On May 27, human rights organization Amnesty International will honor music artist and activist Alicia Keys and the Indigenous rights movement in Canada with its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award at a ceremony in Montreal. One of six powerful activists accepting the award and standing for Canada’s Indigenous people — arguably the wealthy nation’s most marginalized community — is Delilah Saunders, who has committed her life to support the cause after her sister, Loretta, was murdered. At the time of her death, Loretta was writing her thesis on the history of violence against Indigenous women and girls, an ongoing crisis that went unaddressed by Canada’s government until a national inquiry was opened in 2015.
The award is shared between Keys — who has used her career and platform to fight for the marginalized and encourage young people to raise their voices — and activists including Saunders and Cindy Blackstock, Melanie Morrison, Senator Murray Sinclair, Melissa Mollen Dupuis, and Widia Lariviére, who push for equality and to defend land rights for Indigenous people.
Saunders and Keys spoke by phone for Teen Vogue to discuss their respective routes to activism, the Indigenous rights movement in Canada, and what it means to be an Ambassador of Conscience. Below is their conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Alicia Keys: Hey Delilah. I’m so happy to be speaking with you and to see you this weekend and for all your work. It’s a blessing. Thank you.
Delilah Saunders: Thank you.
AK: Can you tell me a little bit more about what Indigenous women and girls face in Canada?
DS: It’s very important to remember that the thousands of red dresses that are installed nationwide that represent thousands missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, they aren’t one size fit all. It would be unfair of me to paint those lost and those still here fighting these issues we face as Indigenous women and girls with a broad brush. You have cases like Barbara Kentner, who was just walking down the road in her hometown [in] her traditional territory, and a passing vehicle throws a tailor hitch and that old tailor hitch at her. You have young girls and women who have been a part of this fight for the inquiry who are being found murdered. There are still many abuses against the women and girls of Indigenous ancestry. We’re also facing social institutionalized abuses. While there are a lot of efforts to heal, we’re still facing a very large threat of violence today.
AK: How long have you been doing this work? Read more in Teen Vogue …
Amnesty International would like to thank Teen Vogue for allowing us to share this story with Amnesty supporters.