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.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) has removed two women from its enrolment list and asked the RCMP to investigate their application for enrolment under the Nunavut Agreement.
Twin sisters Amira and Nadya Gill were removed from the Inuit enrolment list following an April 6 meeting of the Iqaluit enrolment committee, according to a joint statement issued by NTI and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association on Thursday.
NTI announced two weeks ago it was investigating a “potential fraud” in the enrolment of two women under the Nunavut Agreement. It was the first-of-its-kind investigation for the organization, which is responsible for ensuring Inuit in Nunavut receive the benefits that were promised to them under the Nunavut Agreement.
On Thursday, Apr. 13, 2023, NTI and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), a regional Inuit association, said they have asked the RCMP to investigate the actions of the Gill sisters, as well as those of Karima Manji, who NTI and QIA say had claimed to be their adoptive mother so they would qualify to be enrolled as Inuit beneficiaries.
Nunavut RCMP did not respond on Thursday when asked if it would act on the request to investigate.
Nunatsiaq News has not independently verified the allegations against the Gills and Manji.
The Gills were the subject of social media controversy last month when their Inuit heritage was challenged in response to a 2021 CTV news report about a business they had started. Kanata Trade Co., the sisters’ company, sold products such as COVID-19 face masks and T-shirts with Indigenous artwork on them. It was a listed member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses, and promised to donate profits of the sale to Indigenous organizations, including Indspire, a national charity that supports Indigenous post-secondary students.
On Thursday, the business organization’s communications director, Shannon Sutherland, said it had revoked the company’s membership based on NTI’s decision to remove the Gills from the Inuit enrolment list. A week earlier, it had suspended Kanata Trade Co.’s membership, pending NTI’s initial investigation.
Thursday’s joint statement said NTI received applications to enrol the Gill sisters in 2016 and an application for Manji’s inclusion in 2018. The Gills were approved for Inuit enrolment after Manji, claiming to be their adoptive mother, submitted an application on their behalf, the organizations said.
According to NTI and QIA, in 2018, Manji applied for enrolment herself, saying she herself had been adopted by two people from Iqaluit. NTI and QIA said that claim is also false and had been rejected at the time based on the organizations’ knowledge of the community and lack of supporting documentation.
Thursday’s joint statement appears to contradict information Amira Gill emailed to Nunatsiaq News last month.
The twins would have been 17 or 18 in 2016, when NTI and QIA say they enrolled as Inuit beneficiaries, based on a Soccer Canada player profile for Nadya Gill that lists her birthdate in September 1998. But Amira Gill told Nunatsiaq News in March she and her sister had NTI enrolment cards “from a young age and have no knowledge of the enrolment process,”
Amira Gill had answered some questions about the social media controversy by email in March, but has not responded to several emails, texts, and phone calls requesting an interview since March 30. In one email she sent on March 29 about the social media controversy, she said she recognized the public interest in the matter, but felt that it had led to an invasion of her privacy. But she added that Nunatsiaq News had not revealed the identity of the people making the allegations on social media, nor assessed their credibility. She made that comment just before NTI issued its March 30 news release.
Nunatsiaq News has made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Nadya Gill through her workplace. It has not been able to contact Manji at all.
Amira Gill said that the sisters’ Inuit heritage came through the Noah and Hughes family from Iqaluit. At one point, their mother, Karima Manji, dated a man named Harry “Bud” Hughes, who died in 1997.
Noah Noah, Hughes’ son, said his family has no relation to the Gill twins, and that his mother, Kitty Noah, was the victim of an alleged fraud the Gills and Manji had committed.
Noah said Thursday he’s “elated” by the news from NTI.
“It’s gone from disheartening to great news,” he said in a phone interview.
Noah said he was surprised to learn that Manji also applied for enrolment, but had been declined. The Noah family wants the Gill sisters and Manji to be charged by the RCMP and convicted, he said.
“You can’t just commit fraud and expect to get away with it,” Noah said.
Justin Pelletier is a Nunavut-based reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).