These are trying times for Canada, but we’re all in this together and hope is on the horizon.
Such was the message of Sunday’s Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble, a star-studded show of support for those on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.
A who’s who of Canadian artists, athletes, authors, activists and even astronauts appeared from their respective locations during the 90-minute broadcast benefit, which English and French Canadian broadcasters aired on dozens of TV, streaming and radio platforms.
Billed as the largest single-show broadcast in Canadian history, it was centred around a $150-million fundraising campaign for Food Banks Canada, which has seen an increase in the amount of people using their services during the pandemic.
Canadian rocker Sam Roberts kicked off the show with an uplifting at-home acoustic rendition of his 2014 single We’re All In This Together, performed with three kids by his side playing music.
Political satirist Rick Mercer then appeared, saying: “This is a very difficult time for our country. Every single one of us are separated from people we love.”
He also said Canadians’ “hearts are broken for the people of Nova Scotia,” which is reeling from a recent shooting rampage.
WATCH | Musical artists perform an ensemble tribute to the late Bill Withers with this rendition of Lean on Me.
Singer Anne Murray later addressed the province she calls home.
“To the family, friends and communities of those affected, we want you to know that we are grieving with you and we send prayers for courage and strength as you try to make sense of this horrific tragedy,” Murray said before introducing Voices Rock Medicine, a choir of female physicians.
A staggering number of celebrities were a part of the special, encouraging Canadians to stay home, stay strong, and support front-line workers as well as Food Banks Canada.
Front-line workers and Canadians who have survived coronavirus also appeared to tell their stories.
Pop superstar Celine Dion addressed viewers in French and English, praising the “heroes out there around the world who are going to work every single day.”
Other artists in the lineup who either performed or spoke included Michael Buble with Barenaked Ladies, Geddy Lee, Robbie Robertson, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, David Foster, Alessia Cara, Tom Cochrane, Jann Arden, Sarah McLachlan, Bryan Adams, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Justin Bieber and Shania Twain, who started off an acoustic version of her hit Up! with the words “Coronavirus bugging me.”
Comedy stars Ryan Reynolds, Mike Myers, Howie Mandel, Will Arnett and Amy Poehler provided moments of levity.
“It’s Sunday night and today marks the 10-year anniversary of the quarantine we’ve been on for the last six weeks,” said Reynolds.
“I’m wearing a Mountie hat not only because I’m proud of Canada, but because I have a quarantine haircut that looks like it was done with a knife and fork,” said Myers.
Arnett declared he hasn’t “taken a shower in about a month, not that that matters,” to which Poehler — his ex who was in the same room — quipped: “But actually it kind of does, Will.”
Other celebrities included Margaret Atwood, Geddy Lee, Daniel and Eugene Levy, and Catherine O’Hara.
Bieber, Buble, Avril Lavigne and several other musicians also collaborated on a rendition of Lean on Me by Bill Withers, who died last month.
Toronto-raised actor-musician Kiefer Sutherland mentioned his late grandfather Tommy Douglas, who was known as the founder of medicare, in his salute to front line health-care workers.
Toronto rapper Drake — appearing after a brief comment from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — closed out the show by sending a message of encouragement for those struggling.
“I actually ended up in a hospital the other day due to a foot injury, and just to see the morale, the smiles, the high spirits on everyone’s face that I got to encounter in that situation despite everything going on,” he said.
“It’s just incredible to see people who have to leave their families every day and go to work amidst this crisis, as dangerous as this is, just really the glue holding us all together. So thank you, thank you very much for that.”