'A great honour': Delilah Saunders earns Amnesty International human rights award
Indigenous activist shares award with Alicia Keys and 5 other Indigenous leaders
Delilah Saunders and five other leaders of the Indigenous rights movement in Canada have been honoured with Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2017.
Saunders, the sister of the late Loretta Saunders, is an advocate for the rights of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
I do not want anyone to have to go to that extreme of experiencing it firsthand to understand that it is a real problem.- Delilah Saunders
In an interview with CBC News on Sunday, she said it's wonderful to be in such great company.
"It is a great honour to be recognized alongside very inspirational and incredible people who fight so passionately for Indigenous rights," said Saunders.
Sister's death pushed involvement
Saunders became involved in the movement following the murder of her sister in 2014.
Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador, was writing her honours thesis at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, N.S., on missing and murdered Indigenous women when she was murdered.
At the time of her sister's death, Delilah Saunders was hitchhiking across British Columbia and living a life she described as "risky."
Loretta's thesis, the stories she had told her sister — it was happening in real life.
"I think the reality of how vulnerable Indigenous women and girls are … didn't set in, until I was personally affected," Delilah said.
"That's really what set me off on this work. I do not want anyone to have to go to that extreme of experiencing it firsthand to understand that it is a real problem."
Last year, Saunders was also heavily invested in the push for Indigenous land rights in Labrador.
She participated in the Make Muskrat Right protests and alongside two other activists, embarked on a hunger strike to protest planned flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir.
Going forward, Saunders said she's focused on two things: continuing her mission to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, fighting with land rights activists, and helping to form policy as part of a new job with the Congress of Indigenous People.
"I feel like especially with Muskrat Falls, everyone coming together — the Inuit, the Innu, settlers, people just coming together — that's huge. That's amazing progress. So I'm very satisfied with the way things are unfolding and continuing to develop."
The award, which also went out to singer Alicia Keys, was given to Saunders, Cindy Blackstock, Melanie Morrison, Senator Murray Sinclair, Melissa Mollen Dupuis and Widia Larivière on Saturday in Montreal.
One thing Saunders said she's learned, is that activists must savour all victories, big or small.
"I had someone tell me that they've never seen any radical change in their lifetime," said Saunders.
"But me as an Indigenous woman, I have seen radical change even within myself. Becoming aware of the issues around me that affect me and how I can help change them, that is a small but a very very big victory."
With files from Ryan Cooke