Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was honoured by the Government of Canada on August 4, 2009 with these words: “Our government is proud to honour a man who worked tirelessly for the local Black community as a politician, businessman, and defender of human rights.” A plaque was then commissioned by Canada’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board, and was presented to our Society in February 2017. Following some restoration/landscaping work in the park, the City of Victoria installed the plaque in January 2019. This unveiling ceremony took place on May 4, 2019.
Why Irving Park? Gibbs’ home and estate was situated at this location. It is believed the land was sold to Captain John Irving who then built another home there circa 1884; which was also demolished circa 1929. The City of Victoria then purchased this land and established “James Bay Park” in 1944. In 1981 it was re-named “Irving Park”.
Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great grandniece travelled from San Francisco to attend this event.
Mifflin Wistar Gibbs 1823-1915
After helping lead the exodus of 800 Black residents from San Francisco in 1858, Gibbs became the recognized leader of their community on Vancouver Island. He strove to make these newcomers a force in colonial politics and, as a member of Victoria City Council; he became the first Black person to hold elected office in British Columbia. This innovative entrepreneur, who invested in mining and trade, also encouraged the integration of Black settlers and advocated for their rights. Though he returned to the United States in 1870, Gibbs remains a revered historical figure in the province’s African-Canadian community.