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Elliot Page Slams ‘Devastating’ Crackdown on LGBTQ Rights at Juno Awards

Elliot Page criticized Canada’s rollback of LGBTQ rights on the stage of the Juno Awards in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sunday night.

“We are at a time in history where the rights of LGBTQ2+ people are being revoked, restricted and eliminated throughout the world, and the effects are devastating,” Page, a transgender Halifax native, said in a speech presenting twin singer-songwriters Tegan and Sara with the Junos’ humanitarian award. Page praised the work of the Tegan and Sara Foundation for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, supporting health care services to youth programs. Earlier in the week, he said at BFI Flare, London’s LGBTQ film festival, that “30% of young people identify as LGBTQ,” referring to a survey released earlier this year about Gen Z adults in the U.S. “So I’m sorry, but this is not niche.”

“If the world was not so hostile to LGBTQ2+ people, we would see ourselves purely as musicians,” Sara Quin told the audience, singling out the Canadian province of Alberta for proposing to restrict health care for transgender youth. “Advocating for our community’s rights is a great privilege and we are dedicated to confronting any form of discrimination that threatens the well-being of our community.”

Page talked with Variety about the duo earlier in the evening on the red carpet of the event, which is Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys. “I remember seeing them play in Halifax at a church nearby in my early 20s, and met them a few years later,” Page said. “They have inspired me throughout my life. They’re who I’ve admired and looked up to. What they’ve done with their foundation is extraordinary and deeply impactful and far-reaching.”

Tegan told Variety that one of the foundation’s key programs is “every summer camp that supports 2SLGBTQ people in North America, we are granting to all of those camps. It’s a hugely important part of the work that we do.”

The comments took place during the two-night celebration of the 53rd annual awards. The big category awards went to three female acts: pop singer Tate McRae was named artist of the year, Charlotte Cardin’s “99 Nights” won album of the year, and all-female rock band the Beaches took group of the year. No single artist dominated, but all three, along with rapper Tobi, Indigenous singer-songwriter Aysanabee, and producer-engineer Shawn Everett took home a pair of trophies each.

The Beaches also secured rock album (“Blame My Ex”); Cardin, pop album; and McRae, best single (“Greedy”). Tobi scored rap album (“Panic”) and rap single (“Someone I Knew”); Aysanabee won his pair for songwriter and alternative album (“Here and Now”); and Everett was rewarded for his work with Miley Cyrus and Brittany Howard in the producer and recording engineer categories.

Cardin had led this year with six nominations, and Caesar and Talk with five apiece.

The Opening Night Awards, as they are officially called, sold-out the 1,300-person, 130-table industry gala dinner at the Halifax Convention Centre, while the Sunday event was open to the public at the 10,500-capacity Scotiabank Centre, hosted by Nelly Furtado.

Only six awards were presented over the performance-filled two-hour broadcast, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame Award to Maestro Fresh Wes, who also performed a medley of his hits.

Unlike the Grammy’s, Canada’s biggest music awards show moves around to a different host city each year, sometimes landing in cities so small the excitement from the locals is palpable. The Junos have only been held in Halifax once before, back in 2006. The maritime city has a population just over 400,000 and the main events were just a block from each other.

“When we first announced the Junos were going to be coming back here, everybody wanted to come,” said Allan Reid, president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS). He also revealed that the trophies this year bear the name Stan Klees on the bottom, honouring the co-founder of the Juno Awards, who passed away in September. Klees’ partner Walt Grealis died in 2004; each year the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award is handed out to a member of the music industry, this year to Halifax’ Chip Sutherland, lawyer, manager and artist champion, whose main client is a Nova Scotia native Feist, who presented the honor to him.

Feist also scooped an award herself that evening, for the  adult alternative album category, for “Multitudes.”  “The alterative to being an adult, I guess,” she quipped on the red carpet. “I think you just get to be alternative into your adult life.”

The Saturday night performances were reserved for new faces, this year Aqyila, Begonia, Jah’Mila, Lili-Ann De Francesco and Lu Kala.

Other wins on the pre-telecast included “Run Away To Mars” singer Talk for breakthrough artist; “Those Eyes” hitmakers New West for breakthrough group, two artists with major viral singles.  James Barker Bank got country album of the year (“Ahead of Our Time”); Felix Cartel & Karen Harding nabbed dance recording (“Need Your Love”); Daniel Caesar won contemporary R&B recording (“Never Enough”); and Kirk Diamond & Finn, reggae recording (“Dread”).

Elisapie was awarded contemporary indigenous artist or group (Inuktitut); William Prince, who has had quite a breakthrough year, headlining soft-seaters in Canada and making his Grand Ole Opry debut, won contemporary roots album (“Stand in the Joy”); Bambii landed electronic album (Infinity Club); and Blond:ish’s “Call My Name” banked underground dance single.

Amanda Marshall’s long-awaited comeback, “Heavy Lifting” — her first in 23 years — picked up the award for adult contemporary album; Cryptopsy’s “As Gomorrah” grabbed metal/hard music album; Aqyila’s “Hello” took home traditional R&B/soul recording; and Joel Wood won traditional indigenous artist or group (“Sing. Pray. Love”).

International album of the year — the only award for a non-Canadian — went to SZA for “SOS.”

Sunday, the main night, is the true “get” because of the national television audience and potential global streaming numbers on all CBC’s platforms.

“Let’s get this party started,” began Furtado after opening the show with a medley of her hits, including her year 2000 breakthrough “I’m Like a Bird” to her recent “Eat Your Man.” The singer has notably returned to the spotlight since she was invited by Drake to perform at his OVO All Canadian North Stars club concert in 2022 and has a new album on the horizon.

After her performance, she threw to a surprise presenter for the first award, retired musical legend and Hall of Famer Anne Murray, the most awarded Juno recipient in its history with 25 statuettes, her first two in 1975. “Seeing that I’m a Nova Scotian who lives just up the street, the producers thought I’d be just the person to welcome you to Halifax. So here I am — and welcome to Halifax,” she said.

Maestro Fresh Wes, the man who paved the way for Drake and every Canadian rapper since he dropped his 1989 debut album, “Symphony in Effect,” became the first-ever hip hop artist inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The honor came 33 years after he received the inaugural rap recording Juno.

Long regarded as the “Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop,” Maestro is used to being first. He was the first Canadian Black artist to achieve a gold, then platinum-selling album domestically; had the first gold-selling Canadian rap single with his debut single, “Let Your Backbone Slide,” and was the inaugural winner of the Juno Award for best rap recording (1991).

“Dangerous” rapper and Canada’s Got Talent judge Kardinal Offishall did the honors, telling Variety Maestro asked him to induct him last summer after they performed a show together. “It meant a lot, especially for me because, before anybody knew my name, Maestro was my first rap hero.”

 “Now, this music we love won’t ever be underestimated.”

The only award not voted on by CARAS members — ie. the industry — is TikTok Juno Fan Choice, which was won by Punjabi-Canadian Karan Aujla, beating out nine other worthy names, including the Weeknd and McRae. His music has up more than 100 million streams globally and 3 million on YouTube.

“Sometimes I can’t believe I’m that same kid who lost my parents when I was in India, made my way to Canada, and now I’m here,” he said onstage.

Backstage, he told Variety, “Every second I was just having goosebumps. This was amazing. Being on that stage and holding on to that award, I’d never expected that, but it happened.”

Anjla also performed on the show, along with Ikky. Other performers included Talk, Josh Ross, Cardin, and a moving tribute to the late Gordon Lightfoot, Robbie Robertson and Karl Tremblay of Quebec’s Les Cowboys Fringants by Alexandra Stréliski, Allison Russell, William Prince, Aysanabee Logan Staats, Shawnee Kish and Julian Taylor.

Head here for the full list of winners.

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