News | Haitian radio station firebombed

Attack third of its kind in four years; racial or political motive suspected

A man wearing a black hoodie splashed gasoline on the side of Haitian radio station,CPAM 1410 in the Montreal borough of Saint-Michel during the early hours of Sunday, September 18. A CPAM camera captured this moment, after which the man threw a brick–then a Molotov cocktail–through one of the station’s windows.

“It’s the third time we’ve had a fire at the station,” CPAM 1410 station manager Jean-Ernest Pierre told CTV News in French. In 2012, a similar Molotov cocktail attack damaged the building. In May of this year, a car was firebombed in the parking lot.

The motive behind the arson remains unclear. “I think that some people might have a problem with the opinions that I express, and when I express my opinions, they’re always very clear and bold,” Pierre said in French, in a phone interview with The Daily.

“It’s the third time we’ve had a fire at the station.”

Controversial opinions may have been behind the 2012 firebombing the radio station as well. That attack occurred not long after Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti, made a surprise return to the country. Duvalier, nicknamed Baby Doc, ruled from 1971 until an uprising broke out in 1986 and he was forced to flee to France. He was arrested two days after his return to Haiti and charged with corruption. Prior to the 2012 firebombing, Pierre had said on-air that Duvalier should face a criminal trial.

“But apparently he had some ‘fans’ who made threats over the phone,” Pierre said in French, according to an article from La Presse. People speaking in Haitian Creole had called the radio station and threatened to set it on fire. “Is that the cause? I don’t know. We’ve also received threats this year after criticizing president Michel Martelly.”

The 2012 firebombing caused significant damage. The studio suffered water damage from firefighters dousing the building’s flames, and was unusable. Speaking to the Toronto Sun, Pierre described the scene of people coming to the station to see the debris as “like a funeral.” Despite that, CPAM was back on-air ten hours later. Pierre had announced from a temporary studio: “the culprit has disturbed our routine, but he can’t disrupt our ideas.”

“I think that some people might have a problem with the opinions that I express, and when I express my opinions, they’re always very clear and bold.”

Fortunately, damage from the September 18 attack was not as serious. There was water damage from the firefighting and the toilet had been destroyed, amounting to a few thousand dollars’ worth of damages, Pierre told The Daily in French.

The media liaison of the Montreal Fire Department, speaking to The Daily in French over the phone, provided an outline of what happened that night. “We received a call to 3990 Boulevard Crémazie […] at 3:21 am. We sent out two fire engines and a truck […] for a total of 15 firefighters. We left the premises at 4:29 [a.m.]. For us, it took about an hour before we transferred the case over to the police.”

The police are considering other potential motives for the attack. CTV News quoted Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) spokesperson Manuel Couture, who said, “Is it someone who’s been fired and who wants to get revenge? What happened exactly and why is it a target?”

Couture went on to say that police were also looking into whether or not the crime was racially motivated. CPAM is the only ethnic, Francophone radio station in North America, according to the station’s website. If the attack was racially motivated, the investigation would be transferred to the SPVM’s hate crimes division. However, as of September 27, the SPVM told The Daily by phone that there had been “no new developments” in the case.

Although the arsonist is still at large, Pierre is not worried. According to CTV, he is playing music until the damage is repaired, but listeners won’t have to wait long before a return to regular programming. “We’re going to keep having the same positions,” Pierre told The Daily. “The risks are there [but] it’s the choice that we’ve made to work for the people of our community.”