“Hands Off Our Anishnawbe!” ~ The Grandmothers of Tkaronto

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Toronto – June 3, 2018 – The Toronto Council of Wise Women (The Grandmothers) and the Council of Seven invite the Indigenous community, all Indigenous support and service agencies, and our allies in the larger community to join us in a silent prayer protest against the colonization of our community’s health clinic – Anishnawbe Health Toronto – and to request the immediate removal of Anishnawbe Health Foundation President Diane Gray and Executive Director, Julie Cookson.


Anishnawbe Health Foundation President Diane Gray and Executive Director Julie Cookson are being accused of perpetrating fraud against the people of Toronto through claiming to support the Indigenous community while consciously cultivating long-term fiduciary relationships with Toronto Dominion Bank and CIBC, two major stakeholders in the Kinder Morgan TransCanada pipeline.

Julie Cookson and Diane Gray, the Executive Director and President of the Anishnawbe Health Foundation are accused of defrauding the Toronto public, perpetuating the victimization and colonization of Indigenous people and abusing members of Toronto’s Indigenous community.

Additionally the two women are the subject of an extended investigation sparked by complaints of human rights abuses and employment contract violations by Indigenous workers, who are patients of the Anishnawbe Health Toronto clinics and protected by Federal privacy law.

Cookson and Gray are hosting a silent auction on Wednesday, June 6 which is being sponsored by Toronto Dominion Bank and CIBC – two of the major beneficiaries of the Trudeau Government’s $4.5 Billion Trans-Canada pipeline bailout along with other major names in the financial industry.

As virtually every Indigenous person in Canada and our allies are aware, First Nations Chiefs, Elders, community leaders and our allies across Canada and around the world are standing with the Coast Protectors in BC against this pipeline.  Toronto’s Urban Elders are deeply concerned about the Anishnawbe Health Foundation’s close relationship with these entities that exist only through the murder of our people and the rape of our our Mother Earth.

Since January, Ms. Cookson and Ms. Gray have deliberately taken these kinds of unwise actions against the repeated counsel of Elders who have shared deep concerns about The Anishnawbe Health Foundation’s insistence on perpetuating the image of Toronto’s Indigenous people as victims who are dependent on handouts from the globalist corporations and philanthropists who have literally made their billions off the blood and bones of our Grandfathers and Grandmothers.

The Grandmothers Co-Founder and Toronto-based communications consultant Kandace Keithley explained, “Those of us who have been working in the global Indigenous community for the past few years understand that Standing Rock was the absolute turning point for our people. The Water Is Life and NoDAPL actions connected Indigenous people around the world, greatly empowered us, galvanized us to service – and ultimately reminded us that we are the ones the world is waiting for.

“We are not victims in need of rescuing. We are not a problem in need of a solution, as these people are insisting. We and our bloodline ancestors are the Original People of this land. We hold the knowledge required to heal all of the Great Spirit’s people from all Four Directions.

“Our Chiefs and Prophets have taught us that Indigenous people are the solution. Not the problem. Now is the time for the people of Toronto to stand together against these colonizers,” she said.

Threatening the Grandmothers

 Last week, Anishnawbe Health Foundation President Diane Gray took the shocking step of threatening to have The Grandmothers forcibly removed from the St. James Cathedral Centre and arrested if they bring the Indigenous people of Toronto’s concerns to Indigenous leaders invited to attend the Foundation’s $100/ticket silent auction scheduled for June 6.

As all members of the Indigenous community can relate, every one of The Grandmothers have raised families on incomes well below the poverty level and often have to rely on one another for food, clothes, shelter and other support.

“Not one of us can afford the Anishnawbe Health Foundation’s entrance fee to an event they claim is intended to benefit us and our children, and now the Foundation President herself has stated that she will have us forcibly removed if we appear. This is colonialism in its most raw and insidious form,” Ms. Keithley explained.

“It has been our experience, as demonstrated through this fundraiser and their treatment of our Indigenous workers who have been entrusted to their care, that Ms. Cookson and Ms. Gray are severely lacking in the most basic comprehension of Indigenous Culture and are therefore making decisions that are damaging to the Indigenous community and to Anishnawbe Health’s reputation as an Indigenous organization operating from an Indigenous worldview and serving Toronto’s Indigenous population.”


Investigations and Human Rights Violations

Ms. Cookson and Ms. Gray’s willingness to abuse and disrespect Toronto’s Indigenous community extends beyond their public support of genocidal, environmentally destructive institutions and threatening to arrest poor Indigenous grandmothers and mothers.

The pair is currently under investigation for the abuse of Anishnawbe Health Foundation employees and volunteers, who are also Anishnawbe Health Toronto patients and members of the Toronto Indigenous community.

Extensive documented evidence shows that Ms. Gray has been standing with Ms. Cookson against The Grandmothers’ investigators for more than 90 days, obstructing efforts to resolve the numerous financial and health-related problems that Ms. Cookson’s irrational behavior and managerial incompetence have had on her victims.

Ms. Gray has even refused to provide the Toronto Elders with contact information for the Anishnawbe Health Foundation Board of Directors.

“The optics of these women’s actions are horrific for Anishnawbe Health Toronto. The impact of their behavior on our Indigenous workers has been significant and is the subject of at least one Human Rights complaint for which we’re seeking the support of Aboriginal Legal Services. As the mother of young adults, I can tell you this entire situation is deeply upsetting for the Indigenous community here in our city,” Kandace explained,

“We most certainly don’t want our people – all of whom are survivors of inter-generational trauma – to be further victimized by unscrupulous and unethical managers who claim to be Indigenous, but are actually functioning as agents of the colonizers who are still destroying our culture.

“These women didn’t grow up here in Toronto, and they don’t have children involved in any of our schools or services. Neither one is actively involved in the Anishnawbe Health Toronto community beyond these fundraising events. And, with their latest threat to have us arrested if we try to see our own Chiefs, we can no longer remain silent about their abuse against our community – regardless of who they know in the big bank and philanthropic worlds.”

The Grandmothers and Council of Seven are now in communication with Toronto’s Indigenous community leaders including Chief Isadore Day and the Chiefs of Ontario, and are preparing an official request for a comprehensive audit of all Anishnawbe Health Foundation records – including the investments and backgrounds of all major donors to ensure there are no other conflicts of interest with the stated values and position of Canada’s National Indigenous leaders on the pipeline issues and with the Indigenous Worldview.

The Grandmothers and  Council of Seven intend to request the formal dissolution of the Anishnawbe Health Foundation as it now exists at the Annual General Meeting coming up later this summer.

“When you have a President, the Executive Director and the entire Board of Directors of an Indigenous charity stacked with big bank employees and folks who are so colonized that they’re rubbing elbows with our own oppressors, it’s time to step back and regroup,” Ms. Keithley said.

“We are calling on our Chiefs, Elders and Indigenous leaders from around the world who are dedicated to walking the Red Path and teaching the Indigenous worldview to encircle our treasured Traditional Medicine People and Indigenous Healers at Anishnawbe Health Toronto with prayer; and, we’re asking all of our Indigenous relatives in Toronto and across Canada to stand together with us to protect Joe Sylvester’s legacy from further damage,”

“We would like to remind our loved ones that it is the responsibility of every single one of us to make sure our organizations and the people who are taking a paycheck from us are not abusing our children, our seniors, our disabled ones and our youth. These people are our employees. Not our masters. It is our responsibility to keep our pipes clean, make sure we’re all listening to the Ancestors, following the Red Path, and teaching others through our own behavior and choices.” she stated.

The Grandmothers and Council of Seven are asking the Indigenous community to gather outside the St. James Cathedral Center at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6 to stand in silent prayer for the removal of all corrupt and abusive officials in the Anishnawbe Health organizations and to demonstrate our community’s solidarity with the Coast Protectors on behalf of our Mother Earth. We encourage everyone to make signs. Chi Miigwetch.

For more information about this action, or to report abuse by an employer, please contact us at here. We are here to support and protect our Indigenous relatives, and promise to protect your identity.