Editor’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.
On a cold, sunny Friday morning in Iqaluit, Noah Noah stepped out of the Nunavut courthouse with a smile on his face.
Just minutes before, Karima Manji — a Toronto woman who enrolled her twins as Nunavut Inuit beneficiaries by falsely claiming they were the daughters of Noah’s late mother, Kitty Noah — pleaded guilty to fraud.
“Justice has been served for my mom,” Noah Noah said of his mother, who died in July.
“She would have been very happy with the outcome.”
Last September, Nunavut RCMP charged Manji and her twin daughters, Amira and Nadya Gill, with two counts each of fraud. The charges against the twins were withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Sarah White following the reading of an agreed statement of facts in court.
The twins used their Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) beneficiary cards to obtain money from Kakivak Association, an organization that provides scholarships and funding to Baffin Inuit. They received $158,254.05 between September 2020 and March 2023, according to the agreed statement of facts, and an additional $64,413 was on hold for Amira Gill in the spring of 2023, but was not paid out.
White told the court the twins were “unaware that the (enrolment) cards were fraudulent.”
Manji admitted in the agreed statement of facts to providing fraudulent enrolment information in February 2016 to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in order for them to get her daughters’ Inuit beneficiary status. In those applications, she claimed the twins were the Inuit children of Kitty Noah.
Manji herself also applied for Inuit enrolment in 2018, but NTI rejected her application. She and her daughters appeared before Justice Mia Manocchio via video conference. The twins’ cameras were turned off during the appearance, but Manji showed her face and appeared to be attentive.
“Ms. Manji is taking full responsibility,” Scott Cowan, her lawyer, told the court.
In March 2023, the twins became the subject of controversy after people raised questions on social media about their Inuit identities and a business they ran called Kanata Trade Co. The company – which had been certified with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business – sold face masks and other clothing items with Indigenous artwork. It promised that profits would go to Indspire, another organization that provides funding to Indigenous students.
NTI removed the twins from its enrolment list in April 2023 following an internal investigation.
Last year, Noah told Nunatsiaq News his family knew Manji from when she briefly lived in Iqaluit and was in a relationship with his father in the 1990s. However, he said his family did not know the Gill twins or how they were able to obtain NTI enrolment.
Now, he said, he’s just glad to have heard a guilty plea.
“It’s happened pretty quick, considering how slowly our justice system can be, so I’m relieved that way. It didn’t drag on for years,” Noah Noah said Friday.
“[Manji’s] doing one good thing as a mother, I suppose.”
This is not Manji’s first fraud conviction. In 2017, she received a conditional sentence of two years less a day, followed by a one-year probation order, in a separate case, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Manji is now scheduled to be sentenced on June 24, 2024.
Jeff Pelletier is Nunavut-based reporter with with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).