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- Posted on Jan 23rd 2010 1:30PM by Jonathan Dekel
Lacking some of the glitz and polish of its American counterpart, the extraordinary event still boasted several big Canadian celebrities. Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Will Arnett and movie directors Jason Reitman and James Cameron made their pleas via pre-recorded message while pop star Nelly Furtado, indie director Adam Egoyan, actress Rachel McAdams and rock legend Geddy Lee from Rush were in studio to lend their support.
"Whenever something like this happens, celebrities are always phoned and it's kind of a no-brainer really," Lee told Spinner before the broadcast. "It's not hard to come out and show your smiling face and if it encourages one more person to phone, it's worth it."
Egoyan pointed out to Spinner that "Canada has a huge Haitian population and, as Canadians, we have the right and responsibility to support our fellow citizens and their families. This is an urgent cause. The more attention that's placed on Haiti right now, the more people will collectively try and follow how this country is going to rebuild."
Held at the CBC studios, the broadcast had a feel akin to a community gathering. Celebrities milled about as the hosts intermingled, speaking directly to the camera, sporadically interviewing the guests while reminding viewers to call in -- even if the line was busy.
As well as moving reports from several journalists stationed in Haiti, the night also boasted stripped-down musical performances from Nelly Furtado and the Tragically Hip as well as Somalia-born conscious rapper K'naan and indie darlings Metric, whose inclusion was so last-minute that lead singer Emily Haines only found out about it less than 12 hours earlier.
"I got a text from [Canada for Haiti Host] George Stroumboulopoulos a couple nights ago asking if we would play," recalled guitarist Jimmy Shaw. "After not having seen Emily for about a month and knowing she's halfway around the world and on her way back [to Toronto], I was put in a weird position to have to say yes without Emily's approval.
"When she got off the plane last night I told her, 'You're gonna have a hell of a day tomorrow.'"
Despite the lack of preparation, the duo's acoustic performance of hit single 'Help, I'm Alive' was the musical highlight of the evening which also saw the Tragically Hip cover their 'Road Apples' classic 'Fiddler's Green.'
"It was a fairly obvious choice," Haines said about her band's song selection. "Lyrically, it's so fitting and appropriate to these set of circumstances."
The evening's festivities raised money over 9 million dollars, all of which -- as Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced early in the telecast -- the Canadian federal government will match.
Donations are still being accepted and matched via the Canada for Haiti website or call 1-877-51-HAITI (42484). Please donate.