Juno Awards postpone 50th anniversary show date to June 6 amid COVID-19 pandemic

By David Friend
The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Organizers of the Juno Awards say they’re postponing this year’s 50th anniversary show in Toronto until June 6 as COVID-19 cases rage.

It’s the second time the country’s biggest night in music has been pushed this year as the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences contends with ever-changing Ontario rules meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Already the annual celebration had been moved to May 16 from an originally planned date in mid-March under hopes that warmer weather might allow some performances to be held outdoors with safety efforts in place.

However, the province has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases more recently, with a larger proportion coming from more contagious variants that led to more hospitalizations and pushed the province to issue stay-at-home orders.

The latest Junos delay was made “out of an abundance of caution in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic,” CARAS said Wednesday in a statement.

Juno Awards head Allan Reid declined an interview request.

Complicating matters is the award show’s role in supporting Canada’s music industry, which is caught in the middle of Ontario COVID-19 guidelines that favour film and TV productions over streaming concerts.

Earlier this month, several Ontario concert venue owners called on Premier Doug Ford’s government to offer more transparency around why his “emergency brake” plan outlawed live streaming concerts at local venues while film and TV shoots could continue to move ahead with COVID-19 protocols.

As a nationally televised broadcast put on by Insight Productions, the Juno Awards would likely qualify under Ford’s current COVID-19 production rules. But on the other hand, the show would be packed with live performances from the very industry that’s being prevented from streaming in small concert venues.

The Junos organizers had hoped to stage some of the music moments inside prominent local venues, including Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern, a move that blurred the lines between TV production and live streaming rules even further.

This year’s Junos was originally set to be a splashy event with some of the country’s biggest stars in attendance, but organizers have been forced to rein in expectations over the past year as the reality of COVID-19 made some of their ideas impossible.

The Weeknd leads the 2021 Junos with six nominations while Toronto pop singer/songwriter JP Saxe, Justin Bieber and Jessie Reyez all have five nods.

Details on performers, presenters and Juno Week virtual events will be revealed in the coming weeks, CARAs said.