Woman who ‘victimized the Inuit of Nunavut’ sentenced to three years in prison

Karima Manji, shown here in a Toronto Police photo, has been sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay back the remaining $28,000 defrauded from the Kakivak Association. Photo via LJI.

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. As the case made its way to the courts, the twins’ mother, Karima Manji, pleaded guilty to the fraud charges against her. As a result, the charges against the twins were dropped. Below is the most recent happenings in the case.

Karima Manji, the Toronto woman who pleaded guilty to falsely claiming Inuit identity on behalf of her twin daughters, has been sentenced to 36 months in prison.

In addition, she has been ordered to pay back the outstanding $28,000 for a total of $158,254.05 in full restitution for the student grants defrauded from the Nunavut Inuit organization Kakivak Association — the community and economic development arm of Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA). 

Justice Mia Manocchio meted out a longer sentence than recommended by the Crown, which had a suggested 18 months in jail. Manocchio stated that “only a penitentiary term” would be appropriate for Manji, who had previously been convicted of fraud over $5,000 in Ontario without a jail sentence. The judge added that Manji had “victimized the Inuit of Nunavut by stealing their identity.”

The decision, handed down in an Iqaluit courtroom on Thursday, Jun. 27, 2024, marks a historic legal precedent in Canada regarding Indigenous identity fraud. Manji claimed Inuit status through the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement and obtained enrolment cards through Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) in 2016. As per an agreed upon statement of facts reached in February with the Crown prosecution, Manji’s daughters claimed no fraudulent intent despite receiving sponsorships reserved for Inuit. The Crown withdrew charges against them.

“Cases of Indigenous identity fraud are increasingly being called out across Canada,” said NTI chief executive officer Kilikvak Kabloona on June 24 in a released victim impact statement to the court.

“The harms that these false claims have on Inuit are irreparable, and NTI looks forward to Karima Manji’s sentence setting a strong precedent and serving as a warning to all that Indigenous identity fraud is a serious crime with consequences. Karima Manji made her story up and based her daughters’ claims to Inuit identity entirely on lies and falsehoods, and her non-Inuk family illegally and fraudulently took funding and opportunities that are meant for Nunavut Inuit.”

This case has forced Nunavut Inuit to implement extra safeguards in the enrolment process, which increases the administrative burden for Inuit and adds potential delays for other applications in the future.

Philippe Plourde, chief federal prosecutor in Nunavut, added, “We all have a responsibility to make sure this type of fraud is firmly denounced and punished. We will never tolerate this type of immoral and unjust action. The PPSC (Public Prosecution Service of Canada) is resolute in its commitment to serve the community by ensuring that the funds obtained fraudulently by Ms. Manji be given back in their entirety. This money rightfully belongs to the Inuit of Nunavut and we are happy that it will now be used by Kakivak to create opportunities for Inuit students and empowering the community to thrive.”

Kira Wronska Dorward is a reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

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