Commitment to reconciliation

Toronto has been a gathering place for Indigenous people since time immemorial.

Today, it is home to over 80,000 Indigenous people1 from across Turtle Island, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Indigenous communities have much to teach the world about how to live well and cooperatively with one another and the earth with approaches that are both innovative and grounded in traditional ways of knowing and being.

The arrival of Europeans and colonization decimated the culture and way of life of the First Peoples. Today 90%, or 72,000 Indigenous people2 in Toronto, live below the low-income cut-off (LICO). This is the legacy of colonialism and ongoing systemic anti-Indigenous racism.

The community is supported by nearly 30 Indigenous-led agencies operating in Toronto providing services and programming that enhances the cultural and socio-economic wellbeing of Indigenous people in Toronto.

Philanthropy has an important role to play in advancing this work

At the heart of decolonizing philanthropy is supporting Indigenous self-determination and acting with reciprocity, which means building relationships based on mutual respect, trust, generosity and appreciation.3

We're committed to continually learning and examining our work to rectify the power imbalance in philanthropy, engaging fundholders along the way. And using our role as a community foundation to help amplify and further Indigenous priorities.

Reconciliation in Our Work

Since 2017 our work has been inspired by our signing of The Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action - a commitment by philanthropic organizations to embedding Reconciliation and Reciprocity into philanthropic work.

Here are some ways our work is evolving from our experiences and learnings.

Building Relationships

Our work has been strengthened and enriched by the knowledge, expertise and lived experience that these organizations and their leaders, staff, and community members have generously shared with us. 

We deeply appreciate our partnership with Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC), the member-based nonprofit research, policy and advocacy organization that addresses the social determinants of health to improve and enhance the socio-economic prospects and cultural wellbeing of Indigenous people living in Toronto. We’ve also worked closely with many of TASSC’s Indigenous-led member organizations that make up a majority of the designated social services providers for Indigenous people living in Toronto.

We are also grateful to partner with Anishnawbe Health Toronto, Native Child and Family Services Toronto, the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (the Circle), and Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund.

Granting

We’ve learned to reimagine our granting processes to better reach, support and empower Indigenous-led and/or serving organizations as they pursue their own priorities and strengthen their role in a connected, vibrant and more equitable Toronto.

Grants

In 2023, together with our fundholders we granted $1.3M to 44 Indigenous-led and/or serving organizations. Learn more about our granting to Indigenous organizations on the Our Collective Impact  webpage.


Granting Processes

Below are some of the key changes we’ve been making as we continuously learn how to better engage with Indigenous organizations. Many of these strategies now also extend to other areas of our work to better serve all potential grantees.

  • Creating simplified, less onerous grant applications and minimal reporting requirements that allow organizations to focus on the work that matters while seeking sustainable support.
  • Accommodating Indigenous storytelling traditions by welcoming oral and video submissions for applications and reports.
  • Sharing and shifting power by centering Indigenous self-determination, we’ve developed Indigenous-focused granting streams and partnered with Indigenous organizations, entrusting them to determine how best to allocate the funds. Through these partnerships we learn more about Indigenous priorities, build relationships, and explore new granting models that are suited to that community.
  • Funding non-qualified donees (NQDs) that are addressing community needs at a hyper-local grassroots level, working directly with community members.

Impact stories

Read more about the evolution of our granting in these blog posts:

A New Program Shifts Paradigms: conceived in 2020 at a time of racial reckoning this is the story of our Black and Indigenous Futures Fund that piloted funding non-qualified donees.

 

Empowering the Community Leads to More Informed Granting: embracing a new way to do philanthropy that involves shifting and sharing power.

Other Steps We've Taken

Our work has been strengthened and enriched by the knowledge, expertise and lived experience that these organizations and their leaders, staff, and community members have generously shared with us.

 

Takeaways For Philanthropists

Whether you are just starting to consider Reconciliation in your philanthropy or you’re searching for deeper context, these are steps you can take to support Indigenous communities through your philanthropy.

 

Get to Know These Organizations

Get to know these Indigenous organizations working in neighborhoods across Toronto.

Join Our Annual Reconciliation to Reciprocity Event

Each year we host an event focused on advancing reconciliation by exploring different topics that broaden and deepen our understanding and inspire more learning, relationship building and action.   

This June we partnered with Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) on an intimate evening to connect TASSC member and some non-member Indigenous leaders with Toronto Foundation fundholders. Working across issue areas such as housing, employment, arts and mental health, this event brought together our community organization partners and donors for conversation and reciprocal learning. Find out about our next event and the rest of our learning calendar here.

Conversations on Key Themes

From topical issues to historical context, below we’ve highlighted some important themes we’ve heard in our conversations with leaders.

Relationships: Essential to moving from reconciliation to true reciprocity is building relationships. It’s especially important for funders and donors to understand that truly impactful philanthropy is grounded in authentic connections that are built on mutual trust.

   Self-determination: Discourse around advancing equity has become more prominent in recent years. But many Indigenous leaders want you to understand why they are instead focused on self-determination for their communities. 

From Reconciliation to Reciprocity: Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations what meaningful action has taken place in philanthropy? Here is an archive of our past Reconciliation to Reciprocity webinars.

Expanding Your Information Sources

By accessing Indigenous-led news, media, art, community organizations and other sources, you can broaden your knowledge and perspective about the experiences of Indigenous peoples including the strengths and successes along with the challenges being faced. Here are some ways to more regularly listen to more Indigenous voices.

  • Consume content from various Indigenous sources including entertainment and media, news outlets, community organizations, public figures, artists and content creators on social media. See what’s topical and who they are following.
  • Sign up for e-newsletters – Start with the community organizations we’ve mentioned on this page.
  • Attend in person and virtual events that are open to the public.
Evolving Your Philanthropy

Here are some steps you can take to advance Reconciliation through your philanthropy.  

  • Be intentional with your giving.
  • Commit to incorporating Indigenous organizations in your philanthropy and community engagement. This involves continuous learning and building relationships.
  • Learn about the historic and contemporary Indigenous experience in Toronto from a variety of sources.
  • Get to know local Indigenous community organizations and their work.

  • Relationships are foundational.
  • Indigenous cultures are grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Philanthropists who want to help make an impact need to understand and honour these traditions.
  • Start by familiarizing yourself with what organizations do by connecting in a variety of ways (media, websites, social accounts, newsletters, public events etc).
  • Build relationships based on reciprocity meaning mutual respect, trust, generosity, and appreciation.
  • ‘Show up’ by lending your efforts to amplify Indigenous voices and causes through engagement and advocacy

  • There are many ways to contribute
  • Consider what ties, treasure, talent and time you can offer.
  • Engage at the organization's pace and on their terms. Listen first to understand what support could be helpful.
  • Stay aware of power imbalances.
  • Offer versus tell.
  • Check before offering - resources, connections, volunteering etc. Organizations know best what they need.

  • Communities know what they need to make change.
  • Support small and medium- sized Indigenous organizations. They do the heavy lifting at the community level.
  • Make unrestricted, multi-year gifts.
  • Increase impact by giving with others.
  • Earmark donations outside of your fund to support Indigenous nonprofits and grassroots groups that are not charities.
  • Support Indigenous-owned and led businesses and social enterprises.
  • Spend all your yearly available to grant (ATG).

Suggested Resources

  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • From the Ashes, Jesse Thistle
  • Indians on Vacation, Thomas King  
  • Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips and Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality, Bob Joseph
  • The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King
  • Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga
  • Unreconciled, Jesse Wente 

 

Endnotes:

  1. Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC).
  2. TASSC.
  3. Walrus Talks: How to decolonize Indigenous philanthropy, Roberta Jamieson.

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. While Indigenous communities in Toronto remain strong, vibrant, and resilient, they need support to address and overcome the impact of colonialism and systemic inequalities. Furthering Indigenous reconciliation and sovereignty are integral to achieving a more fair and just society where everyone can thrive.

We aim to be an ally and to fund local Indigenous organizations.