Did Childhood Abuse Turn Marc Lépine into a Killer?

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Monique Lepine2Why begin Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents with the words of Monique Lépine, the mother of Marc Lépine, the perpetrator of the Montreal Massacre?

This was a difficult decision, and it was the core struggle confronted in editing the documentary. My editor Jeanne Slater showed tremendous patience as we cut and re-cut the film, moving that interview all over the place.

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine murdered 14 young women at the Ecole Polytechnique before turning the gun on himself. All along I resisted beginning the film with the horror of the Montreal Massacre, because early intervention is about so much more than preventing crime.

Helping children cope with anger, whether it’s borne of frustration over learning difficulties, a lack of nurture, a behavioural problem or a mental disorder creates happier, healthier adults. Not only do we prevent crime, we save billions in health, education, social service and justice costs. I also did not in any way want to infer that the families who trusted us to film their progress through the Triple P Parenting intervention were raising future criminals.

One morning in August, I walked in and Jeanne, her jaw set said, “Monique Lépine has to go first. Here’s why.” And she pressed play. She had recut the first 10 minutes of the film and moved the Lepine interview to the front. I sat silently and watched.

Jeanne was right. What Monique Lépine reveals about her son’s early years underscores the urgency of early intervention especially in severely dysfunctional families. By beginning this way, the viewer quickly gets the point: there’s a lot at stake here.

In the quarter century since Lépine’s rampage, there has been a sea change in our understanding of early childhood development. We’ve come to understand the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Simply put, the more trauma and toxic stress a child suffers early in life, the greater the level of dysfunction later. Marc Lépine’s early life was one long series of adverse experiences, some of which his mother shares here and reveals further in our documentary. She begins by explaining how abusive and violent Lépine’s father was:

Click here to watch: 

We recognize that no one will ever know why Marc Lépine did what he did. And the inclusion of his childhood history here, through his mother, is not an attempt to excuse the horror of what happened on December 6, 1989. Rather, it is to illustrate that a childhood of Adverse Childhood Experiences can have impact that reaches far further than the individual.

Our film quickly leaves Lépine and moves on to the struggles of several parents very committed to working with their young children to resolve behaviour issues. By leading with Lépine, we believe viewers will be completely engrossed and will want to see the rest of the film, to see these ground-breaking interventions in action. I cannot thank our three families enough for allowing us to film their Triple P progress. To see their remarkable transformation, tune in to Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents Thursday March 27th, 9pm on CBC TV’s Doc Zone.

 – Maureen Palmer, director

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