Denise Jones to receive Juno Award posthumously

A salute to a singular Caribbean woman

By Stephen Weir

Denise Jones

She was the cornerstone of the Jamaican Canadian community and is about to receive her just rewards at a special ceremony in Toronto in May. The national Juno Music Award will be posthumously honouring the late Denise Jones with the 2022 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award.

The Award will be broadcast live on CBC/Gem Television, streamed on cbc.ca/juno and on Ontario Place’s Budweiser Stage. It showcases the Juno Opening Night ceremonies this May14th.

The Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award recognizes individuals whose work has significantly impacted the growth and development of the Canadian music industry. Named after the publisher and co-founder of the JUNO Awards, the Award kicks off the 6-day festival.

Denise Jones was one of the most influential voices in Canada’s Black entertainment community for the past 30-years. Jones, who passed in December 2020 of brain cancer, spent a lifetime championing Afro-Caribbean culture in Canada and around the world. She also established the massive outdoor JAMBANA One World Festival, first in Markham and then in her home city of Brampton. She was also a critical part of the revival of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival heading up their marketing and advertising efforts for two years.

Her accomplishments were many. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada, the Bob Marley Award for her work in entertainment and a Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in Entertainment. She was the founding Chair of the Reggae Category for the JUNO Awards.

Jones’ accomplishments have been recognized across Canada with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling her “an incredible advocate for Caribbean arts and culture [who] contributed so much to our country.”

She was constantly involved in the arts.  Staging concerts and cultural events in both Jamaica and Canada. 

She gave back to her country of birth and organized performances by the National Ballet Jamaica in Toronto and a seminal National Gallery of Jamaica art exhibition also in Toronto that introduced the treasures of Jamaica to Canadians. She had the assistance of Caribbean Canadian of this writer in both historic cultural blockbusters.

“Growing up around my mother’s presence made me believe that all things are possible. I saw her achieving and realizing, every single day. I am forever grateful for that, because I think that’s the most important thing you can give somebody, hope and belief in themselves. Mom did this for us at home and as she passed, I also came to realize she was doing that for a lot of other people, too. She created a pathway for me and others in this country to follow and we’re committed to keeping that energy, that fire and legacy alive for generations to come,” said her son Jesse Jones.

The 51st Annual Juno Awards will be held in Toronto May 9th to May 15th.This will be the 37th time that the Walt Grealis Award has been given out; Denise Jones is the first Caribbean Canadian to receive it!

Jones, who passed away in December 2020, emigrated to Canada from Portland, Jamaica in the ‘80s. She received her BA in Communications and Theatre from the University of Windsor. She went on to serve as a theatre critic/arts reporter for CBC radio in Sudbury and then as an executive director for the Peel Multicultural Council. She launched Jones & Jones productions with her husband Allan Jones in 1987.

They spent a lifetime championing Afro-Caribbean culture in Canada and around the world through Jones & Jones Productions.