David Milgaard wants independent review board to help justice system errors
Dozens of Winnipeggers gathered to hear David Milgaard’s story at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights 50 years after he was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit.
Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg in 1952, spoke for about his time in prison, the impact it had on his family, his fight for justice and the role the media played in helping him clear his name.
He spent 23 years in prison and was released was released on April 14, 1992.
Speaking to the crowd, Milgaard called for the federal government to create an independent board of review to help prevent errors by the justice system.
“This could really happen to you,” he said.
“It’s time to say enough.”
“Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Milgaard said through his lawyer he wrote a letter about the independent review board to the Prime Minister and is waiting for a reply.
"There has to be transparency. There has to be accountability. We have to move forward with that," he told CTV Winnipeg shortly after the event.
"We're not doing anything. It makes me sick that we are not doing something in this country to help people in prison, get out," Milgaard added.
Win Wahrer with Innocence Canada worked to get Milgaard's DNA tested. She said the non-profit has helped 25 people clear their names.
"The amount of time it takes to clear someone's name. The amount of work," she said.
Wahrer said there is more awareness about wrongful conviction in Canada, but there is a lot more work to be done.
David Asper who represented Milgaard as a lawyer, and two journalists who covered his case for many years also spoke as part of a panel discussion.
The free event was held as part of the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Journalists in Winnipeg.
MINISTER OF JUSTICE RESPONDS
David Lametti is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. In an email to CTV News, he said his government is committed to ensuring that effective mechanisms are in place to identify and respond to cases of potential wrongful convictions.
“Justice Canada’s Criminal Conviction Review Group does critical work in this area, reviewing cases of potential wrongful convictions and providing advice to address miscarriages of justice. I recently met with Innocence Canada and others with lived experience of Canada’s criminal justice system about these issues. We are always open to good ideas and will continue examining potential avenues for improvement,” said Lametti.
A spokesperson for the minister also provided information to CTV about powers around reviewing convictions under the criminal code.
It was indicated the minister can under federal law determine whether there has been a wrongful conviction, and has the authority to order a new trial or refer the matter to the court of appeal for the province or the territory in question.
If someone wants their conviction reviewed, they must submit an application to the minister, the spokesperson said.