'Continue to persist': Musicians get political at early Junos ceremony

Michael Bublé, A Tribe Called Red and Diana Krall were among early Juno winners at a private industry ceremony Saturday night in Vancouver that called for gender parity, Indigenous advocacy and American gun control.

Arcade Fire, Gord Downie's brothers among those who used speeches as call to action

Montreal-based rockers Arcade Fire said onstage they support the rallies for U.S. gun control and that Canada is a 'beautiful example.' (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Michael Bublé, A Tribe Called Red and Diana Krall were among early Juno winners at a private industry ceremony Saturday evening in Vancouver that included talk of gender parity, gun control and Indigenous issues.

Thirty six Juno Awards were handed out to Canadian musicians ahead of the main show Sunday.

Bublé took home adult contemporary album of the year, A Tribe Called Red won group of the year and Krall won producer of the year and vocal jazz album of the year for Turn Up The Quiet. Lights scored pop album of the year for Skin & Earth.

Diana Krall won producer of the year and vocal jazz album of the year at the pre-televised Juno Awards ceremony on Saturday in Vancouver. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Battling gender stereotypes

The Beaches — an all-female Toronto band — took home breakthrough group of the year.

Backstage, members said they battled stereotypes when they first started performing.

"People assumed we were fans, but we were headlining. That doesn't happen anymore, which is cool," said guitarist Kylie Miller.

The Beaches won breakthrough group of the year. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Family accepts award for Gord Downie

Gord Downie, the late Tragically Hip frontman, won adult alternative album of the year posthumously and also shared songwriter of the year with Kevin Drew. His brothers, Patrick and Mike, accepted the award, advocating for more attention on Indigenous rights and issues facing the population.

"I can feel it, this country is changing," said Mike Downie. "And it's changing for the better."

They also told media backstage that there's "stuff still to come" from Gord Downie's musical offerings.

"There's a lot of material that he was doing all along, a lot of material he created after he found out he was going to die and there's a lot of archival material," said Pat Downie.

Patrick Downie, left, and Mike Downie, right, accepted posthumous awards on behalf of their brother, late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

High achievers

A number of achievement awards were also handed out, including to Grammy-winning rock band Arcade Fire.

Régine Chassagne paid tribute to the group's home base of Montreal, while her husband, Win Butler, acknowledged the student-led protests Saturday which took place across the U.S. and elsewhere calling for gun control.

"I just want to give a shoutout to our brothers and sisters down south," Butler said onstage. "Canada is just such a beautiful example of how it doesn't have to be like that."

He added backstage about the rallies: "I hope that we can continue to persist."

Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and Denise Donlon, who began on-air as a MuchMusic TV personality before becoming the first female president of Sony Music Canada, also received awards.

Donlon said she's only the second woman in 35 years to win the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, but added backstage that it feels like "we're starting to move the needle."

Philanthropist and music industry heavyweight Gary Slaight received a humanitarian award and standing ovation. 

Philanthropist Gary Slaight received a humanitarian award. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Backstage drama

Rapper k-os was supposed to present the award to Slaight alongside Kim Stockwood but was late to the stage.

As he was racing to make his slot and possibly ignored protocol, CBC radio host Grant Lawrence tweeted from the gala that the musician was "dive tackled by three security guards as he sprinted full speed to the stage."

The top Juno awards will be presented Sunday during a live broadcast hosted by Bublé​ on CBC-TV, CBC Radio One and CBC Music beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. It will also be livestreamed at

With files from Laura Thompson