Sometimes, the words that have the most impact over the course of a week are inspiring. Sometimes they’re bold. Sometimes they’re hilarious. This past week, unfortunately, the words that grabbed the attention of Canadians the most were offensive, tone-deaf, and disappointing.
The Juno Awards are Canada’s largest annual celebration of our musicians and the robust industry that supports them. The broadcast edition sees Juno Week’s biggest prizes doled out live in front of thousands of fans attending the show, and in front of thousands of more watching from home.
This year, to oversee the big show, the Juno’s paired two of Canada’s most internationally well-known giants of entertainment to co-host – musician Bryan Adams and comedian Russell Peters. On paper, it was a great decision, and it all should have gone pretty close to perfectly. It didn’t.
Looking out at the crowd gathered in front of him as he first took the stage to kick-off the show, Peters began by exclaiming, “Look at all the young girls! This is a felony waiting to happen!” The inexplicable comment justifiably set a slack-jawed Twitter ablaze, and things didn’t get much better from there.
Still behind the mic, Peters gave Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly a nod by claiming he wasn’t sure why she was at the Juno’s, “but she’s hot, so who cares!” (For the record, she was there to present singer Ruth B with her Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award.) Again, Twitter groaned.
It later came to light that Peters’ began his off-colour jabs even before the Junos even went to air, when video from ET Canada had captured the comedian on the red carpet, posing with a male and female Mountie. “I’m only mounting one of you,” he said to them both, before turning to the male and quipping, “It’s not you.”
For the host of an early-evening family broadcast to so repeatedly miss the mark when it comes to respecting his audience as a whole and when it comes to respecting girls and women in particular, was, to put it bluntly, inexcusable. It also begs the question as to how much Junos organizers were aware he might “push the boundaries” and how much he’d been warned – if at all – prior to the show to pick his “jokes” carefully.
The fiasco ended up inciting Allan Reid, head of the Junos, to in fact declare that the Junos did not “in any way support, nor did we sanction, the off-script remarks.” Taking them at their word, it’s clear that Peters created this situation all by himself.
For turning the clocks back at least twenty years, we chose Russell Peters as our Speak of the Week.