Fraud case involving twins who claimed Inuit status adjourned until new year

Amira and Nadya Gill. Photo via APTN through LJI network.

Edit’s note: Amira and Nadya Gill attended Queen’s University here in Kingston, where they initially started their business, which they represented to be Indigenous-owned and -operated. Since then, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. learned that the woman the twins claimed to be their birth mother is, in fact, not related to the sisters at all, leading to questions about their claims of Inuit heritage. Queen’s has confirmed the sisters graduated from the university.

A court case involving twin sisters who are facing fraud charges for claiming Inuit status has been adjourned until the new year.

Amira and Nadya Gill and Karima Manji — who has claimed to be their adopted mother — are each facing two counts of fraud over $5,000 for allegedly defrauding two Inuit organizations in Nunavut.

The three women live in “Ontario” and did not appear for a scheduled court date at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023 — but lawyer J. Scott Cowan was present on their behalf via Zoom from Rankin Inlet. 

Cowan appeared as Manij’s legal representative and as an agent for the Gills. He asked Chief Justice Neil Sharkey, who was presiding over the session, to adjourn requests for the defendants till the new year.

Cowan explained the two sisters have not yet found counsel to represent them who are licensed to practice in Nunavut as members of the bar. He added that crown prosecutor Sarah White, who is part of the case, is aware of this. 

Sharkey confirmed the next court date for January 8, 2024. 

Nunavut’s RCMP charged the 25-year-old Gill sisters and 59-year-old Manji in September after launching an investigation in April. The charges followed concerns on social media about Amira and Nadya’s claims of Inuit identity.

Between October 2016 and September 2022, the Gill sisters “were found to have applied for and obtained Inuit beneficiary status as adopted Inuit children through Nunavut Tunngavik Inc,” according to an RCMP press release.

“The women used this Inuit beneficiary status to defraud the Kakivak Association and Qikiqtani Inuit Association of funds that are only available to Inuit beneficiaries by obtaining grants and scholarships.”

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is one of three regional associations in the territory. Kakivak is the association’s community and economic development arm, and is responsible for providing student financial aid to Inuit enrolled in education programs. 

A joint statement from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said that applications from Manji had been made in 2016 on behalf of the Gills “relying on information provided in their application that they had an Inuk birth mother.”

“On March 30, 2023, an application was made by the Inuk woman’s legal guardian to remove Amira and Nadya from the enrolment list because the Gills have no biological relationship with her,” the April statement continued. “The Gills were asked by NTI to provide evidence that they have an Inuk birth parent as claimed in their application. No response was received.”

According to a Sept. 21 APTN article, Amira won a $4,000 scholarship from the “Ontario” utility company HydroOne in 2017. The online announcement lists Amira as Inuk, which appears to be the first public reference that the sisters are Inuit.

In 2018, Amira also won an award for Indigenous students from RBC, one of Canada’s largest banks that was previously called the Aboriginal Student Awards program.

As well, a Sept. 21 article by Nunatsiaq News reported that between 2021 and 2023, the twins ran an online business selling products decorated with Indigenous artwork called Kanata Trade Co. 

The Gills claimed to be Inuit on both the company’s website and in media coverage about Kanata Trade Co. They promised profits would be donated to Indspire, a charity that had awarded bursaries to the twins during their post-secondary education.

Cara McKenna is a Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) reporter with Indiginews.

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