TORONTO — Canada’s version of the Grammy Awards has been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS) announced on Thursday it was canceling Juno Week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, set to begin tonight, including the Juno Awards on Sunday night.
The cancellation also includes Saturday’s Juno gala dinner and awards, a private industry event for about 1,000 people, at which the majority of the awards are presented, including the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award to Pegi Cecconi.
Sunday night’s Juno Awards was to be hosted by Alessia Cara and held at the SaskTel Centre arena with a live audience of roughly 10,000. The awards air on CBC.
“We are devastated to cancel this national celebration of music, but at this time of global uncertainty, the health, safety and well-being of all Canadians must stand at the forefront of any decisions that impact our communities,” CARAS and Saskatoon officials said in a joint statement. “We know this is the right decision based on the information we currently have and are continuing to receive. The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve rapidly and we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials. We salute and appreciate all the 2020 nominees.”
Officials added, “CARAS will continue to explore options to coordinate an alternative way to honour this year’s JUNO Award winners and Special Award Recipients and support the creators and participants that so greatly benefit from the work done by CARAS and the JUNOS.”
Besides the two evenings of awards, Juno Week was to include the kick-off covers/collab concert with about 20 nominees and headlining set by the Sheepdogs at the Coors Event Centre (March 12); the Juno Cup hockey game between members of the music industry and former NHLers at Merlis Belsher Place (March 13); Junofest shows at about 10 venues featuring 50 acts (March 13-14); Juno Fanfare autograph/selfie meet-and-greet with eight nominated artists at Midtown (March 14), Juno Stories from the [Recording]Studio at Francis Morris Central Library (March 14), and the Songwriters’ Circle at TCU Place – Sid Buckwold Theatre (March 15).
Juno Week is held in a different Canadian city each year. The last time they were in Saskatoon was 2007 with Nelly Furtado hosting. According to CARAS, the Junos and companion events brings “an average impact of over $12M [USD $8.68M]” to each host city.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is setting up a billion dollar response fund, which “will provide funding to provinces and territories to help them prepare for any possibility and to mitigate risks to Canadians.”
A week ago, CARAS president/CEO Allan Reid said everything was “proceeding as planned,” but that was before cases doubled across Canada (more than 100 cases, with one death) and drastic measures were taken by the U.S., among them the cancellations of South By Southwest and the NBA season, as well as new restrictions for travel between Europe and the U.S.
As of March 11, the Saskatchewan government had this statement: “At this time Saskatchewan does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19, and the risk to Canadians remains low,” listing 204 people have been tested, 202 received negative results and 2 are pending.