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Talk receives his award for breakthrough artist of the year at the Juno awards, in Halifax on March 24.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Nelly Furtado flew through this year’s Juno Awards with gusto as Charlotte Cardin, Talk and the Beaches landed wins during an evening full of surprises and breakthroughs.

One of them was a Juno picked up by Karan Aujla who sailed to a fan choice win Sunday on the growing popularity of Punjabi-Canadian music.

“This is definitely a first one, but not the last one,” the singer proclaimed while clutching the prize voted on by viewers.

“Sometimes I just can’t believe I’m the same kid that lost his parents when he was in India, made my way out to Canada, this beautiful country and today I’m here.”

“If you are dreaming, make sure you dream big.”

Another big surprise of the night came when Anne Murray walked onto the stage to give viewers a hearty East Coast welcome to kick off the show.

The Springhill, N.S.-born singer, who also holds a record 25 Juno wins, was met with a rousing cheer from the crowd inside Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre.

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Anne Murray is escorted on stage by Odario Williams at the Juno awards, in Halifax, Sunday, March 24, 2024.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

“Seeing that I’m a Nova Scotian who lives just up the street, the producers thought I’d be just the person to welcome you to Halifax,” Murray said with a smirk on Sunday’s CBC broadcast.

“So here I am. And welcome to Halifax.”

Murray then presented the first award of the evening, giving Toronto band the Beaches the group of the year prize.

It was the second win for the female four-piece act, after they picked up rock album of the year at a Saturday pre-telecast ceremony. They excitedly embraced and encouraged other young women to start bands with their friends.

Other winners included Montreal singer-songwriter Charlotte Cardin whose “99 Nights” scored album of the year. It was her second win for the record after she landed pop album of the year during the pre-telecast.

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Charlotte Cardin performs at the Juno awards.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Ottawa-raised singer Talk won breakthrough artist for his incredible rise on the back of the single “Run Away to Mars.”

Backstage, some musicians waded into several political conversations of the moment.

Musician Jeremy Dutcher was dressed head-to-toe in Indigenous designers while sporting a decorative necklace emblazoned with “Cease Fire Now,” in recognition of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“I thought we might not need it by now,” he explained of the message while clutching it in his hands.

Pop sisters Tegan and Sara, who received the humanitarian award for their work with LGBTQ+ youth, spoke of the recent “anti-transgender legislation” introduced in Alberta and New Brunswick.

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Tegan and Sara accept the humanitarian award at the Juno awards.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Tegan Quin described it as a “movement against trans youth and the Conservative government putting their nose where it doesn’t belong”

“We shouldn’t be complacent,” she said.

“We should step up.... I also think we have a voice to remind our government we should be focused on more important things like climate change, the fentanyl crisis, the housing crisis.”

Allison Russell suggested there is hope in these dark times and that musicians are part of the solution.

“There’s only one tactic of all fascism, of all bigotry ... and it’s divide and conquer,” she said.

“Hope is a practice and it requires community.”

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(L-R) William Prince, Julian Taylor, Allison Russell, Aysanabee, Shawnee Kish and Logan Staats perform onstage during the JUNO Awards at Scotiabank Centre.Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The CBC telecast included an in memoriam tribute to Gordon Lightfoot, Robbie Robertson and Karl Tremblay, the lead singer of Quebec’s Les Cowboys Fringants, featuring a group of contemporary Canadian music favourites.

Russell and Aysanabee were joined by pianist Alexandra Streliski in a performance that expanded to include several more musicians, including Logan Staats, Shawnee Kish, Julian Taylor and William Prince.

“We love you Robbie, we love you Gordon,” Russell said in closing.

Other Canadian talent picked up multiple awards at a non-televised awards gala on Saturday. Rapper Tobi, alternative singer Aysanabee and pop star Tate McRae each won two awards for their work.

List of major Juno Award winners

Group of the Year: The Beaches

Album of the Year: “99 Nights” by Charlotte Cardin

Breakthrough Artist of the Year: Talk

Humanitarian Award: Tegan and Sara

Canadian Music Hall of Fame: Maestro Fresh Wes

Fan Choice Award: Karan Aujla

With a report from The Canadian Press

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