Michael Bublé, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short get Governor General's Performing Arts Awards

Actors Michael J. Fox, Martin Short and crooner Michael Bublé were honoured Wednesday night at Rideau Hall with Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.

Other recipients included director Brigitte Haentjens, filmmaker Jean Beaudin

Governor General David Johnston presents Michael Bublé with the National Arts Centre Award during the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

It was a love-in for Canada Wednesday night at Ottawa's Rideau Hall, as recipient after recipient of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards sang the country's praises.

Actors Martin Short, Michael J. Fox and crooner Michael Bublé were among this year's honourees, along with theatre director Brigitte Haentjens, filmmaker Jean Beaudin, philanthropist William Loewen and theatre artist Yves Sioui Durand.

Short — famed for his work on SCTV and on stage — joked in his speech about Justin Trudeau and Short's box office bomb Mars Attacks! (a movie that came up several times through the ceremony). 

Sharp with his cheeky humour, Short said award was an honour for 'a huge Canadian icon' like himself 1:01

But he was sincere about how much Canada means to him.

"I have loved and have been so proud of being a Canadian my entire life. It is like being the hippest member of any club you want to join," he said.

"I can honestly say that I've never met an American who wasn't just a tad bit envious of my passport."

Short, who hails from Hamilton, Ont., but lives in the U.S., called Canadians who lived there "the aliens they don't deport." The comedian was given a lifetime artistic achievement in broadcast.

From left to right, Brigitte Haentjens, Martin Short, Yves Sioui Durand, William Loewen and Michael Bublé were among the seven Governor General's Performing Arts Awards honourees Wednesday in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Bublé returns during 'difficult' time

Bublé opted for a more serious ode to Canada, praising the country for its diversity and the support it has shown the singer's family in an "emotional and difficult" time.

Bublé stepped away from performing late last year after his son Noah was diagnosed with cancer. He was actually named an honouree in 2016 but was unable to receive it due to family commitments.

He looked emotional while accepting the National Arts Centre award and stressed the importance of family.

The crooner's son has been battling cancer. Bublé was a honouree at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards ceremony 0:27

He said Canada was a land born of Aboriginal people, settlers and immigrants, "different colours, languages, religions. Yet we share the same decent humanity, the same dreams, hopes and fears."

"Our country has a way of making all of us feel that we are completely distinct while in no way giving off an air of superiority."

Fox, the Edmonton-born Emmy winner, credited a particular Canadian talent for kick-starting his interest in acting — Mr. Dressup, a kid's show he grew up watching on CBC.

Governor General David Johnston presents theatre director Brigitte Haentjens with the lifetime artistic achievement (theatre) during the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"Ernie Coombs is as responsible as anyone for my fascination with acting," he said of the actor who played the titular role. "Long before I even heard of Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo, the Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup were teaching me to cherish and honour my own imagination and send me off to school envisioning a world of limitless possibility."     

Fox was honoured with a lifetime artistic achievement in broadcast for his three-decade film and TV career, which includes Family Ties, the Back to the Future trilogy and The Good Wife. He's also an advocate for those living with Parkinson's disease, with which he was diagnosed in 1991.

While accepting his lifetime artistic achievement award at Rideau Hall, the actor called Ernie Coombs one of his biggest early influences 0:30

Fox thanked his family including his sister, Kelli, a fellow actor, as well as some of his high school teachers for believing in his acting aspirations.

"I like to thank Canada for the warm embrace from home."

Awards turn 25 this year

And there's more celebration to come. 

Though the honourees were handed their awards Wednesday, they will be feted again Thursday with a gala at the National Arts Centre, which includes performances and tributes. CBC will live stream the gala Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Governor General David Johnston poses with filmmaker Jean Beaudin, who was awarded a lifetime artistic achievement in film. Johnston called this year's honourees 'true northern lights, shining brightly.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The awards, which turn 25 this year, recognize Canadian artists from a host of disciplines, including classical and popular music, theatre, dance, film and broadcasting.

The ceremony also celebrates arts volunteers and philanthropists with a special prize named after former governor general Ramon John Hnatyshyn, who founded the annual awards in 1992.

The comedian made it clear that Canada's got a lot the U.S. doesn't during his Governor General Performing Arts Award speech 1:27

A newer addition, the award foundation's mentorship program, matches a past lifetime achievement winner with a promising protege. This year's pair were former prima ballerina and National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain and Toronto choreographer and dancer Robert Binet.

CBC will broadcast a condensed hour-long special of the awards Friday at 9 p.m. ET on TV and online.

About the Author

Haydn Watters

Haydn Watters is a Toronto-based journalist. He has also worked for CBC News in Halifax, Yellowknife and at the politics bureau in Ottawa. He is currently based in Barrie, Ont., running a one-person pop-up bureau for CBC.

With files from Jessica Wong