Juno Awards cancelled over coronavirus concerns

The Juno Awards, Canada's most prominent music awards, have been cancelled in the wake of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Festivities had been slated to ramp up in Saskatoon ahead of Sunday's gala

The 2020 Juno Awards were slated to take place in Saskatoon on March 15. (Ryan Bolton)

The Juno Awards, Canada's most prominent music awards, have been cancelled in the wake of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the organization behind the Junos, made the announcement Thursday morning in a joint statement with the City of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan.

"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 said in a 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."

Junos-related events had been slated to kick off in Saskatoon later Thursday in the run-up to Sunday's televised gala at the SaskTel Centre.

Rapid change of plans

The decision to cancel developed quickly overnight. As of Wednesday afternoon, Saskatchewan's chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, had said the province was keeping tabs on various upcoming events, but hadn't advised against the Junos moving forward this weekend.

"Don't go to the show if you're sick," Shahab had noted at a news conference. 

"Even if you have a ticket or you're a celebrity who's come, if you land in Saskatoon and you've got a fever and cough, stay in your hotel."

The decision to proceed earned criticism across social media Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, as myriad Canadian musicians, industry figures and journalists were making their way to Saskatoon.

Among those posting were local doctors, medical workers and health-care advocates, urging Juno organizers, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark to pull the plug on this year's event.

Artist finds out en route to Junos

Veteran reggae artist Jay Douglas, a Juno reggae recording of the year contender for his track Jah Children, learned of the cancellation late Thursday morning while on a flight from Toronto to Saskatoon. He had been dozing mid-flight when his manager woke and informed him. 

'Some good will come out of this:' Jay Douglas on cancelled Juno Awards

4 years ago
Duration 0:41
Featured VideoThe veteran reggae artist, who learned of the 2020 Juno Awards cancellation while travelling to Saskatoon, took the news in stride.

Though surprised, the Toronto-based entertainer took the news in stride and expressed optimism about the overall situation.

"We're living in a great country," Douglas told CBC News. "We have to all come together and deal with these forces in a positive way. Yes, I was looking forward to having some fun this weekend. We'll still have fun, but everything is everything. Some good will come out of this at the end of the day."

Pop singer-songwriter Alessia Cara, who was slated to host Sunday's broadcast gala, expressed disappointment about the cancellation on social media, saying she learned the show "couldn't move forward" upon landing in Sakatoon Wednesday night. 

"But it wouldn't be safe of smart to put thousands of people in an arena right now. Everyone's health and safety comes first and it's just too risky at the moment," she wrote.

CBC, the broadcast partner of the Juno Awards, "shares in the disappointment this year's celebrations have been cancelled," Chuck Thompson, CBC's head of public affairs, said in a statement.

"While it's certainly not the outcome anyone wanted, we fully support and respect the decision CARAS and the various levels of government in Saskatchewan have made. We know the decision was rooted solely in the interests of the health and well-being of everyone involved." 

Cancellations, postponements abound

In the past few weeks, a growing number of conferences, festivals, major movie premieres, concert tours, trade shows and other entertainment industry gatherings have been cancelled or postponed as countries around the world report rising numbers of people testing positive for the new coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially labelled the outbreak a pandemic. As of Thursday morning, there were more than 120 presumptive and confirmed cases reported in Canada, with one death. 

For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for seniors and those with underlying health issues, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover — people with mild illness in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks, according to WHO.

With files from The Associated Press