Toronto Grandmothers to Colonizers: “Hands Off Our Anishnawbe”

Toronto – June 3, 2018 –  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, the major stakeholder in the Kinder Morgan-TransCanada pipeline and other major banking institutions, according to Kandace Keithley, co-founder of the Toronto Council of Wise Women – The Grandmothers.

Additionally the two women are the subject of an extended investigation sparked in January, 2018 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 and provincial privacy laws.

Last week, Ms. Cookson and Anishnawbe Health Foundation President Diane Gray took the extraordinary step of threatening to have The Grandmothers forcibly removed from The Anglican Diocese of Toronto’s St. James Cathedral Centre if they attempt to bring the Indigenous community’s concerns to Indigenous leaders invited to attend a $100/ticket silent auction scheduled for this Wednesday, June 6.

“Every one of the founding members 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. None 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 stated.


The Grandmothers have worked for more than 90 days to resolve the human rights and employee abuse issues with Foundation president Diane Gray, who has refused a meeting, and refused to provide the contact list for the Foundation Board of Directors, but instead communicates through nasty letters threatening to sue if her misdeeds are reported to the authorities.

“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,” Ms. Keithley stated.

The Grandmothers are calling the Toronto Indigenous community and all organizations and agencies who support our people to come together to protect the integrity of Joe Sylvester’s vision from the insidious creep of colonialism.


“Every one of us owes a great debt to Joe Sylvester and the healing warriors of the 5th and 6th generations who established and carried Anishnawbe Health Toronto to this point,” Ms. Keithley said.

“We have all experienced phenomenal healing — life saving healing in many cases — through our Medicine People and Traditional Indigenous Healers at Anishnawbe Health Toronto. We’re not about to stand by and allow these people who are not walking on the Red Path, who don’t understand or live by the Indigenous worldview to destroy this very special healing community.”

The Grandmothers are asking for people to gather in silent protest and prayer outside the St. James Center on Wednesday, June 6 beginning at 5 p.m., and encourage everyone to bring signs, to be as creative as they need to be to express their outrage.

The Grandmothers have connected with local and regional Indigenous leaders to obtain support in their request for a complete external audit of the Anishanwbe Health Foundation’s finances, to explore the possibility of dissolving the Foundation in its current form, and to remove Cookson and Gray from their positions.

Complete story is available here.

The Grandmothers and Council of Seven invite Indigenous workers who have been abused by a manager or leader of any agency or organization serving the Indigenous community in Toronto. They will advocate for you and help you navigate the process of filing formal complaints and reporting to the proper authorities.

Ms. Keithley assures the community, “We are here to protect and serve our Indigenous relatives, whose identities we keep in the highest confidence.

Contact us here if you need our help.

The grandmothers are happy to discuss our work with members of the media who support the Indigenous community and are committed to learning about and supporting our work in protecting, teaching, and implementing the Indigenous worldview into settler institutions. Please send us your contact information and the details of your story, and we’ll be happy to help you find the sources and information you need.



The Grandmothers is a grassroots organization made up of Indigenous women and descendants who are the mothers of at least one adult child, and their allies in the non-Indigenous community. Started by staff and members of the Native Women’s Resource Centre, The Grandmothers advocate for members of Toronto’s Indigenous community, and are currently working on a variety of Healing and Reconciliation initiatives with leaders in the TDSB, the Christian Church, and the University of Toronto School of Theology intended to connect and heal people through integrating Indigenous Culture into western institutions, and establish a designated Indigenous Chaplaincy.

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