Queen’s responds to potential fraudulent claim of Inuit heritage by former students

Amira and Nadya Gill in a screenshot of a photo that once accompanied a Queen’s Alumni Review article on a business the sisters started while purporting to be Inuit. Screenshot via @inuk.barbie on Instagram.

After Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) announced it is investigating allegations of potential enrolment fraud by two sisters who used their NTI status to qualify for scholarships for Indigenous postsecondary students, the university the sisters attended has responded.

While Queen’s University said it would “not provide details,” nor “comment about current students, staff, or faculty associated with Queen’s due to privacy considerations,” the university did confirm that “Nadya Gill completed a Juris Doctor in Winter 2022 and a Master of Law in Summer 2022” and her sister “Amira Gill completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Spring 2019 and a Master of Applied Science in Spring 2021.”

The Gill sisters are the two women under investigation by NTI, which reported that the woman the sisters had identified as their birth mother had provided information that the two are not her children.

Furthering the outrage over the fraudulent identities the sisters allegedly concocted is the fact that they used their NTI cards not only for scholarships, but also to start their own business. The venture, which purported to offer Indigenous-made items and used the Indigenous-inspired (but not Inuit) name “Kanata Trade Co.,” was touted by many. Among those who celebrated the sisters’ achievements was Queen’s University’s Alumni Review magazine. The article the Review published on the sisters has been removed from the magazine’s website since the fraud allegations came to light.

“The articles were taken down after the subjects of the article withdrew their permission and requested that they be taken down,” Queen’s University said in a statement to Kingstonist.

While the sisters’ Kanata Trade Co. website currently indicates the company ownership is being transferred and is no longer active, a quick search on Google for Kanata Trade Co. returns a number of images of products the company sold under the pretense of being an Indigenous-owned and -operated company. Screen captured image.

The articles have gone the way of most of the online presence around the Gill sisters. The Kanata Trade Co. website and social media accounts have all been pulled down, locked, or suspended. So have a variety of news articles about the sisters’ company, which they publicly discussed starting to “give back to Indigenous students” while Nadya was completing her studies at Queen’s and Amira had just graduated from the university. Some of those publications, however, have not been taken down. A screenshot from December 2021, published by APTN (Aboriginal People’s Television Network), shows the Kanata Trade Co. website text, which stated, “We are twin Inuit sisters both attending Queen’s University… now that we are nearing the end of our studies, we would like to give back to Indspire [a charity that invests in Indigenous education] so that more Indigenous students can also have the opportunity to attend colleges and universities.”

For its part, Queen’s outlined the work the university has done of late to “support Indigenous students, faculty and staff.”

“In recent years, Queen’s has devoted significant attention and focus on developing policies and providing support for Indigenous students, faculty and staff.  This is part of our ongoing commitment to provide an inclusive, supportive, and equitable learning environment. Most recently, Queen’s announced an Interim Indigenous Hiring Policy that reflects our ongoing efforts to address the question of Indigeneity,” the university said.

“For students, Queen’s provides the Indigenous Students Admission Pathway (IAP) which outlines specific admissions criteria for Indigenous candidates and admission to the first year of a full-time, first-entry undergraduate degree program,” the university continued.

“The IAP policy and procedure associated with Indigenous identity and citizenship was established in 2019 and continues to be developed, as we are committed to regularly reviewing and updating these policies.  Most recently in November 2021, the Indigenous Caucus of the Indigenous Council approved the Indigenous Student Verification Policy which operates as a policy of the university at the present time and was subsequently received by the Senate in November 2022.”

Coincidentally (or not), that IAP policy came as a result of an independent study on Indigenous identity at Queen’s, facilitated by First Peoples Group. This study was prompted by controversy around the university’s initial rejection of an anonymous report alleging that six Queen’s faculty members had been wrongly identified as Indigenous.

In regard to the Gill sisters’ claims of Indigeneity, Queen’s did not offer substantive response.

“We do not provide details, nor can we comment about current students, staff, or faculty associated with Queen’s due to privacy considerations,” Queen’s said.

The university offered the following details about the IAP policy:

The Queen’s University Indigenous Admissions Pathway (IAP) requires one of the following documents in order to access the program:

  • Indian status cards from First Nations who are federally recognized and those listed on the Indigenous & Northern Affairs Canada website;
  • Non-Status First Nations applicants may provide their parents and/or grandparents [sic] Indian status card & long form birth certificate or baptismal certificate;
  • A membership card indicating that they are a Non-Status First Nations [sic] who [sic] are currently in a court case (example: Algonquin);
  • Métis citizenship from organizations that are members of the Métis National Council;
  • Nunavut Trust Certificate card or Inuit roll number; or
  • American Indian, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian citizenship document from tribes that are state or federally recognized.

“The IAP policy and procedure associated with Indigenous identity and citizenship was established in 2019 and continues to be developed, as we are committed to regularly reviewing and updating these policies,” Queen’s said.

One thought on “Queen’s responds to potential fraudulent claim of Inuit heritage by former students

  • If the twins are not Inuit, the obvious question is: what is their background? Where are they really from? I read somewhere that the name “Gill” is associated with northern Iran. There must be some indication of their real origin – or did I just miss it? It will be easy to check DNA with the woman they claimed as their mother, but when people claim a false identity, there may be an even larger problem here (as though taking an opportunity properly belonging to 1st Nations people isn’t problem enough!).

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