David Milgaard, the subject of The Tragically Hip song “Wheat Kings,” has died

I grew up five miles from the Stoney Mountain Federal Prison in Manitoba. In fact, I used to play minor hockey in the shadow of the place. A lot of the people I went to school with ended up working there (mostly as corrections officers, but the son of one of my parents’ friend was once the warden). And then there was that guy I played high school football with who ended up as an inmate after he killed a guy with a machete in a biker drug deal gone wrong.

Stoney Mountain was the home of David Milgaard for many years.

On January 31, 1969, a nursing aide named Gail Miller was raped and stabbed to death in Saskatoon. Milgaard, who was just 16 at the time, was arrested and convicted, even though there was much evidence clearing him. He’d just happened to be rolling through Saskatoon with a couple of friends with the murder happened.

Milgaard spent 23 years in Stoney for a crime he didn’t commit. But through relentless activism by his mother, Joyce, and dozens of other people who championed his cause, Milgaard was eventually exonerated on irrefutably DNA evidence and released. He was awarded $10 million in compensation and another $11 million was spent on a public inquiry into how things could have gone so wrong.

A guy by the name of Larry Fisher was convicted of Miller’s death in 1999. He died in prison in 2015.

I bring this up because The Tragically Hip did much to create public awareness of this injustice through their song “Wheat Kings” from 1991’s Fully Completely. The track was inspired by Migaard’s story. He ended up being released in 1992.

The Hip tweeted some messages today.

During a meeting on wrongful conviction issues in 2020, Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti asked Milgaard to sign a copy of Fully Completely, which he did.

Milgaard died of complications with pneumonia over the weekend in a Calgary hospital at the age of 69.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “David Milgaard, the subject of The Tragically Hip song “Wheat Kings,” has died

  • December 4, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    For 5 years I was a Chaplin at Stoney Mountain Penn, and that’s where I met David and visited him regularly. He was gentle, but complex and suffered much from his wrongful imprisonment. Nevertheless, he’d still come visit his friend in a halfway house I managed and everyone knew him as a nice guy and believed he was wrongly convicted. Coincidentally I also knew Larry Fisher who was later found guilty. I’m still astonished today how this could’ve gone on so long, “but no one‘s interested in something you didn’t do.“ Tragically True.


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