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Millard, Peter (1932–2001)

Peter Tudor Millard, a professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan, played important roles in the development of the visual arts in Saskatoon and in the struggle for more equitable treatment and acceptance of gays and lesbians in Saskatchewan. Born on July 21, 1932, to working-class parents in South Wales, Millard moved to Canada to study at McGill University and graduated in 1959 with the highest average, winning the Shakespeare Medal for English. He returned to England as a Canadian student and earned his doctorate from Linacre College, Oxford. He began lecturing at the University of Saskatchewan in 1963 and became a tenured professor in 1970. His academic specialization was the literature and culture of the 18th century. In 1988, as chair of the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association, he led the faculty union in a lengthy strike which was ended by provincial back-to-work legislation.

Millard had a love for all of the arts, and in Saskatoon quickly engaged himself with many local painters and collectors. As a collector and part-time dealer, art writer and critic, and artist’s mentor, he became one of the province’s most active and effective promoters of the visual arts. He served as trustee and president of the Mendel Art Gallery, and through his chairmanship of the University of Saskatchewan Art Committee oversaw acquisitions to the University’s extensive art collections. In 1975 he encountered the work of the idiosyncratic Saskatoon folk painter, Dmytro Stryjek, and became his dedicated champion, helping to organize several Stryjek exhibitions and authoring a critical appreciation titled Stryjek, Trying the Colors. Millard made numerous donations of artworks to prairie galleries, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which received his fine collection of early Inuit sculpture, and Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery, which acquired the bulk of his Stryjek collection in 2000.

In the early 1970s, Millard embraced Saskatoon’s emerging gay community and helped to establish the Saskatoon Gay Community Centre in 1972. He was a leader and spokesperson in most of the early battles to advance equal rights for lesbians and gays in Saskatchewan. In 1975 he led the Committee to defend Doug Wilson, an openly gay graduate student who had been prohibited by the University of Saskatchewan College of Education, because of his sexual orientation, from supervising practice teachers. The support committee’s work made Wilson’s case one of the most publicized early gay rights struggles in Canada. Millard subsequently helped form a gay academic union at the University, and in 1998 taught the University’s first course in gay and lesbian literature.

Millard worked tirelessly during the 1970s and 1980s to promote the inclusion of sexual orientation in Saskatchewan’s human rights law. His influence was publicly credited by government members when Roy Romanow’s NDP government amended the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code to protect lesbians and gays in 1993. In 1995 the University of Saskatchewan established the Peter Millard Scholarship, Canada’s first university-administered scholarship in support of gay/lesbian studies, to honour Millard’s gay activism and his mentorship of gay and lesbian students on campus. Millard retired early to Gibsons, BC in 1992; but in 1998 he returned to Saskatoon, where he resumed most of his earlier activities. He died there on December 8, 2001.

Neil Richards

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Further Reading

Millard, P. 1988. Stryjek, Trying the Colors. Saskatoon: Fifth House; ——. 1991. “Human Rights and the P.C. Government.” Pp. 33–48 in L. Biggs and M. Stobbe (eds.), Devine Rule in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Fifth House.
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