04/02/2017 10:09 EDT | Updated 04/03/2017 12:41 EDT

2017 Junos: Leonard Cohen, Gord Downie Wins Among Night's Top Moments

Canada's music icons and a prime minister in the mix.

OTTAWA — Bryan Adams and comedian Russell Peters kicked off the Juno Awards on Sunday night with a little help from Justin Trudeau.

The show opened with a skit set backstage and Peters being waved into Adams's green room. An incredulous Peters is told Adams is on the phone with the prime minister and the rock star exclaims: "I'm Bryan (expletive) Adams."

The scene ended with Trudeau requesting that Adams play "Summer of '69" on the show.

"I love that song," the prime minister proclaimed.

Peters followed with a somewhat off-colour opening monologue in which he proclaimed the audience of young girls was a "felony waiting to happen," and gave a shout out to Canada's sesquicentennial, calling the country "still sexy at 150."

"The United States is 241 and they're aging horribly — especially since January," Peters said, in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration. "It's almost like the U.S. has a really bad spray tan all over it."

Peters also joked about the Canadian musical superstars who weren't in attendance.

"Drake is on tour," Peters noted, to groans from the audience. "The Weeknd is dating (Justin) Bieber's ex, and the Biebs is in Brazil, probably punching a fan right now."

Comedian Russell Peters performs at the 2017 Juno Awards in Ottawa, Ontario.

Peters adopted a more serious tone for a moment to recognize that he was subbing in for Michael Bublé, who bowed out of hosting duties last month to care for his young son Noah, who's fighting cancer.

"My thoughts are with you Mikey and I love you buddy," Peters said.

The awards show was expected to have a certain tinge of sadness.

Among the artists in the running this year were the late Leonard Cohen, who won album of the year, and singer Gord Downie, who won the songwriter of the year Juno for his "Secret Path" solo project, which recounts the life of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from a residential school. "Secret Path" also won the best adult alternative album and recording package of the year awards.

"Thank you for stepping into the wind, for following the sound you've been sort of hearing your entire life. For looking to see what has been bothering you a little bit," Downie said in a pre-recorded acceptance speech for the songwriter award.

"For recognizing that we're not completely Canada yet. For seeing we have friends, our fellow countrymen and women, who are in big trouble. For recognizing our friends who were here before us, at least for thousands of years.

"First Nations have many, many stories like this one,'' he said in reference to Chanie's story. "My dream would be that this record with Jeff Lemire's drawings might help people. Might give teachers something to help teach our young ones."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau pay tribute to the late musician Lenoard Cohen.

Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau introduced a tribute to Cohen, who the prime minister called "one of the greatest artists Canada has ever produced."

"If you are a Canadian or even more so a Montrealer you grew up listening to Leonard," Trudeau said.

He recalled a moment he shared with Cohen after the death of his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in 2000.

"I remember a gathering the night before the funeral ... I remember walking up to him and giving him a hug. That was the night I learned Leonard — a great man — but not a big hugger," he joked.

Backed by a slideshow of black-and-white photos of Cohen and accompanied by two other singers, Feist performed a cover of his song "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye."

"The wealth of his work is so deep," the singer, born Leslie Feist, said on the red carpet before the show. "It came from, I felt, a really rich inner-life."

She said she scoured YouTube videos of Cohen's public speeches to better understand him and translate it into her performance.

"He had what I always felt to be a real potent privacy I admire," she added.

"I didn't want a jamboree. To keep it as simple and spare as possible would be suitable."

The show's opening also included Buffy Sainte-Marie introducing a performance from electronic group A Tribe Called Red and throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

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