Alicia Keys, Canadian activists honoured for human rights activism

Amnesty International says singer Alicia Keys has mixed activism with art, advocating for social justice issues.

Alicia Keys speaks onstage at the rally at the Women's March on Washington on 21 January 2017 in Washington. Picture: AFP.

NEW YORK – American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and Canada's indigenous rights movement have been selected to receive top accolades for their human rights activism by Amnesty International, the human rights group announced on Thursday.

Keys has mixed activism with art, advocating for social justice issues, and the Canadian movement fights for indigenous legal and land rights, Amnesty said.

"They remind us never to underestimate how far passion and creativity can take us in fighting injustice," it said in a statement.

The Ambassador of Conscience Awards go to people and groups that show courage and inspiration, and previous winners include South African President Nelson Mandela, Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai and folksinger Joan Baez.

Keys, 36, a 15-time Grammy winner, co-founded Keep a Child Alive for families affected by HIV in Africa and India and the We Are Here Movement to encourage young people to act on issues of criminal justice reform and gun violence.

She also is active in women's rights, was a speaker at January's Women's March on Washington and started a campaign by not wearing make up to a top awards ceremony last year.

"Our conscience is something we are all gifted with at birth, no matter who we are," Keys said in a statement issued by Amnesty.

"That little voice that speaks to you and tells you when something is not right, I always use as my guide. Now I just say, 'Okay, what can I do?' That is a question we can ask ourselves and then act upon."

The Canadian activists have drawn attention to indigenous people who have been marginalised after decades of public silence and apathy, Amnesty said.

The grassroots Idle No More movement has helped mobilise indigenous people to take control of their lands, resources and environment, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has waged a legal battle against underfunding of social services for indigenous children, Amnesty said.

The awards will be presented in Montreal, Canada, on 27 May.