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Les Voleurs d’Enfance

by Archives October 12, 2005

Grade: A

TV journalist Paul Arcand may not be an expert at filmmaking, but the man knows how to investigate. His first documentary, Les Voleurs d’Enfance, does more than just ask the right questions; it gets answers.

With help from producer Denise Robert, it scrutinizes the state of child abuse in today’s Quebec. Robert and Arcand allow grieving adults to explain why their suffering continued after they were removed from their abusive homes. Don’t think of Les Voleurs d’Enfance simply as a collage of sad stories. It’s a thorough investigation into Quebec’s child-welfare system; an over-extended bureaucracy and exploited care workers.

Using a “Michael Moore style” when interviewing government officials, Arcand finds out what the DPJ Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse (DPJ) is doing with their $800 million budget. The result: They’re paying for their 12,000 employees’ salaries and their award-winning building downtown Montreal. According to the film, the DPJ’s inefficient bureaucracy poorly manages its over-worked field professionals, decayed facilities and illegal institutional abuse towards its kids.

Arcand also interviews care workers who not only receive limited training, but are asked to travel across the province to handle 25 different cases a week. They describe themselves as exploited and demoralized.

A parallel editing montage between La Macaza, a facility in the Laurentians for abusers, and the DPJ’s youth centers, eloquently portrays Quebec’s neglect towards its victims. La Macaza offers inmates stereo systems and TVs in their room, whereas the DPJ provides abused children with a room with a mattress on the floor and an old chalk board on the wall. Shots of La Macaza’s new and modern look compare the facility to a high class hotel. Shots of a Montreal area youth center reveal barbed-wire fences and decayed cafeterias. It looks worse than a jail.

Every year, 30,000 abused kids are placed in the DPJ’s care. They live a nomad’s life, moving from center to center and rarely receiving enough counseling to moderate their inherent violent behavior. Arcand interviews former DPJ’s inmates who claim they were forced to stay in their rooms for 20 hours a day.

One of Arcand’s devious tricks persuades a DPJ official to visit an isolation cell where kids had been locked up for days as punishment. She followed him into the closed space and begged to leave after a minute and a half.

Les Voleurs d’Enfance includes interviews with Quebec celebrity Nathalie Simard who talks about her abuse with TV producer Guy Cloutier, currently in jail for sexual molestation. Singer/songwriter Dan Bigras and Judge Andr

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