Irving Schwartz, OC (born August 27, 1929) is a Jewish Canadian businessman. He is a noted community leader and philanthropist, and was inducted into the Order of Canada for his work towards ridding the world of landmines.
Schwartz was born in New Waterford, Nova Scotia to Abraham and Rose Schwartz. They had a small clothing store on Plummer Avenue, the town's main street. After completing grade 11 at Mount Carmel School, Schwartz left high school to attend courses at Mount Allison University and New York University. Upon his return to Cape Breton, in the early 1950s, he became a manager in his parents’ store. In 1955, at the age of 26, Schwartz became the president and general manager of Schwartz and Company. Over the next 30 years, he used this business as his base, to also go into other businesses, and conduct the philanthropic work that was recognized by the Order of Canada.
Starting in the 1960s, he began investing in business ventures outside of the furniture and clothing businesses. He branched out into long-term care, by opening his first nursing home in Sydney, Nova Scotia. This operation was amalgamated with a Calgary company to form VillaCentres Limited. The newly combined company built nine nursing homes across the country and controlled the Park Plaza Hotel, in downtown Toronto. In the 1970s, Schwartz tried to help Cape Breton's economy by investing in businesses that dealt with seafood farming.
In 1976, he entered the cable television field by gaining a license for the cable franchise for the Glace Bay and New Waterford areas, known as Seaside Cable TV Ltd.
From an early age he was involved with New Waterford's volunteer fire department, and ran blood donation drives. He served as President of the Cape Breton Children’s Aid Society, President of the Lions’ Club, Chairman of the University College of Cape Breton, co-founder of Junior Achievement in Cape Breton, Director of the National Theatre School of Canada, advisory board member of the Dalhousie School of Business, and Chairman of the Cape Breton Chapter of the Hebrew University.
In the early 1990s, he co-founded the Canadian International Demining Corps (CIDC), a charitable, non-government organization supportive of an international ban on the production, stockpiling and deployment of anti-personnel landmines. Headquartered in Sydney, it has provided humanitarian mine action services in Bosnia, Mozambique, Kosovo and Jordan. Schwartz was honoured with the Order of Canada in 1998 and was upgraded in rank to Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004.
In 2003, he was inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. He is still active in both business and philanthropic endeavours, living in Sydney, with his wife of 49 years, Diana Usher. He has four children and four grandchildren living in Canada and Great Britain.