Owner and on-air host of Montreal radio station CPAM 1410 is busy behind the microphone finishing up the afternoon call-in show on current events. This lean and elegant 66-year-old founded the French-language station in 2003 to serve the Haitian, Latin American and African communities of the Greater Montreal area. Born in the Gonaïves region of Haiti, Jean-Ernest began his radio career in his homeland. In fact, he was threatened and intimidated because of his opinions and even had to appear before a judge in the years of the Duvalier dictatorship. It is therefore not surprising that these experiences as a young adult shaped his opinion of Canadian values. For him, Canada is a nation that respects culture, democracy and freedom of expression! Here, we can express our opinions on the radio and not face retaliation.
Due to a scholarship from a German institution, Jean-Ernest earned his civil engineering degree in 1980. That same year, he immigrated to Canada and joined family members in Montreal. After studying law at Université de Québec à Montréal, he was admitted to the bar in 1991. While practising family law, he found his true calling in Montreal’s multicultural society as head of operations at a radio station. This station aimed to provide information on daily life and citizenship for new immigrants, many of whom were struggling to adapt to their new home. This father of four children, who today live in the United States, Ontario and Quebec, regrets that he did not speak Creole at home. However, he argues that integration has its share of commitments—learning a new language, absorbing local culture and reaching out to your host community. Fulfilled by his achievements, Jean-Ernest, winner of the Montreal multicultural community’s Top 20 de la diversité honour, reminds us of Haitian expats’ responsibilities: the salvation of Haiti must come from the diaspora. Haitians living in democratic states can, through example, leadership and influence shine a light on public policies, laws and social and economic models that can contribute to Haiti’s development. It is with great pride that Jean-Ernest recounts how Canadians, Quebecers and Montreal’s Haitian community supported the reconstruction efforts in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. He states that just like the 1998 Ice Storm, these events are unifying forces demonstrating the solidarity, generosity and cohesive nature of our society. Before leaving the radio station for a professional commitment, he delivers his final observations. As Montreal’s Haitian community turns 60, it is a good time to point out its strengths. Haitians are builders and major contributors to Canada’s economic strength. Haitian Canadians have a responsibility to lead by example, integrate into their new culture and acknowledge those who welcomed them.