Activists and Global Citizen artists stole the show at the 2021 Juno Awards on Sunday night, taking home honours and calling attention to important issues, such as recognizing the importance of Indigenous rights in Canada.
The 50th annual Juno Awards took place in Toronto through a series of live and pre-recorded performances to honour Canadian artists and musicians. Originally slated to take place in March, the broadcast ceremony was pushed to June due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 25,000 Canadians since February 2020.
In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of Canadian artists in the music industry, the Juno Awards also featured important moments that called attention to the oppression experienced by Indigenous people in Canada.
In May, Canadians expressed outrage when the remains of 215 children were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, resulting in a renewed focus on the history of mistreatment experienced by Indigenous communities in the country. Celebrity activists made sure to use their platform to recognize this discovery and demand Global Citizens everywhere take action to promote equity and justice for all.
Here are the seven biggest moments from Global Citizens and other artists at the 2021 Juno Awards.
1. Buffy Sainte-Marie opened the Juno Awards by discussing Indigenous experiences in Canada.
Canadian-American singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is a member of the Cree First Nation, opened the 2021 Juno Awards by giving the Treaty and Territory acknowledgment, a tradition she began at the 2017 Junos broadcast, according to CBC. She also made sure to acknowledge the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s tragic discovery at the former residential school in Kamloops.
“The recent discovery of even more remains of residential school Indigenous children, this time in Kamloops, is shocking to some people and a revelation. But it’s not news to Indigenous people,” Sainte-Marie said. “The genocide basic to this country’s birth is ongoing, and we need to face it together. And I ask for your compassion.”
2. The Weeknd received six award nominations and won in five categories.
Global Citizen Advocate The Weeknd said he would boycott the Grammy Awards after being snubbed in this year’s ceremony, according to the New York Times, pointing to a history of awards shows and ceremonies using flawed nomination systems. These systems, along with historic prejudice, have kept worthy musicians and artists from being nominated for and winning recognition for their work.
The Juno Awards celebrated The Weeknd as he swept the ceremony on Sunday night, winning five of the six categories in which he was nominated. In total, he won awards for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Contemporary R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year.
In 2018, The Weeknd headlined the Global Citizen Festival in New York to help raise awareness of social justice issues taking place around the world. He is also an ardent supporter of causes ranging from maternal health to accessible health care in low-income countries, raising money and calling attention to communities in need.
3. Justin Bieber won the Juno Award for Pop Album of the Year.
Last year, Justin Bieber joined Global Citizen’s campaign to make sure COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines were made accessible to everyone, tweeting at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fund an international COVID-19 response in the early days of the pandemic. He joined with dozens of other musicians and philanthropists to perform at the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future concert in June 2020.
Bieber has kept busy this past year, releasing his sixth studio album, Justice, and performing his hit song “Somebody” in a pre-recorded video for the Juno Awards. He also picked up an award for Pop Album of the Year for Changes, which he released in February 2020.
4. Crown Lands won the Breakthrough Group of the Year and called for an investigation of every former residential school in Canada.
The rock music duo Crown Lands — made up of band members Cody Bowles and Kevin Comeau — took home the Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. As advocates for Indigenous rights and social justice, Crown Lands joined Global Citizen in 2018 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver to call for action on climate change and gender equality.
At the Juno Awards this year, Crown Lands drummer Cody Bowles — who is of Mi'kmaq heritage and identifies as two-spirit — took a moment to draw attention to the mistreatment of Indigenous people at the hands of the Canadian government.
“We want to take this moment to talk about how every Canadian residential school should be thoroughly investigated. The families of those departed all deserve closure,” Bowles said. “People are living in abhorrent conditions in this nation, and there’s a lot more to talk about here. We’re going to keep fighting to start these conversations and hopefully spark some real change.”
5. Shawn Mendes won the Fan Choice Award.
Singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes beat out nine other musicians and artists to win the Fan Choice Award on Sunday.
Shawn Mendes has been a longtime supporter of social justice causes, joining Global Citizen’s lineup at the Global Citizen Festival in 2018 to advocate for widespread access to education. Last year, Mendes joined singer Camila Cabello to perform for One World: Together At Home, a virtual concert hosted by Global Citizen that encouraged people around the world to take action and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
6. Jessie Reyez performed "Do You Love Her" and "Before Love Came to Kill Us."
Jessie Reyez blessed the Juno Awards by performing "Do You Love Her" and "Before Love Came to Kill Us."
Reyez is known for using her platform to amplify causes close to her heart. Last year, she joined the Mexican pop-rock band Reik in paying tribute to health care workers around the world during COVID-19, collaborating on their song “Lo Intenté Todo.” She also joined Global Citizen’s One World: Together At Home concert series by performing her song “Coffin.”
Reyez’s music video for “No One's in the Room,” directed by Emma Higgins, also won the award for Video of the Year on Sunday night.
7. The Tragically Hip received the Humanitarian Award.
The rock band The Tragically Hip accepted the Humanitarian Award at the Juno Awards Sunday night for championing a wide range of causes, including Indigenous issues and climate action. Founder and lead singer Gord Downie, who passed away in 2017, was celebrated as a Global Citizen around the country for his philanthropic endeavors.
During their acceptance speech, members of The Tragically Hip talked about the band’s inspiration for incorporating philanthropic work into their mission and honoured Downie.
“The spotlight that’s been so generously focused on our band over the last 30-plus years has provided us with a myriad of opportunities,” said guitarist Rob Baker. “We’ve always felt that it was our responsibility to reflect that light back and bring some illumination to where it might be needed.”
Global Citizens everywhere are recognizing the need to call attention to social justice issues through their work and use their platform to encourage change. These artists are paving the way for more people to become changemakers and create a more equitable world.