TELEVISION

Children of the damned

Brian D. Johnson September 7 1987
TELEVISION

Children of the damned

Brian D. Johnson September 7 1987

Children of the damned

TELEVISION

Maria is a fresh-faced blonde teenager who could pass for the girl next door. In fact, she

is a runaway: she left home at age 15 to escape her abusive stepfather. She says that she has survived on the street by “lying, cheating, stealing, prostitution. Anything would be better than being at home.” Maria (not her real name) is one of thousands of young teenagers across Canada trapped in a debilitating cycle of drug abuse, crime and prostitution, whose plight is the subject of Runaways—2U Hours on the Street, a raw two-hour documentary to be broadcast on the CBC on Sept. 9 without commercial interruption.

The program marks the first time that the network’s regional stations have joined forces to create a major documentary. Produced by an 80-member team of CBC news staff, Runaways combines mini-documentaries prepared by the various regions, with clips from a marathon in which nine CBC cameras filmed on the streets of Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax for a continuous 24hour stretch. The result is a candid glimpse into a world of troubled adolescents who have grown up far too fast.

Some of the most harrowing scenes show teenage addicts injecting heroin and cocaine: one girl presses the needle into her jugular vein, forcing it through a callus on her neck created by years of abuse. Most such youngsters share a common background—a study of 150 runaways conducted by the Toronto hostel Covenant House reported that almost 75 per cent of the girls and more

than 33 per cent of the boys said that

their homes had been a nightmare of incest and repeated beatings. Runaways is not pretty to watch. But as one girl who left home at 13 tearfully testifies on camera, “If seeing this helps one kid stay off the street, then it’s worth it.”

BRIAN D. JOHNSON