Canadian stars stage tsunami benefit
TORONTO (CP) – The cream of Canadian show business, the arts and sports assembled at the CBC broadcasting centre Thursday evening to take part in Canada For Asia, a three-hour, history-making live telecast in support of relief efforts for the tsunami victims of South Asia.
Only a week earlier the entertainment extravaganza, carried on all the CBC channels and a collection of private radio and TV stations, was just an idea in the heads of its organizers, including singer Tom Cochrane, MP Ruby Dhalla, Senator Jerry Grafstein and a coalition of major relief agencies.
Grafstein said that to be present at the creation of the event has been a shining moment and one of the great human experiences of his life.
“Tonight we’re listening to the words and music of Canada and I think if you listen really carefully, we’re really listening to the heartbeat of Canada.”
Cochrane said he was so impressed with the energy backstage.
“We do have to make a stand as a community of celebrities, our small little niche of it anyways,” Cochrane said. “In essence we have to be leaders. . .I’m very proud to be a Canadian and I’m proud about how generous you all are.”
There were poignant moments, including on-the-scene reports from CBC correspondents in the disaster area. But it was all laced with humour. In one sketch, the Trailer Park Boys talked about the money they could raise by selling their home-grown pot to the celebrities backstage, suggesting that Don Cherry already bought $400 worth.
Opening the show, co-host Rick Mercer joked about how crowded it was backstage with all the celebrities present.
“Margaret Atwood is sharing a dressing room with Tie Domi tonight. The Kids in the Hall are actually out in the hall.”
In a taped contribution, Prime Minister Paul Martin said all Canadians have been touched by the loss and devastation in South Asia and have demonstrated a remarkable generosity of spirit and solidarity over the past two weeks.
“I’ve spoken with the agencies on the ground, and with the leaders of some of the affected nations. They’re grateful. They are moved.”
Martin encouraged Canadians to continue to give because a long-term commitment to rebuilding in the devastated regions was required.
“We can’t walk away from these people and we won’t.”
In another pre-recorded segment, Mike Myers introduced the rock band Rush.
“I just wanted to say how proud I am to be a part of this event,” Myers said with uncharacteristic seriousness. “I also want to say how much of a Rush fan I am. . .they are an amazing band.”
One of the evening’s highlights occurred when the program switched to Las Vegas and a lavish production number from Celine Dion’s stage show.
“Everyone here in Las Vegas is supporting us,” Dion said as the camera switched to her applauding audience.
“Like everyone, my heart has been broken by the pain and by the loss and suffering of so many,” she said with emotion. “But the world is answering the call. Everyone wants to help. And tonight is your chance.”
She repeated her remarks in French.
Hilary Duff, the American teen sensation who is currently on a Canadian tour, also made a recorded contribution.
“Every time I’ve been in Canada, I’ve been knocked out by the kindness of the people from coast to coast,” she said. “And tonight the world community is depending on that kindness to help rebuild the 12 countries devastated by the recent tragedy.”
Writer June Callwood noted that there has been a lot to be upset about lately – including “slaughter in the Middle East,” environmental troubles and millions dying of AIDS.
But the response to the tsunami has been encouraging, she said.
“We got something that touched us all, and we rose to the occasion.”
While no one wanted to set a donation target, Grafstein said they would have a tally Friday. He said, too, that a CD and possibly a DVD of the benefit was planned to raise even more money, since all the contributing artists agreed to waive rights issues.
Viewer donations would be shared by such agencies as World Vision, the Canadian Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam, Care, Save the Children and various groups recognized by CIDA.
Some 1,800 volunteers agreed to staff 1-800 call centres. The number appeared at the bottom of the screen throughout the telecast along with the website www.Canadaforasia.ca.
Well done to one and all!
Canadian stars stage tsunami benefit