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.
While much of the information in this article was published by Kingstonist earlier this week, new details are available in the reporting below.
As previously reported, a lawyer appeared virtually in an Iqaluit courtroom Monday on behalf of Amira Gill, Nadya Gill and Karima Manji.
Amira and Nadya are 25-year-old twins who are accused, along with Manji, their mother, of using fraudulently obtained Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. enrolments to get scholarships and education funding from the Kakivak Association between 2016 and 2022. The three, all from Ontario, face two counts each of fraud over $5,000.
Ontario lawyer J. Scott Cowan appeared over Zoom as Manji’s defence and as an agent on behalf of the Gills. Manji and the twins were not present. In the brief appearance, Cowan and the Crown agreed to set their next appearance date for Jan. 8, 2024.
Cowan provided a brief statement to Nunatsiaq News following the appearance.
“The case is in its early stages, such that I am not in a position to discuss it in any detail,” he said.
Alan Brass of Ottawa is Amira Gill’s lawyer.
“Our client [Amira Gill] maintains her innocence and we will be preparing a rigorous and thorough defence,” Brass said when reached by email.
The controversy started on social media in March when several Inuit, including musician Tanya Tagaq and artist Barbie Akoak, raised concerns about the twins’ claimed identity. At the time, the twins were running an online store called Kanata Trade Co., which sold T-shirts and COVID-19 masks, with profits from the sale going to an Indigenous student bursaries fund run by the organization Indspire.
The twins claimed to be Inuit on the website’s ‘about us’ page and were identified as Inuit in several news stories promoting their business.
Nunatsiaq News reached Amira Gill in March, before NTI announced its investigation. The newspaper has been unable to reach Manji or Nadya Gill at all.
Amira Gill emailed Nunatsiaq News in March claiming she and her sister were being “attacked online by extremist individuals.”
Jeff Pelletier is a Nunavut-based reporter with with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).