Canada's History

A look back on a century of service

David Milgaard was wrongfully locked up fifty years ago.

- — Dave Baxter

Today, items like the red serge jacket and Stetson hat, and events like the Musical Ride, have become some of the most recognized symbols of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

It was one hundred years ago in 1920 that what is now known as the RCMP came into being when two Canadian police forces merged.

Since then the Mounties have served across Canada. Today the force’s scope of operation includes fighting organized crime, terrorism, and illicit drugs as well as patrolling the nation’s borders.

As the RCMP marks its centennial anniversar­y, here are a few key dates in the history of Canada’s most recognized police force.

For twenty-three long years David Milgaard languished behind bars for a brutal crime he did not commit. Now, fifty years after he was sent to prison, the Milgaard case remains one of this nation’s most infamous cases of wrongful conviction and a powerful reminder of what can happen when the justice system gets it wrong.

On a frigid prairie morning on January 31, 1969, Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller began the short trek from her home to a bus stop as she headed to work.

Tragically, her lifeless body was discovered in a snowbank along a Saskatoon back lane later that day. She had been raped and had been stabbed more than twenty-five times.

A police investigat­ion ultimately led to the arrest of sixteen-year-old David Milgaard. Milgaard was in Saskatoon that day on a road trip with friends and had been at a home on which investigat­ors focused.

On January 31, 1970, one year after Miller’s death, Milgaard was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the case after witnesses who had testified against Milgaard recanted their testimonie­s, and informatio­n came to light that convicted rapist Larry Fisher also lived in the same area of Saskatoon where Miller had been killed.

Milgaard was handed a stay of proceeding­s, and he was released from prison in April 1992.

“I’ll never forget being a prisoner,” Milgaard said in a 1995 interview with the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.

“In my own way, I still consider myself a prisoner. My situation is such that I am never going to forget it. I remember what it was like sitting in a penitentia­ry. You die a little each day.”

DNA evidence eventually led to Milgaard’s exoneratio­n and the awarding of a $10 million settlement. DNA was also key to the arrest and conviction of Fisher.

Winnipeg-based lawyer David Asper, who spent years representi­ng Milgaard, spoke to Canada’s History about the horrors he witnessed Milgaard endure while incarcerat­ed. “To people who have never experience­d prison, I will say that it is simply not imaginable,” Asper said. “No matter how much you think you might be able to imagine it, you can’t. It is horrific, and that’s completely exacerbate­d when you are innocent. What society did to him was horrible.”

 ??  ?? David Milgaard, 1993.
David Milgaard, 1993.
 ??  ?? David Milgaard, 2019.
David Milgaard, 2019.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada