Heaps, Abraham Albert

Abraham Albert Heaps, labour politician (b at Leeds, England 24 Dec 1885; d at Bournemouth, England 4 Apr 1954). An impoverished English Jew who immigrated to Canada in 1911, Heaps, an upholsterer, became a distinguished parliamentarian as member for Winnipeg North from 1925-40. He first gained prominence in Winnipeg as a self-taught statistician for the local Trades and Labor Council, a labour alderman and a leader of the Winnipeg General Strike. Arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy in June 1919, he cleared himself after a 10-month ordeal in jail and court proceedings. Though an independent Labour (later CCF) MP and a class-conscious socialist, Heaps developed personal and political relationships with Prime Ministers Mackenzie King and R.B. Bennett. His wit and deep humanism earned him few real enemies, but they included Arthur Meighen, whose prime ministership in 1926 Heaps gladly helped bring to an abrupt end, and Tim Buck, who tried to wrest away his north-end seat (where there was substantial communist support) in the federal election of 1935.

Heaps's tireless efforts as the most credible economic critic in the Commons during the 1920s and 1930s contributed to the passage of vital though limited social legislation by Liberal and Conservative governments. His most keenly felt failures were his unheeded warnings in the 1930s about the dangers of fascism and his desperate lobbying on behalf of anti-Nazi refugees. Ironically, spurious charges of pacifism and disloyalty played the key role in the defeat that ended his political career in the 1940 election. Heaps retired to private life in Montréal and died while on a visit to England. Sons Leo and David Heaps had distinguished war service and carried on their father's work in different realms after WWII.