Lt. Col. Hearn

Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Hearn
214th (Saskatchewan) Battalion

By order of the Militia Department, Ottawa, the entire official staff, from Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Hearn to the Junior subaltern is on the way back to Saskatchewan, pending an official investigation. The battalion will proceed under other officers. It is claimed that the 214th left Saskatoon with between $5,000 and $7,000 in regimental debts behind, and a host of angry creditors. Under military regulations no officers’ can proceed overseas until the regimental funds are given, clearance.

(Ottawa Journal, 13 Apr 1917, 6)

John Harvey Hearn was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia on 15 October 1882. After graduating from Dalhousie University with a law degree, he moved west to set up a practice in Wadena, Saskatchewan. A proud Roman Catholic lawyer, Hearn fought the Ku Klux Klan’s influence in the province during the 1920s.

After an unsuccessful run in the 1911 federal election, Hearn became mayor of Wadena in 1913. He raised the 214th from the surrounding area in 1916. The 214th was beset with problems from lack of discipline to a scandal around its commanding officer. In November 1916, Hearn was charged with fraudulent conversion of $700. He was quickly exonerated from any wrong doing, but prior to departing Canada, the battalion was delayed by charges of financial mismanagement and unpaid debts.

Despite the financial irregularities, Hearn eventually was allowed to proceed to England with his battalion in April 1917. However, his time overseas would be brief. When the 214th was broken up, Hearn returned to his law practice in Saskatoon. As a Roman Catholic, Hearn took a stand against the Ku Klux Klan in Saskatchewan and opposed its influence within the provincial Conservative Party through the late 1920s.

In 1927, he defended the editor of the Saskatoon Reporter against a libel charge from an alleged Klan instigator. In his closing remarks Hearn stressed, “toleration, citizenship, fairness and justice were on trial.” Referring to his own religious freedom in the context of the Klan’s anti-Catholic bigotry, he concluded, “I have a right to citizenship.”

Hearn moved to California in the early 1930s and worked as criminal defence attorney on a number of high-profile murder cases. He died in Los Angeles on 5 June 1936.

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