Gill sisters, mother face fraud charges

Amira Gill, left, and her twin sister, Nadya Gill, are seen in screenshots from a June 2021 CTV News report. File photos courtesy of CTV Ottawa via LJI.

Editorial 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. This article was originally published by Nunatsiaq News.

Criminal charges against three Ontario women accused of defrauding two Inuit organizations came as welcome news to an Iqaluit man whose family was drawn into the controversy.

Twin sisters Amira Gill and Nadya Gill, 25, and their mother Karima Manji, are each charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, the RCMP said in news release issued Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

Police said that between October 2016 and September 2022, the women applied for and obtained Inuit beneficiary status as adopted Inuit children, through Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI). NTI is the organization responsible for ensuring promises made to Inuit under the Nunavut Agreement are carried out.

According to the RCMP, the women used that status to defraud the Kakivak Association and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) of funding that is only available to Inuit beneficiaries by obtaining grants and scholarships.QIA is one of three regional Inuit associations in Nunavut. Kakivak is QIA’s student financial aid department.

The RCMP launched its investigation in April after social media users questioned Amira and Nadya’s claim of Inuit identity.

Between 2021 and 2023, the twins ran an online business called Kanata Trade Co., which sold products such as shirts and COVID-19 face masks decorated with Indigenous artwork

On the company’s website, the Gills claimed to be Inuit. They also made those claims in media coverage about their company. They promised profits would be donated to Indspire, a charity that awards bursaries to Indigenous students.

Indspire said in July that it had given bursary money to the twins during their studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and that it wanted that money returned.

Indspire spokesperson Brandon Meawasige has not responded to Nunatsiaq News’ requests for information about how much money the Gills received. The charity did not issue a public response to the charges on Thursday.

NTI removed the twins from its enrolment list after the family of Kitty Noah — an Inuk woman in Iqaluit who NTI says was listed as the twins’ mother — denied having any relationship to the Gills.

Kitty Noah, left, and son Noah Noah, are seen here in this March 2023. Kitty died July 13, 2023. File photo by David Venn via LJI.

On Thursday, her son, Noah Noah, said he was happy to learn the twins and their mother had been charged.

He said he needed time to reflect on that news, especially since Kitty died two months ago.

“I’m sure she would have been very happy with the outcome of the charges being brought forward, and particularly happy that they got the mom as well — not just the twins,” Noah said.

“I actually anticipated it going a lot longer than six months, so this is very quick.”

In April, Noah Noah told Nunatsiaq News that his family knew Manji from when she was in a relationship with his late father several years ago. However, they didn’t know the Gills had been enrolled as Inuit or that according to NTI they claimed Kitty as their biological mother.

According to NTI, Manji had claimed she adopted the twins.

After the controversy started but before NTI announced its investigation, Amira Gill told Nunatsiaq News the NTI enrolment cards she and her sister have were given to them “at a young age” and they have “no knowledge of the enrolment process.”

Manji and her daughters are scheduled for their first court appearance on October 30, 2023, in Iqaluit. The allegations against the women have not been tested in court.

Noah Noah said he is thinking of attending their first appearance.

“It’s a pretty big deal that they’re being charged with defrauding an Indigenous corporation,” he said.

Over the past six months, Nunatsiaq News has made numerous attempts — by phone, email and social media — to contact the Gill twins and Manji, including after charges were announced Thursday.

Amira Gill briefly called and emailed Nunatsiaq News in late March, claiming she was “being attacked online by extremist individuals.”

NTI president Aluki Kotierk said the laying of charges against the Gills and Manji “instills trust in the process.” After removing the twins from the enrolment list, Kotierk said NTI gave them 30 days to appeal that decision. But the Gills never responded, she said.

“I recognize that the justice system is that they are innocent until proven guilty, but I am quite confident given that we also gave them a period to provide us with additional information,” Kotierk said in an interview.

“Unless they came forward with true information, I think at this point we know they’re not Inuit.”

Over the past six months, she said the situation has forced NTI to review its own enrolment process to ensure it is effective.

“We’ve ramped up our training from NTI with our community liaison officers, as well as the community enrolment committee members,” Kotierk said.

“We have a plan to continue to do that so that we are able to train all the community liaison officers and all members of the community enrolment committees.”

Jeff Pelletier is Nunavut-based reporter with with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).

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