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Indigenous Toronto and Our Philanthropy

This is an outstanding city.
But you don't just take.
You've got to build.

Fran Deacon

Wife of the late Fraser Deacon,
Founder of Toronto Foundation

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Toronto has been a gathering place for Indigenous people since time immemorial. We acknowledge we are on the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work, live, play and give on this territory.

Today, Toronto is home to upwards of 70,000 Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. Close to 90%, or 63,000 people, live at or below the poverty line. Indigenous people in Toronto are among the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the city, facing disproportionately high levels of unemployment, food insecurity, and chronic physical and mental health conditions. This is the legacy of colonial trauma, systemic anti-Indigenous racism, and ongoing injustices.

And yet even in the face of these stark realities, Indigenous communities in Toronto remain strong, vibrant, and resilient. We are incredibly proud and humbled to work alongside Indigenous organizations, including the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) and its member organizations, Anishnawbe Health Toronto, the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (the Circle), and many others. Our work at Toronto Foundation has been strengthened and enriched by the knowledge, expertise and lived experience that these organizations, their leaders, their staff, and their community members have generously shared with us.

In 2017, Toronto Foundation signed the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action and we have taken our commitment to reconciliation seriously. We have been working to amplify Indigenous voices and perspectives through our work, and prioritizing Indigenous organizations in our discretionary granting programs.

We all have a lot to learn from Indigenous societies about how to build a more equitable and just city. We still have a long way to go on our reconciliation journey, but face this learning journey with humility, energy, and a strong drive for action.


Learn more about the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action

The Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action calls on all Canadian philanthropic organizations to work towards reconciliation and implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Signatories commit to understanding the disastrous effects of the Indian Residential School System while nurturing relationships and sharing resources with Indigenous communities.

In 2017 we interviewed Wanda Brascoupé Peters, who was then executive director of the Circle. Click here to hear why she thinks the Declaration is relevant for Toronto:

To learn more and read the Declaration, visit


What We’ve Learned From Indigenous Leaders

Only 1% of charitable donations in Canada go to charities serving Indigenous peoples. In fiscal year 2019/20, together with our Fundholders, we supported 24 Indigenous organizations and programs for a total of $723,000.

Indigenous leaders and communities have the ideas on how to help their communities thrive. Below you can read and listen to what they have shared with us.

On June 25, 2020, Lindsay Kretschmer, executive director of Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC), hosted a candid conversation with leaders of four member agencies to learn about the unique needs of the local Indigenous community during the pandemic, ideas on what support the community needs and how their resilience is shining through. Watch the webinar

Throughout the pandemic we’ve interviewed several leaders on how they are serving the specific needs of the Indigenous community.

  • Hear what executive director Patti Pettigrew had to say about the work at Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society (TWHLS) to break the cycle of Indigenous women’s over-representation in Canada’s prisons. Read more
  • Anishnawbe Health Toronto started operating a mobile health unit out of a RV to support all the people living in encampments. But they don’t turn anyone away. Read our interview with Harvey Manning, Director of Programs & Services.
  • Community and culture are an important part of pregnancy and birth for many people, but especially for the Indigenous community. Hear how Seventh Generations Midwives Toronto, a group of midwives who offer primary reproductive and pregnancy care to families in Toronto with a focus on Indigenous families, is continuing to provide perinatal support. Read more
  • The Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts (ANDPVA) identifies, promotes, and creates opportunities for Indigenous artists to preserve traditional knowledge and advance cultural identities in order to help the community heal from the trauma of colonization. Executive director Millie Knapp and her team have had to pivot during COVID. Read more