By Robyn Collins
It was a political night at the Juno awards in Canada, that country’s annual awards ceremony that celebrates Canadian music. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. president Bill Clinton took part in the ceremony and even some of the winners got a little political.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire introduced a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, “He spoke to our minds, bodies and spirits.” Trudeau said, adding that Cohen had been a pallbearer at his father’s funeral, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was also a prime minister of Canada, reports Billboard.
Cohen picked up the Album of the Year honor for You Want It Darker. The award was accepted by his son, Adam Cohen. Cohen was also named Artist of the Year
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton appeared on video to introduce a career-spanning video to honor Sarah McLachlan, calling her music a “gift.” The Canadian singer-songwriter was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and told the Juno audience, “We’re living in scary times. We Canadians are far from perfect, but we have a lot to offer to the rest of the world,” as she encouraged diversity and kindness over division and hatred.
The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, who didn’t attend the awards show because he is battling terminal cancer, won for best songwriter of the year.
During a videotaped acceptance speech, Downie shared, “We are not completely Canada yet. … We have friends, fellow countrymen, and women who are in trouble.” Downie also earned three Juno trophies in pre-telecast prizegiving, including rock album of the year for the Hip’s Man Machine Poem.
The Tragically Hip also won for Group of the Year, beating out the Arkells, Billy Talent, Tegan and Sara, and the Strumbellas.
Alessia Cara won for pop album of the year for Know-It-All, Edmonton’s Ruth B won the breakthrough artist crown, and Jess Moskaluke took home Country Album of the Year for Kiss Me Quiet.
The fans’ choice went to Shawn Mendes, who won out over fellow Canadian pop stars Drake, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd.
The Single of the Year went to “Spirits,” by The Strumbellas, which beat out singles by The Weeknd and Drake, and The Dirty Nil was named breakthrough group of the year.