Bruce Cockburn Receives Award at Junos
and Speaks His Mind

FTLComm - Toronto March 5, 2001

No one either in the auditorium or watching at home on television was surprised Sunday night when the outspoken and highly respected Ontario folk song singer and writer Bruce Cockburn was presented a life achievement award and used that opportunity to take a strip off the Canadian establishment.

Cockburn who has championed many causes in his carrier including
Ontario farmers and their plight is well known both in his
music and various public statements that identify basic Canadian values and condemns the trends that we and many others have also voiced our concern. During his acceptance speech he leveled criticism at "Globalisation" and clearly made it known that he is not pleased with the direction he sees things going.

He said that he has through his songs spoken out on major important issues and he will continue to do so. Perhaps the most important statement he made was that he loved his work and he loved Canadians and would continue to fulfill his role as a responsible artist in his society.

The most remarkable thing about the well crafted and clearly political speech was that no effort was made by the organisers of the Juno awards to cut him off in any way. IN the past American award shows have taken a number of
measures to prevent artists from expressing themselves
during acceptance speeches from playing music over their comments to cutting to commercials and after Marlon Brando's triad at one Oscar evening the American Academy of Arts issued stern warning to all performers about voicing similar views at award acceptance speeches in the future.

But this is Canada and Bruce Cockburn was receiving his award for the very thing he was talking about. Not only was Cockburn able to voice his comments but he was presented the award by two equally outspoken Canadians, David Suzuki, who was fired from the faculty of UBC for his political statements and by Gordon Lightfoot who with Ann Murray virtually established the Canadian music industry when the CRTC instituted Canadian content rules when Juno was the chairman of the CRTC.
Cockburn's statement was powerful and articulate and
clearly not the sort of thing one would expect to hear at an entertainment awards show. But even though his speech pointed stern condemnation of both governmental and economic conditions in Canada it is interesting that no mention was made of his comments in news reports of the Juno awards. CBC radio did mention that he had received the award but did not say anything about the nature and content of his controversial speech.

During Cockburn's speech there were repeated shouts from the audience showing both approval and echoing similar sentiments. The CBC video crew broadcasting the show picked up on the strength and importance of the event by showing positive responses from the audience as clearly the producer and director of the show realised they were seeing
and broadcasting an important significant turn of events
in Canadian awareness.

The audience responded with a lengthy round of applause and a standing ovation, not uncommon for an entertainer who has made such a contribution to the Canadian music scene but most uncommon for a political speech at an entertainment event.

Perhaps the most interesting reaction came in the form of the images below. Brian Tobin, whom many believe is destine to become Canada's next prime minister was picked out by the CBC video crew as the political statements issued forth and recorded his response and you can see in the picture on the right that he is among the first to stand and recognise Bruce Cockburn. Of course in a public
situation the sharp witted Tobin knows how to react in keeping with the mood of the crowd about him but the importance of these pictures was the presence of mind in the control booth to get that camera on the politician capturing his reactions to attacks on free trade and other prominent government policies. Perhaps there is hope for Canadians yet.