By Jeff Pelletier
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has removed two women from its enrolment list and says it has asked the RCMP to investigate their application for enrolment under the Nunavut Agreement in what it calls a first-of-its-kind case
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, NTI and 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. Manji claimed she adopted them from an Inuk woman. That woman’s family recently disputed the claim and said they have no biological relationship to the twins.
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., sold products such as COVID-19 face masks and T-shirts with Indigenous artwork on them and was a listed member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses. They said all proceeds would go to Indspire, which supported them through bursaries and mentorship. The organization’s 2021-22 annual report states Amira Gill donated between $5,000 to $9,999 that fiscal year. Indspire did not respond to a request for comment.
Social media accounts and the website for the business are no longer active.
The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business said it suspended Kanata’s certification pending Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s investigation. It said it received and verified proof of Indigenous identity and ownership before granting the certification.
“We have confidence in our process and follow best practices,” Tabatha Bull, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “If anything, this shows just how much the public needs and values transparency and integrity. We value that too.”
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.
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 say 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.
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated said its enrolment process is robust and it’s taking additional measures to strengthen its application and review process to prevent potential future fraud.
The Nunavut Agreement is the largest Indigenous land claim settlement in Canada. Registering under the agreement grants Inuit access to benefits and rights, including scholarships, health care and use of Inuit-owned lands.
Liam Gill, a younger brother of the sisters, said in an email that to the best of his knowledge they share the same biological parents, Manji and Gurmail Gill.
He said they were not raised with any specific culture and he does not identify as Indigenous nor have status. He said his father immigrated to Canada from England and his mother from Tanzania.
Several online biographies provide some information about the sisters. Nadya Gill is a soccer player, coach and academic who was born and grew up near Toronto. She attended two universities in the United States as well as Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where she studied law.
Durant Barristers, an Ontario law firm where she was working as an articling student in sports law, said she has been placed on leave of absence pending an internal investigation. The firm said the Law Society of Ontario is also aware of the case.
“We find it entirely unacceptable for anyone to falsely claim to be Indigenous and use it for personal gain,” Erin Durant said in an email.
Amira Gill also attended Queen’s University, where she studied civil engineering. Between 2017 and 2021, she was granted an award, scholarship and two bursaries designated for Indigenous students.
Jean Teillet is a Métis author, lawyer and Indigenous rights advocate who wrote a 2022 report for the University of Saskatchewan on Indigenous identity fraud. She said the Gill case is the first time she’s heard of alleged Indigenous identity fraud where someone has gained status under an officially recognized organization.
Teillet said she’s not aware of any case of Indigenous identity fraud in Canada where criminal or civil legal action has been taken.
Fraudulent claims are harmful, she said, because they take funding and opportunities away from Indigenous people and can create distrust about Indigenous identity.
“We’re just seeing more and more and more of these coming to the fore,” she said. “I personally think that all these ones that have been exposed are just the tip of the iceberg.”
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.
With CP files.
Jeff Pelletier is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with NUNATSIAQ NEWS. LJI is a federally funded program.