TORONTO – The head of the Juno Awards is apologizing for comments that co-host Russell Peters made during Sunday’s telecast.
In a statement, Allan Reid distanced himself and Juno organizers from jokes that have been criticized for sexualizing women.
The comedian opened the show with a monologue that referenced young girls in the audience as a “felony waiting to happen.”
Peters also jokingly questioned why Heritage Minister Melanie Joly was handing out an award, but added that it didn’t matter because “she’s hot, so who cares?”
Reid, who is also president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said the Junos do not “in any way support, nor did we sanction, the off-script remarks.”
On Monday, Joly called the jokes inappropriate.
Others weighed in through Twitter, including a user with the handle Raging_Fem who wrote: “Leave it to (Russell Peters) to remind young women that they can be victims of sexual assault at any time.”
While Peters did not respond to requests for comment, his Twitter account has “liked” tweets from other users who defended him. A “like” for a tweet usually is a sign of supporting that message.
Among tweets liked by Peters’ account was one from a user named LeafsOriginal6 who wrote: “Problem now in the world you say something no one likes and everyone wants your career to end.”
Added user HinaTweetsNow: “I actually thought his joke was pretty funny, because young women DO get assaulted at big events like (the) Junos. Comedy (with) truth is funny IMO (in my opinion).”
For Junos organizers, Peters’ jokes come amid broader pressure over gender diversity.
Before Sunday’s big show the Junos were grappling with complaints over a lack of female representation among this year’s nominees, particularly in technical categories such as producer.
Artists including Amy Millan, a member of Broken Social Scene and of Stars, and pop duo Tegan and Sara have called on the organization to better diversify its nominees, and encourage more young women to enter the industry.
“CARAS and our charitable arm MusiCounts conduct significant efforts to engage and support women, particularly funding initiatives for girls in school and community music programs,” Reid said in his statement.
“While we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done in these areas, we firmly believe the first step is empowering females. CARAS, the Juno Awards, and myself, deeply apologize for the upset this has caused. This incident is not reflective of any views held in our organization.”