Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)

An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to repeal a regulation (miscarriage of justice reviews)

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

Third reading (House), as of June 17, 2024

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,
(a) establish an independent body to be called the Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission;
(b) replace the review process set out in Part XXI.1 with a process in which applications for reviews of findings and verdicts on the grounds of miscarriage of justice are made to the Commission instead of to the Minister of Justice;
(c) confer on the Commission powers of investigation to carry out its functions;
(d) provide that the Commission may direct a new trial or hearing or refer a matter to the court of appeal if it has reasonable grounds to conclude that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred and considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so;
(e) authorize the Commission to provide supports to applicants in need and to provide the public, including potential applicants, with information about its mandate and miscarriages of justice; and
(f) require the Commission to make and publish policies and to present and publish annual reports that include demographic and performance measurement data.
The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts and repeals the Regulations Respecting Applications for Ministerial Review — Miscarriages of Justice .

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 17, 2024 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to repeal a regulation (miscarriage of justice reviews)
June 17, 2024 Failed Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to repeal a regulation (miscarriage of justice reviews) (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2024 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to repeal a regulation (miscarriage of justice reviews)

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:20 p.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to repeal a regulation (miscarriage of justice reviews), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand in this place today and speak to Bill C-40. The title of this bill, the miscarriage of justice review commission act, or David and Joyce Milgaard's law, says a great deal about what the bill intends and why it is so important.

Canada’s justice system is one of the best in the world. However, it is not perfect; mistakes can be made. When that happens, the consequences are enormous, for the accused, the victims and the community in general.

The creation of an independent commission tasked with reviewing applications made on the grounds of miscarriage of justice was included in my mandate letters in 2019 and 2021. This is one of my major priorities as minister, and it is a priority for our government. It is also important to me personally. My mentor, former Supreme Court justice Peter Cory believed that changes needed to be made after reviewing the miscarriage of justice that led to the conviction of Thomas Sophonow in 2001.

In recent years, I have worked hard to develop a new approach that will improve the process for people who claim to have been wrongfully convicted. I have been working a long time to establish an independent miscarriage of justice review commission, as did the two individuals for whom Bill C-40 is named. I sincerely wish they could see us today.

David Milgaard spent 23 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. He maintained his innocence throughout his life, even after exhausting all his appeals. David's mother, Joyce, also believed in David's innocence. She made it her life's work to convince the justice system as well. Joyce advocated tirelessly for David's release, assembling a team of family friends and lawyers, many working for free. Together, they fought to have people listen and to look at David's case again. Through her persistence, she won her son's freedom. When David got out of prison, he became an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, helping others to seek justice. His mother did the same. They were extraordinary people. This bill, Bill C-40, is named the David and Joyce Milgaard act in their honour.

Canada has one of the best justice systems in the world, but David Milgaard's experience reminds us that it is not perfect. While mistakes are rare, they happen. The consequences for the accused, for victims and for the community are enormous. The reality is that, unfortunately, David Milgaard is not the only victim of a miscarriage of justice in Canada. There are several other well-known cases that resulted in commissions of inquiries being held following the discovery of their wrongful convictions. The commission of inquiry reports in the cases of Donald Marshall, Jr. in 1989, Guy Paul Morin in 1998, Thomas Sophonow in 2001, James Driskell in 2007 and David Milgaard in 2008 all recommended the creation of an independent commission to review miscarriage of justice applications in Canada.

Before I describe the proposed reforms, I want to provide a bit of background on this issue and why we need to modernize the existing process. The term “miscarriage of justice” is, perhaps, not well understood, and some may be more familiar with the term “wrongful conviction”. A miscarriage of justice can encompass a broad spectrum of circumstances that call into question the reliability of a conviction or the process that led to it. A miscarriage of justice is one of the grounds of appeal in the Criminal Code.

Miscarriages of justice are often identified and corrected while a case is still making its way through the criminal justice system. However, sometimes, new information or evidence that calls into question the reliability of a conviction only comes to light after an individual has exhausted their rights to appeal. Since the Criminal Code was first enacted in Canada, the Minister of Justice has been empowered to review applications on the grounds of a miscarriage of justice and determine whether a matter should be referred back to the courts for a new trial or an appeal.

It is important to note that the miscarriage of justice review process is not an alternative to the judicial system, nor is it another level of appeal. Rather, it provides a post-appeal mechanism to review and investigate new information or evidence that was not previously considered by the courts.

As Minister of Justice, my priority is to ensure that the justice system is accessible, effective and equitable. Our criminal justice system processes hundreds of thousands of applications every year, resulting in approximately 250,000 convictions.

Considering this huge number, it is important to consider the possibility of wrongful convictions. Its consequences, as I mentioned, are enormous. A person can spend long years in prison before the mistake is found.

Many countries have independent criminal case review commissions, including England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway and, more recently, New Zealand in 2020. In these countries, the creation of an independent miscarriage of justice review commission led to a significant increase in the number of wrongful convictions identified. Also, since the commissioners appointed to make these decisions focus solely on this task, applications are processed far more efficiently, which means that people who believe they have been wrongfully convicted can have their file reviewed sooner. It is also essential to mention that the commissions take the decision-making process out of the hands of politicians.

There are likely many more wrongful convictions in Canada than those that are submitted for a ministerial review under the current process. No studies to date have identified an accurate proportion, in large part because it entails measuring the unknown. Some studies conducted in the United States have estimated that it may fall in the range of 3% to 6% in that country. An error rate in Canada of only 0.05% of people sentenced to custody would result in approximately 450 wrongful convictions per year. Since 2003, after the last reforms to this part of the Criminal Code were made, only 187 applications for review have been submitted. That is 187 total, not per year. This tell us that there are many more cases out there.

Given the disproportionate representation of certain populations in the criminal justice system, including Black, indigenous and racialized people, the impact of wrongful convictions is very likely more widespread in these groups. The consequences for the wrongfully convicted are huge: a loss of liberty, including years of incarceration and separation from family and friends, and negative impacts on reputation and employment prospects, just to name a few. Addressing miscarriages of justice more quickly would help mitigate the devastating impact they have not only on the convicted person and their family but also on victims and the justice system as a whole.

I would now like to describe the content of Bill C-40.

First, the new part XXI.2, which the bill proposes adding to the Criminal Code, groups together all of the provisions concerning the creation of the new commission, namely its mandate, its composition, the commissioner appointment process, the duration of a commissioner’s term of office, and the qualifications required for a commissioner, as well as the commission’s powers, duties and functions.

The new commission, called the miscarriage of justice review commission, would be a fully independent administrative body. It would not be part of the Department of Justice. It would completely take over the role I currently play in reviews, investigations and the identification of cases to be referred to the justice system on the grounds of miscarriage of justice.

The commission would be headed by a full-time chief commissioner who would be its chief executive officer. In addition, there would be between four and eight commissioners appointed on a full-time or part-time basis. The legislation would require that appointment recommendations reflect the diversity of Canadian society and take into account gender equality and the overrepresentation of certain groups in the criminal justice system, including indigenous peoples and Black persons. This is the first time in Canadian history that a requirement of this nature would be legislated. The commissioners would have to have knowledge and experience related to the commission's mandate, and, in order to ensure the diversity of lived experience, at least one-third, including the chief commissioner, but no more than half would have to be lawyers with at least 10 years of experience in the practice of criminal law. Others could be experts in various other disciplines, such as criminology or wrongful convictions.

The commission would also have a victim services coordinator to support it and make sure that the process complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Victims of the original crime are also significantly affected by miscarriages of justice. The review of a conviction can lead to shock and feelings of guilt, and prevent victims from moving on with their lives. Victims can therefore choose how they are notified and supported during the process.

Several measures in the bill would make the miscarriage of justice review process more accessible, transparent and open. Bill C‑40 requires that applicants be able to contact the commission from anywhere in Canada. The commission will also have to inform the public about its mission and about miscarriages of justice in general on its website. It will have to make its decisions public while ensuring confidentiality and making sure not to interfere with the administration of justice. Obviously, it is essential that the commission process applications as efficiently as possible and that it provide applicants with regular updates.

When I was in Prince Edward Island a few weeks ago, I met with Ron Dalton, the co-founder of Innocence Canada. I was with my colleague, the MP for Egmont. In 2000, Mr. Dalton was found to have been wrongfully convicted. He told me how important the support of his sister and brother-in-law had been as he fought to have his name cleared for a crime he did not commit.

Not everyone is able to receive this kind of support, and Bill C-40 recognizes this. The commission would be required to adopt a user-friendly and supportive approach when dealing with applicants, in particular those who are vulnerable and face particular needs. Commission staff would provide individuals with information and guidance on applications at each stage of review. The commission would also have the ability to provide supports to applicants in need by directing them to services in the community, assisting them in relation to necessities such as food and housing, and by providing translation and interpretation services. If applicants are without means, the commission could also assist applicants with obtaining legal assistance, with making an application or with responding to the commission's investigation report before a final decision is made.

In addition to the provisions regarding the creation of the new commission per se, Bill C‑40 proposes a complete overhaul of part XXI.1 of the Criminal Code, which contains the substantive provisions governing the miscarriage of justice review process.

In this part of my speech, I will focus on the elements that reflect a policy change.

With respect to the types of applications the commission might review, such as the current provision respecting admissibility in the Criminal Code, it will be able to review any convictions under a federal law or regulation. The text was slightly revised to clarify that this includes guilty pleas, conditional and absolute discharges, as well as convictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act or the former Young Offenders Act. Verdicts of not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder would also be added.

Investigative powers are an integral part of the postappeal miscarriage-of-justice review process. This aspect of the current scheme has generated a certain amount of confusion as to when the investigative powers may be used. Bill C-40 seeks to address what has sometimes been described as a catch-22 problem: In some instances, an application may appear to have merit but lacks the new evidence to support that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, which is the existing basis to invoke the investigative powers. Bill C-40 seeks to resolve this problem by adding that the commission may conduct an investigation if it is in the interests of justice to do so. This would include considering the specific personal factors of the applicant as well as the distinct challenges that applicants who belong to certain populations face in obtaining a remedy for a miscarriage of justice, with particular attention paid to the circumstances of indigenous and Black applicants. This approach is used elsewhere: in Scotland, for example. This approach also dovetails with a new legal test for making referrals back to the courts. The existing test requires that the minister be satisfied a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, before referring the matter back for a new trial or a new appeal.

With Bill C-40, we are proposing to adjust the legal test for a referral, making it a two-prong test. Instead of requiring that the decision-maker be satisfied a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, the government proposes that the commission be able to refer a matter back to the courts if it has reasonable grounds to conclude that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred and that it is in the interests of justice to do so. Again, this is the test used by the commission in Scotland, and we think it strikes the right balance to allow the courts to consider and correct miscarriages of justice when they occur.

The existing factors to support decision-making would be retained and expanded in Bill C-40. Legislation would require that, in making decisions, the commission take into account any relevant factor, including whether there is a new matter of significance not previously considered; the reliability of the information presented; the fact that an application is not intended to serve as a further appeal and that any remedy is extraordinary; the “interests of justice” factors I noted previously, including the personal circumstances of the applicants; and finally, the distinct challenges applicants from certain populations face, again with particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous or Black applicants.

I sincerely hope that the commission will play a legal role, but I also hope that it will play a social role by raising awareness among Canadians. I have asked my parliamentary secretary, the superb member for Scarborough—Rouge Park, to talk in more detail about the educational programs we will be rolling out, because I wanted my speech to focus on the social impact of what we are proposing. We cannot claim that miscarriages of justice never happen. The toll they take on the wrongfully convicted, their loved ones, the community and society in general is far too high.

It is my sincere hope that members will hear directly from several people who have been wrongfully convicted in Canada. Their stories are tragic and troubling. They illustrate why it is so important we have a better understanding of the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions, how the justice system needs to be improved in order to address miscarriages of justice more efficiently and effectively, and, most importantly, how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

I think we can all agree that innocent people do not belong in prison. That is why I hope to have the support of all of my colleagues across party lines in both the House and the Senate so that Bill C-40 is quickly passed. Let us seize this opportunity to show Canadians what we can accomplish by working together.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Justice a question specifically about those people in prison who are accessing medical assistance in dying. This is a concern, obviously. Those who are wrongfully convicted, and others, may, sadly, be in a situation where they are pursuing this. Reports indicate that concerns have been raised by various experts about this, that Canada is a leading provider of euthanasia to people in prison and that a very large proportion of those in prison have mental health challenges. With the government's proposed expansion, this is a further risk that would see more of this phenomenon going on.

Does the Minister of Justice think it is appropriate that people in prison are going in this direction? What safeguards does he believe need to be put in place given the high numbers in Canada relative to other cases?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that this question is on another file.

First of all, Canada does not have a euthanasia regime; we have an assisted dying regime. It is people deciding for themselves whether or not to seek medical assistance in dying according to the criteria elaborated on in the law. These criteria applies whether one is in prison or not, and one has to fall within the parameters of those criteria in order to be able to seek medical assistance in dying. It is not a euthanasia regime.

With respect to mental disorders, it is misleading, on the part of the hon. member or anyone else, to say that this is about mental health generally. This is about mental disorders that have been under the long-standing treatment of doctors and for which everything has been tried and nothing has worked. This is not about the case of being able to escape depression or other serious conditions that do not meet that standard.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for bringing this forward. It is something that we, in the NDP, have been pushing for for some time.

This issue brings to mind, for those of us in northwest B.C., the case of Phillip Tallio, a Bella Coola man who was convicted 40 years ago and whose case has been taken up by the Innocence Project at UBC. His appeal was recently rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada, but I know many people have been pushing for that case to be reheard in light of the inconsistencies during trial.

Given that only a handful of cases make it through the existing ministerial review process each year, do the Liberals share our sense of urgency about getting a better, more independent process for dealing with miscarriages of justice in place as quickly as possible?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes, we share that concern. We want this bill through the House of Commons as quickly as possible. I have mentioned my personal dedication to this cause. We are 30 years overdue. The commission has existed in England for 25 years and is working very well, and it exists in a number of other common-law jurisdictions.

I will not comment on the specific case the hon. member mentioned, but I will take this opportunity to say that there is a transition provision built into this piece of legislation, such that a person who has gone through the process would be able to ask that their file be looked at again by the commission. This is a deliberate transition measure, because we know that miscarriages of justice exist.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, within in the riding of Waterloo, constituents provide me a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

When it comes to our judicial system, it is something that we always want to have confidence in. We know we could always improve our systems, because they are not perfect.

My question kind of builds upon the last answer. I know we have been looking at other countries and I know that a lot has been gained, but what have we learned from the international experience? Who are we looking towards? What have we gained from them so that we could actually advance, because we know this is long overdue?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have a great deal to learn from other jurisdictions. Again, we are looking at other common-law jurisdictions in particular, where these kinds of commissions exist and have worked very well.

First, wrongful convictions exist in a far greater number in the U.K. experience than we are currently seeing in Canada. That tells us that there is something amiss with our current process, in terms of accessibility to people who believe they have been wrongfully convicted.

The second thing I would point out is there has been a great deal of learning from the standard that has been used in other jurisdictions. What we have found in studying the standard is that the current Canadian standard likely to have caused a miscarriage of justice is too high. The U.K. and Scotland have a lower standard. In some places it is simply in the interest of justice.

It is something that was outlined very carefully by two former justices that we asked to write a report. Justice Harry LeForme and Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré prepared an exhaustive report. They travelled to these jurisdictions, did the work and came up with proposals that inspired much of what we have done in this report. I want to thank them while I am here.

We have taken learnings from other jurisdictions. It is critical to do so.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that we are talking miscarriages of justice, because the fact that the Attorney General of Canada has not appointed enough judges, and violent rapists and murderers are going to go free because their time has been exceeded, is a miscarriage of justice. Would the minister agree?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question, which allows me to clarify a number of things.

I have appointed judges since my time as justice minister at a rate unparalleled in the last 20 years. We have created over an extra 100 positions. I agree that it is important. I will continue to appoint judges at a rate that continues to fill those vacant posts. We will continue to take that task very seriously.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. Minister of Justice for tackling the issue of wrongful convictions at long last.

The name David Milgaard is one of many. Donald Marshall is another. Unfortunately, systems of justice that put the innocent in jail, despite the moment when they are released and celebrated, and apologies are made, can never make things right again.

I appreciate the focus on this. However, I wonder if the minister believes that a commission that looks at wrongful convictions would be faster and more open to change than having the traditional method of appeals to the Minister of Justice himself or herself?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her passion for this issue, which I share.

Let me give another statistic. Since I have been Minister of Justice, I have seen roughly one case and a bit per year. That is not the experience in the U.K. or any other jurisdiction that has set up one of these commissions. The kinds of cases I see tend to be homicide cases.

From all indications, particularly in other jurisdictions, there simply have to be other wrongful convictions that need to be addressed, where there has been an impediment, where it has not attracted the support of the Innocence projects, the very good support of those projects I might add.

This should be faster. With the investigative powers and the support powers that we are giving to the commission, it should be able to be done more equitably and fairly, with fewer barriers. I think this is an important aspect of this piece of law.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister talked about the two-step procedure under the new regime. Would he be open to having the lower standard, where miscarriage of justice may have occurred, for the first step, but the higher standard, where it was likely to have occurred, for the second step, before the commissioner sends it back into the judicial system?

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member's question comes from a good place. The experience we have seen is that “likely” is too high a standard and has been identified by justices Westmoreland-Traoré and LaForme as one of the likely factors of why we get so few cases in our system. Our cognate jurisdictions, England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, have systems that are not unknown to us. We are in the same family of criminal law systems, and I think we should be comforted using the standards they are using, because they have had such a positive impact.

Having the word “likely” in there is not something I would like to continue with.

Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard's Law)Government Orders

June 12th, 2023 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the police needed a conviction. There had been four widely reported sexual assault cases already in the city, and now a fifth one that ended with the murder of a young woman on her way to work on a cold January morning in 1969. She had been stabbed in the chest and her throat had been slashed with a knife that a city resident many years later reported as having gone missing from her kitchen. Mrs. Fisher suspected it was her husband who was the killer. She did not report that to the police. Although he was known to police officers to be a violent man, they did not pursue that investigation because they had another theory of what happened on that cold winter morning. That theory was based on evidence, which was confusing and contradictory, from a group of confused, impressionable and irresponsible young teenagers prone to doing stupid things like stealing cars, stealing gas for cars and committing petty theft to fuel their drug habits, but rape and murder was not a part of that.

At first these confused teenagers told the police officers that their friend David had been with them the whole time and he could not possibly have been the murderer. They did not believe them. They did not like that story or this alibi because it did not fit their theory of what happened that morning, so they brought these witnesses in again. This time they locked them up for 48 hours to sober them up. Then they started questioning them relentlessly, time and again. Finally, these confused, impressionable, irresponsible teenagers changed their story. They just wanted to get out of there. They decided to tell the officers what they wanted to hear so they would get out of there. The figured that David could stand on his own two feet, which would all probably work out in the end anyway, so they changed their story. David Milgaard was charged with murder and went up for trial.

Many years later, these witnesses changed their story again. They recanted. They apologized. Their excuse was that they were going through withdrawal symptoms, they just wanted to get out of there and felt the best way to do that was to tell the police officers what they wanted to hear to get out of there and move on. At the trial they did not even give that evidence. However, the police, thinking ahead of time, had already taken their written statements, which were put before the jury. The jury accepted them and David Milgaard was convicted and spent 23 years in jail. He was 17 years old at the time and he spent 23 years in jail for a murder he did not commit while the real murderer continued terrorizing the neighbourhood.

Years later, it all seemed so obvious that this was a serious miscarriage of justice, but it did not seem that obvious at the time.

I do not have a policing background and have never had to look at the evidence of a crime scene, but I can imagine it must be very frustrating for the police authorities and investigators, particularly under a lot of pressure from the public and politicians to do something about it, to find a person to convict. It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. I am not very good at them, but there is always a piece that looks like it is going to fit and I just want to take my fist and pound it in to make it work. That is exactly what happened in the David Milgaard case. The piece did not quite fit, so the police used pressure until it finally did, which was a serious miscarriage of justice. David was convicted of the murder of Gail Miller by the jury on January 31, 1970. He appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which was denied a year later. He went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which refused leave to appeal. It did not even want to hear the case, and David Milgaard spent many years in jail.

Thankfully, he did not give up and finally there was a breakthrough. The law eventually caught up with Larry Fisher and he pleaded guilty to several sexual assault charges, and one of attempted murder. Some of these charges were around the events that took place at the same time as the murder of Gail Miller and in the same neighbourhood. This was the breakthrough that David Milgaard and his very determined mother Joyce were looking for and they pursued it. They had a lot of help from a lot of people, such as not-for-profit groups and lawyers who were willing to work pro bono, and they kept digging.

The evidence was so clear that David Milgaard had not commit the murder, but he had run out of appeals. There was nothing left that he could do but go the political route, and that is exactly what he did.

He went to the minister of justice, under section 690 of the Criminal Code, and he asked for a review. That was in 1988 after this evidence started becoming available. The minister of justice turned him down, but he and his mother Joyce were determined. The credit goes particularly to Mrs. Milgaard for her persistence.

One day on September 1991, Mrs. Milgaard held a vigil in front of a hotel in Winnipeg where the prime minister of the day, Brian Mulroney, was about to give a speech. She did not expect to speak with the prime minister; she was expected to maybe shout out at him and be recognized. However, Brian Mulroney walked over to her and asked her what her story was.

This is what Prime Minister Mulroney said years later, which was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press, “There was just something so forlorn about this woman standing alone on a very cold evening on behalf of her son, but in that brief meeting, I got a sense of Mrs. Milgaard and her genuineness and her courage. We all have mothers, but even the most devoted and loving mothers wouldn't continue the crusade for 22 years if there had been any doubt in her mind. So, I went back to Ottawa and had a much closer look at it. I told the appropriate people that I thought a review of this particular case was warranted and I wanted appropriate action taken to bring this about.”

It finally landed back on the desk of the minister of justice, and this time, with the evidence that was available then, she was convinced that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred. She referred it to the Supreme Court of Canada, which this time had to look at it and was convinced as well by the new evidence that a new trial should be ordered.

It went back to Saskatchewan, but the Saskatchewan attorney general decided that, with the intervening 22 years and witnesses maybe disappearing, evidence maybe disappearing, maybe it would not bother pursuing it, and it dropped the case. David was then a free man, but that was not the same as a finding of innocence or a finding of not guilty. It was just a suspension of further proceedings, and the cloud of suspicion continued to hang over David Milgaard.