What does Canada have to do with the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), the TV event that Europeans have either loved or hated for the past 5 decades?
- Canadian Celine Dion won the competition in 1988, singing Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi for Switzerland.
- Canadian Natasha St Pier, born in New Brunswick, came fourth in the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest singing Je n'ai que mon âme for France.
- Thanks to the international platform provided by the Eurovision Song Contest, many of the acts follow the contest with concert tours that include Canadian concert and festival dates.
- Beyond performers, other talent, including song-writers and presenters (the 2011 co-host, Anke Engelke was born in Montreal) have Canadian roots.
- As an associate member of the European Broadcasting Union (the organizers of the Contest), Canada's CBC could broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest, and the programme has been shown in Canada in the past.
Eurovision Canada co-founder Kevin Bourassa first began watching the Eurovision Song Contest as a boy in 1974 when he lived in Germany. He moved to Canada in 1976 where he became a music journalist and broadcaster in Toronto. In this role, he thought he had his last encounter with the Contest in 1977 when he was sent a new album by a former winner of the contest: Brotherhood of Man's Images. The album gathered dust and went unreviewed while memories of Eurovision faded into the past.
Kevin met his spouse, Eurovision Canada co-founder Joe Varnell in 1997. The pair married in 2001 in a ceremony that was reported in news around the world, launching a legal battle and advocacy campaign that would see the couple become advocates for equal marriage, speaking and writing for audiences in Europe and North America. The couple's legal battles ended in 2003, when the Court delcared their 2001 marriage to be legal.
During this stressful time, Joe had begun to explore music that was available online. He approached Kevin with some songs he had found from the 2003 Contest, not knowing of Kevin's previous exposure to the television event (Kevin had left his enjoyment of Eurovision in the closet, long after he had come out).
By the next year, the couple began following the contest closely, watching national selection programmes, and of course the semi-finals, and final programs of the ESC itself.
In 2006, the couple were successful in obtaining tickets for the semi-final and final portions of the Eurovision Song Contest, held that year in Athens, Greece (tickets sell out quickly, and that year, the online server handling ticket sales crashed 15 minutes after opening, due to the crushing demand). If you look closely at the special features included in that year's DVD edition of the Contest you will find Kevin and Joe enjoying a drink before the show!
Kevin and Joe were executive producers for a classical music CD featuring The Onyx Wind Quintet (1999). They have been published in adjudicated academic journals (in the fields of Psychology and Law), written for commercial magazines, and they are co-authors of a book, Just Married, published in Canada and the United States, and in French translation around the world.
Eurovision Canada was launched on March 22, 2012.