A new original documentary series, Meurtriers sur mesure, has been available on Club illico since September 26. It investigates a human tragedy that shattered the lives of the Gaudet, Taillefer and Duguay families, and documents a miscarriage of justice unprecedented in the annals of Québec legal history. We talked to Izabel Chevrier, the co-director/writer/producer of this poignant documentary, to find out more about the lengthy investigation that shed new light on the case.

How did the Sandra Guadet case come to your attention? 
We became interested in this case after reading a paper published by criminology expert Jean Claude Bernheim. Right away, we were curious about what happened in the police investigation, especially considering there were so many irregularities. We had a lot of questions, such as: How did the botched investigation lead to the arrest of two people with no previous record? How did they coerce a confession leading to charges for first-degree murder, an unfair trial and ultimately a life sentence? How did the police and the entire legal system shrug off their duty to uncover the truth? Why weren’t they interested in getting to the bottom of the murder of a 14-year-old girl? This is what prompted us to look into the case.

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This documentary is the culmination of three years of research. You conducted more than 40 interviews and spent a lot of time in Val-d’Or. Is this story still on the minds of the Val-d’Or community?
We contacted more than 75 people involved in the case. About 40 agreed to meet with us during the eight-month period that we were up in the Abitibi area. The community is still haunted by the death of Sandra Gaudet and the conviction of Billy Taillefer and Hugues Duguay. Unfortunately, a large part of the population didn’t follow the case as it went to court and so aren’t aware of the injustice that has been ongoing for 30 years. Very few people know what really happened. The Gaudet family still doesn’t know the truth surrounding Sandra’s death, and the Taillefer and Duguay families have had their lives unfairly turned upside down. Thirty years later, Mr. Taillefer and Mr. Duguay are still labelled as child murderers, despite the fact that the Supreme Court and Superior Court cleared them of all charges.

How did the three families affected by this legal error react when you first approached them? 
After a few back and forths, Sandra’s parents agreed to meet with us and provide a statement. That was a real show of confidence. They hadn’t done any interviews prior to that. In addition to finding out what happened in this case, we wanted to honour the memory of the child who was murdered. We hope that getting the Gaudet family to talk about their ordeal will encourage the authorities to reopen the investigation and get to the bottom of the tragedy. The Gaudet family deserves to know the truth.

It didn’t take as long to establish a rapport with the Taillefer and Duguay families, as they had already spoken with Jean Claude Bernheim, the criminology expert, in 2016 and 2017. After a few meetings, they felt comfortable with us and agreed to cooperate fully with us. We hope that the public will finally understand what really happened in the Taillefer-Duguay case and that their families will be able to regain their dignity.

Do you think the end of the documentary is the end of the story? Or do you think there’s a chance the investigation will be reopened? 
We hope the documentary will move audiences and spark public outcry. As citizens, we have a duty to protect democracy and demand that the government take responsibility for mistakes and injustices. If we stand together and denounce the lack of accountability of the police, prosecutors and judges involved in this case, the authorities might reopen the investigation. After Mr. Taillefer was acquitted in 2006, the authorities should have acknowledged their responsibility and offered reparation to the families affected by the tragedy.

Your documentary is finally ready. What are you most proud of? What was the biggest challenge in making it?
The hardest part was earning the trust of the Gaudet, Taillefer and Duguay families. It also took a while to connect with enough of the key people involved in this case, like police officers, witnesses and lawyers. We needed to talk to them in order to understand what really happened. Thanks to some of these witnesses, we were able to uncover evidence that the Crown Prosecutor had hidden during the trial in 1990 and the first appeal in 1995. We even asked the investigators and officials involved in the investigation and trial if they wanted to confirm that everything had been done properly. They had the chance to publicly acknowledge the facts and their actions, but they declined.

You and Martin Paquette, who co-directed the documentary, have always been forthright about the fact that your goal was to uncover the truth. Do you think you did?
We were able to get a clear picture of what happened during the investigation, including incidents of police misconduct and significant failures in the system that is supposed to protect citizens from police and judicial misconduct. Fortunately, the Poitras Commission and the Supreme Court addressed the situation, at least in part, but only after 12 long years of struggle for the Taillefer and Duguay families. The documentary illustrates how powerless we are when police officers, prosecutors and judges have a personal interest at stake. It also shows how powerful the state can be when it turns against a citizen. Should we accept that the past cannot be changed or should we demand that the authorities involved be held accountable for their actions? Shouldn’t they be accountable to the public?

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