The late Stompin' Tom Connors made Junos history in 1978 by returning six of his Juno awards to protest that the honours were given to Canadian artists who don't even live in Canada.
Before he died in March, Connors left instructions that the Junos were not to celebrate him after his death and the family let organizers know, cutting off plans to honour the popular star.
The Junos traditionally honour Canadians who have died in the past year.
Connor's gesture 35 years ago made very little difference. When the Juno Awards are given out over the weekend in Regina, the lion’s share of the attention will go to artists such as Michael Bublé and Justin Bieber who are international stars.
To attract publicity to awards, the Canadian Recording Academy regularly honours superstars who haven't lived in Canada for years — like Céline Dion and Leonard Cohen, both nominated this year for the Fan Choice Award.
“Sooner or later, the Canadian artists who stay home inevitably don't get rewarded or awarded because the international...those who become international names, automatically get the nod, and I think that's a pity because there are so many great Canadian artists but it's also a reality,” says Connors’ publicist Richard Flohil.
And because part of the nomination process is dependent on record sales, the artists stepping onto an international stage, such as multiple nominee Carly Rae Jepsen, have an advantage over those who are trying to make their careers solely in Canada.
A nomination for categories such as album of the year or artist of the year is determined in part by CD sales, digital sales and other commercial markers, while a judging panel makes the picks in the genre-specific categories such jazz, classical or folk.
Stompin’ Tom’s protest still resonates for some artists, who argue the Junos are not truly about Canadian music. Connors made his living in Canada, singing songs about Canadian towns and Canadian lives.
But many young artists say music is increasingly borderless as the internet allows them to reach out to fans anywhere in the world.
Internet sensations Walk Off the Earth, nominated for two Junos this year, made their name with a YouTube video showing all five of them playing one guitar on a version of Somebody That I Used to Know, a song by an Australian artist. The Burlington, Ont., band became known internationally with that one video.
Cold Specks is a London, U.K.-based band led by Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx, the pseudonym of a Canadian singer-songwriter based in London, England.
And artists such as Bieber began their career in Canada long before he was international property.
The Juno Awards for Canadian music are given out Saturday and Sunday night in Regina.