and honours, school graduation composite photographs, and photographs of various events and of the Givens and Rubins families. Artifacts include a Metropolitan Toronto Police Commissioners badge, a City of Toronto Council member pin, a Wingate Legion felt patch, and notably, a Canadian flag and an Israeli flag. The Canadian flag flew over the Canadian parliament, while the Israel flag was raised in the Knesset. Both flags were requested by Givens and were draped on his casket at his funeral. Accompanying documentation is also in the accession.
Philip Gerard Givens (1922-1995) was a municipal, provincial and federal politician, a judge, a police commissioner and an active Jewish communal leader. He is largely remembered as the 54th Mayor of Toronto.
Phil Givens was born in Toronto on April 24th, 1922, the only son of Hyman and Mary Gevertz (Gewercz). As a youth, he attended Harbord Collegiate and graduated from the University of Toronto in political science and economics in 1945 and from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1949. In 1947, he married Minnie "Min" Rubin (born February 7th, 1924) and together they had two children, Eleanor and Michael.
Givens graduated as a lawyer from Osgoode Hall; however, shortly thereafter he decided to enter politics, running as a municipal school board trustee in 1950. In 1951 he was elected as alderman for Ward 5, serving in this capacity until 1960, when he was subsequently elected as a city Controller.
Givens was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1962.
Following the sudden death of Mayor David Summerville in 1963, Givens was appointed by City Council as the Mayor of Toronto and was officially elected to the position in 1964, winning a close race against the former mayor, Allan Lamport. As mayor, Givens was automatically a member of the Metropolitan Toronto Executive and Council, the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission, the Consumer’s Gas Company Executive, the Toronto Hydro Commission and the governing boards of Toronto’s major hospitals.
Givens was publicly seen as an affable and populist mayor but his tenure was not without controversy. His support for the construction of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and his decision to acquire Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture “the Archer” for the new Nathan Phillips Square were both highly controversial during his term in office. In particular, the Moore sculpture sparked intense controversy and public debate amongst council members and citizens alike. Although ultimately purchased with private solicited donations, the controversy surrounding the statue’s purchase was still partly to blame for Givens’ 1966 election defeat to William Dennison.
In 1967 Givens entered national politics for the second time, the first being a failed 1957 bid in Toronto’s Spadina riding, winning a seat as a Liberal in Toronto’s York West riding. In 1971 he stepped down before the end of his term to campaign for a seat in the Provincial Legislature. Again running under the Liberal banner, Givens won his seat in York-Forest Hill and after the elimination of this riding in 1975, was re-elected in the new riding of Armourdale. In 1977 he retired from politics. He also worked briefly as a current affairs commentator for local radio broadcaster CHUM 1050 AM.
In 1977, Givens was appointed as a provincial court judge and chairman of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission, serving in both capacities until 1985, when he left the Commission but continued in the judiciary as a civil trial judge until officially retiring from public life in 1988.
An ardent Zionist, Givens was also a prominent leader of several Jewish communal organizations. He was the founder and first president of the Upper Canada Lodge of B’nai Brith and sat on the executives of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the United Jewish Welfare Fund, the Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim, the Zionist Organization of Canada, the Toronto Zionist Council, Jewish National Fund, State of Israel Bonds and the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. He was chairman of the United Israel Appeal-Israel Emergency Fund in 1967 and the United Jewish Appeal-Israel Special Fund in 1968. From 1973 to 1985 he was the national president of the Canadian Zionist Federation and in the 1990s was the national chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Committee for Yiddish.
Givens was honoured by Jewish community organizations, including the Jewish National Fund’s Negev Award in 1968 and the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews’ Human Relations Award in 1969. As well, in 1972, he received the Award of Honour from the Toronto Regional Council of B’nai Brith.
Givens was also known to be a passionate sailor and was a member of both the Royal Canadian and the Island Yacht Clubs in Toronto. He died on November 30th, 1995 at the age of 73.
Physical Description Note: Includes ca. 300 photographs, 1 pin, 1 felt patch, 1 badge, 2 flags, 1 poster, and 2 paper bags.