Memorable Manitobans: Abraham Albert Heaps (1885-1954)
Born in Leeds, England on 24 December 1885, of Polish-Jewish descent, he came to Canada in 1910 and to Winnipeg in 1911. He married Bessie Morris (?-?) on 6 July 1913 with whom he had two sons.
Heaps was a member of the Social Democratic Party and a pacifist, opposing conscription in 1917 with F. J. Dixon and John Queen. He served on the Winnipeg City Council from 1917 to 1925. During the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 he supervised the commissariat for the strike committee, and in council advocated banning all parades. He was arrested on 17 June 1919, and he conducted his own defence against charges of seditious conspiracy. He was found innocent on all counts on 28 March 1920, after a masterful address to the jury. He then started an insurance agency for Great-West Life Incorporated, from which he resigned in 1925 when he was elected to the House of Commons from Winnipeg North over the Liberal candidate, E. J. McMurray, late Solicitor-General, and the Conservative candidate, ex-MP Matthew R. Blake. He was re-elected in the 1926, 1930 and 1935 general elections.
In 1926 he confronted Arthur Meighen in the House over government policy at the time of the Winnipeg General Strike. Heaps was on friendly terms with R. B. Bennett and Mackenzie King but was cordially hated by Meighen and Tim Buck, the leader of the Communist Party of Canada. With J. S. Woodsworth, he helped to introduce the Old Age Pension in Canada, in 1927. He served in the Commons as an unofficial critic on economic policy until 1940, when he was defeated in the federal general election.
He died at Bournemouth, England on 4 April 1954 while visiting relatives. He was buried at Leeds.
“House to discuss conviction of 6 strike leaders,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1920, page 1.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Ex-city MP, A. A. Heaps, dies in U.K.,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 April 1954, page 6.
“Funeral in U.K. for A. A. Heaps, former city MP,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 April 1954, page 26.
We thank Adrian Heaps and Tom Mitchell for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 January 2019
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