US & World

If Australia can be at Eurovision, why not Canada?


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Ryan Reynolds has a bone to pick with the Eurovision Song Contest – if Australia can compete, why can’t Canada?

Canadians are feeling a serious case of Fomo (fear of missing out) as millions of people around the world tune into the Eurovision Song Contest.

The immensely popular international singing competition features contestants from 43 countries – but not Canada.

Despite producing plenty of international pop stars – Bryan Adams, Shawn Mendes and Celine Dion – the country has never been invited to compete.

Now if there is one thing Canadians truly hate, it is getting left out of things.

Just try bringing up the UN’s National Security Council at a dinner party and watch your Canadian friend turn as red as the maple leaf flag. Getting left out of Eurovision while Australia – Australia! – is allowed to perform is an insult too great to bear.

The oversight was even mentioned by Canada’s official ambassador of handsomeness, Ryan Reynolds, who tweeted a video featuring his character Deadpool warning Europe that it had “awakened a sleeping moose”.

What’s the big deal about Eurovision anyway?

The Eurovision Song Contest is a global television phenomenon – about 180 million viewers tuned in last year. More are expected to watch this year’s final. But the show is more than just a singing contest, says BBC journalist and the founder of Eurovision news site Wiwibloggs, William Lee Adams- it’s an exercise in nation-building.

“This has the nationalism of the United Nations with the fervour of the Olympic Games and the glitter and sequins of a beauty pageant,” he says.

That means that contestants are judged not only on their singing ability and the spectacle of their performance, but on the message behind their music.

“You can’t separate politics and performance, because it’s inherently political,” he says.

The political undertones of the contest occasionally take centre stage, as they did in 2016-2017 during the conflict over the Russian annexation of Crimea.

In 2016, Ukraine caused a stir with its fiercely political entry, called 1944. The song performed by Crimean singer Jamala was ostensibly about the expulsion of the Tartars from Crimea by Joseph Stalin, but many read it as an allegory for Ukraine’s present-day conflict with Russia.

The song went on to win the contest. The next year, Russia withdrew from the competition after its singer, Julia Samoylova, was told she could not enter the Ukraine, which as the previous year’s winner, was hosting the ceremony.

Samoylova was barred from the country because she had illegally entered Crimea to perform a concert, and many interpreted Russia’s decision to make her their singer as a political statement.

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Media captionSinger Jessica Mauboy explains why Australia is competing

Why wasn’t Canada invited?

There are a number of explanations for why Canada does not compete in Eurovision.

One reason could be because it is not an active member of the European Broadcasting Union, which organises the competition and creates the rules.

Until 2015, participants had to be active members of the broadcasting union, which includes Europe and several countries in northern Africa and the Middle East.

But in 2015, the EBU made an exception by inviting Australia to compete. So why not Canada too?

Like Australia, Canada is a member of the Commonwealth with a large European diaspora. But those ties to Europe are likely to be overshadowed by its relationship with its southern neighbour, Adams says.

“I think Canada is often seen as an extension of the United States,” he says.

Another possible reason why Canada wasn’t invited is simple – perhaps Canada just isn’t interested.

Australians are obsessed with Eurovision, and it has been broadcast there for decades. About 500,000 Australians tuned in last year to watch the final.

“Australia is geographically isolated and they really love to participate in international events to kind of feel that connection to their roots,” Adams says.

In Canada the contest was only broadcast on television twice, in 2014 and 2015, on a speciality channel.

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Media captionNetta Barzilai, whose song TOY has racked up millions of views on YouTube, is representing Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest

But perhaps the real reason Canada wasn’t invited, Canadian conspiracy theorists like to muse, is because Europe is afraid of being outshone by a bunch of hockey-loving, beer-drinking “hosers”.

With rising Canadian pop stars like Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara getting international airplay, it’s easy to imagine Canada winning the final.

Adams says dislike of outsiders has hurt Australia in the past. Winners’ scores are based both on the input from judges, who are part of the music industry, as well as the general public. While Australia has typically scored well with judges, the public is not as keen.

“There’s a bias against Australia,” he says. “Canada would be confronted with the same issue.”

How could Canada get involved?

Just because Canada hasn’t had a national entry does not mean it has sat on the sidelines. Canadian singers have entered the competition five times through the years for other countries, including one glorious win.

In 1988, Celine Dion – then unknown outside Canada – represented Switzerland at Eurovision and won the whole contest with her song Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi.

The EBU was in talks with Canada and the US to create a spin-off of the contest for North America in the mid-2000s, but the idea was eventually scrapped.

Will watching its Commonwealth cousin Australia compete inspire Canadians to demand a seat at the table?

If yes, Europe better watch out.



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