A Rock Creek woman who spent many of her teenage years in a Montreal youth centre, which doubles as a detention centre, has caught the attention of some American filmmakers.
Erika Tafel has lived in Rock Creek for 14 years with her husband and two daughters but she grew up in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield.
Before she found herself living in the confines of Shawbridge Youth Centres in Quebec, she said she grew up in an affluent household.
“My father’s an engineer and my mother was a nurse, so it was a suburban class upbringing,” Tafel said.
She said as a child, she had a bad relationship with her mother and she never felt she fit in at school.
Tafel said her parents’ separation fueled her desire to carve her own path.
For her, that meant skipping class; a habit that eventually led her to homelessness.
By 14-years-old, she was placed in a juvenile protection centre.
“I was never charged with a crime; however, I was placed with kids that were charged [as] youth offenders… one shot her father and another strangled her sister,” Tafel said.
“Those were the most severe cases but then there were drug dealers and child prostitutes.”
Tafel is now an author. Her book, called “Slave to the Farm,” documents her time in Quebec’s juvenile system in the 1980’s and how it led her down an even more confusing path.
“Housing [youth in] protection cases and delinquents together, it doesn’t do anything but criminalize children,” Tafel said.
Her message against the mixed-housing of youth in protection with young offenders is one she hopes to spread through her book and a film.
She said Catherine Scorsese, daughter of Hollywood film director Martin Scorsese, is leading the charge in turning her non-fiction book into a movie.
It’s currently in the pre-production stages and Tafel said she’s awaiting a meeting with the film production team in the new year.
Until then, she plans to continue writing and opening the doors to her home to people in need, giving the same help she used to get herself.
“I will often have people stay with us for months at a time, maybe they’ll be trying to get off drugs, “ she said.
“I mean I don’t have these romantic notions of saving the world or anything like that it’s just one person at a time.”
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