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Community leader Brian Scharfstein recipient of 2022 Queen’s Jubilee Medal  

Last November, long-time downtown Winnipeg retailer Brian Scharfstein was a recipient of the 2022 Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal, presented annually to Manitobans who have made meaningful contributions to the community. The award was presented to the long-time downtown business owner and community leader by Dr. Jon Gerrard, the Member of the Legislature for River Heights alongside nine other recipients of the award in Gerrard’s riding. 
“I was taken aback by the honor,” says Scharfstein. “It was certainly unexpected and humbling.” 
Although Scharfstein has held some more visible leadership positions – notably serving as chair of our Jewish community’s Grow Winnipeg initiative as well as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and is currently a board member of the Mount Carmel Clinic Foundation, he generally prefers to fly under the radar in terms of his efforts in helping others.  
“More than money, though, I give of my time,” he points out. “When I get involved in something, I really get involved.” 
For the most part though, the president of Canadian Footwear prefers to follow the Torah’s precept that the ideal form of charity is to give of yourself anonymously. Scharfstein says that he looks to his late father, Albert: “Dad always showed compassion and concern for people in need,” Brian Scharfstein recalls. “He tried never to turn down anyone who came to his door seeking a handout. 
“That is the way that my three sisters and I were raised.” 
Albert Scharfstein acquired Canadian Footwear in the downtown area around 1932. When Albert and his wife Ethel passed away within nine days of each other in 1987, Brian and his wife Pam purchased the business from the family estate.  
Soon after the couple acquired the business, Brian Scharfstein started his education to become a Certified Canadian Pedorthist. Working together, Brian and Pam have built Canadian Footwear into a successful, family-owned business in Winnipeg. Today, Canadian Footwear operates four retail stores in Winnipeg and Calgary. 
“One of the keys to our success,” Scharfstein notes, “is that we don’t just sell shoes and orthotics. We build relationships. Our goal is to provide a memorable experience for all of our customers and clients” 
Scharfstein also follows his father’s example in trying never to turn down people in need. One of the ways in which the Scharfstein family helps those in need is through the family charity program, “Fit on the Street”.  
We receive referrals from missions, churches, inner city schools, and resource centers,” he notes. “We try to make sure that no one – whether they be homeless or a newly arrived refugee – has to go without proper footwear”. 
“We believe that everyone who comes into our store should be treated with dignity.” 
Canadian Footwear is a life member of the industry’s Two Ten Foundation SOS program. “Through this program, we have given away thousands of pairs of shoes,” Scharfstein says. “The foundation receives shipments of footwear that have been turned back for whatever reason by manufactures, importers and other retailers. We are the prairie distributor of this footwear.” 
Another important focus for Scharfstein is helping to create a safer downtown in an effort to encourage more shoppers to return there. As part of that effort, Scharfstein has been representing small and medium retailers in Manitoba in a national pilot program – authored by the Retail Council of Canada – called Operation Safe Shop. The pilot project begun three years ago – focused on facilitating better collaboration between retailers, police, and the courts, and is now moving to Phase 2. With over 100 retail storefronts submitting data through the platform, more than 600 incidents reported, and just over 60 repeat offenders identified, the Retail Council of Canada is now working with Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP, and Brandon Police analysts to focus on the most prolific offenders.  
In his own stores, Scharfstein has introduced a policy whereby everyone who comes into one of the stores is asked his or her first name and offered a personal shopper – although customers can still browse on their own.  
“We haven’t been able to completely eliminate shoplifting,” he concedes, “but these new measures have made a noticeable difference. We employ a lot of people in our organization. We consider every one of them like family. We are responsible for their safety as well as the safety of our customers.” 
Brian Scharfstein, the community activist has just stepped down from 5 years serving as the civilian member of the Winnipeg Police Board. As well, a few months back, he appointed David Stern as the company’s new general manager and has stepped back from the day-to-day operation of Canadian Footwear. At 70, the now semi-retired Scharfstein – while still available to mentor new pedorthic practitioners and consult with administrative matters – finds that he has more time on his hands for community service. 
The Scharfstein family’s newest initiative, he says, is in support of a group that is trying to open a self-sustaining clothing and footwear depot focused on helping the homeless. “Much of our philanthropic giving is based on our not receiving any recognition and that applies in this case, too,” Scharfstein notes. The concept will be modelled after the successful North End Women’s Centre’s 20-year-old Up Shoppe, a women’s co-op that provides clothing for a small fee for those who can afford – and at no charge for those who can’t. This facility/store will provide those in need with clothing, footwear, and personal hygiene necessities.  
“We are currently looking for a location in which to open the store,” Scharfstein adds.    

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