By Jeff Pelletier
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Nunavut RCMP say they are investigating a complaint of fraudulent enrolment in Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s Inuit beneficiary list, a week after the territorial Inuit organization asked for a police probe.
Spokesperson Sgt. Pauline Melanson acknowledged NTI’s April 13 news release that announced Ontario twins Amira and Nadya Gill had been removed from the Inuit enrolment list.
The release, issued jointly by NTI and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, asked the RCMP to investigate the actions of the Gill sisters and their mother Karima Manji took in applying for Inuit enrolment.
“Please be advised that the Nunavut RCMP are following up on this request,” Melanson said Thursday in an email, confirming later that the police are investigating.
According to NTI, the Gill twins’ enrolment application was approved in 2016, based on Manji’s claim she had adopted them from an Inuk mother. NTI says that in 2018, Manji applied for enrolment for herself, but was rejected.
The Inuk woman listed as the Gill sisters’ mother is Iqaluit resident Kitty Noah, according to her son, Noah Noah, who said his family has no relation to the Gill twins.
Nunatsiaq News has not independently verified the allegations against the Gills and Manji.
The controversy around the Gills’ Inuit status emerged last month when social media users raised questions about a business they co-founded called Kanata Trade Co., which sold products such as T-shirts and COVID-19 masks with Indigenous artwork on them.
On the business’s website, the Gills said they were Inuit students at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
The twins have also said they received funding from Indspire, a national charity that provides bursaries to Indigenous students to support their post-secondary studies.
Indspire communications director Brandon Meawasige said the Gills were able to access funding through the organization with their NTI enrolment information.
“Indspire has been in communication with NTI since these allegations were made public,” Meawasige said in an April 14 statement.
He said, under NTI’s process, Amira and Nadya Gill were given 30 days to respond to questions about their Inuit identity claims, adding that Indspire “will act accordingly once the findings are established.”
Nunatsiaq News had contact by email and phone with Amira Gill in March.
After the controversy started but before NTI announced its investigation, Amira Gill told Nunatsiaq News she and her sister were given NTI enrolment cards “at a young age” and they had “no knowledge of the enrolment process.”
In a March 29 email, she said her Inuit ties came from the Noah and Hughes family in Iqaluit. Manji briefly dated Harry Hughes, who is the father of Noah Noah, before Hughes died.
However, Amira Gill has not responded to several emails and phone calls from Nunatsiaq News made since March 30, including for this article.
This newspaper has not been able to reach Manji or Nadya Gill.
Nadya Gill had been working as an articling student with the Ontario law firm Durant Barristers.
Erin Durant, the firm’s founder, said Nadya Gill had been placed on leave pending a private investigation and an investigation by the Law Society of Ontario.
Law Society spokesperson Jennifer Wing said the legal profession’s self-regulatory body is aware of the concerns NTI and QIA raised but would not comment publicly about any complaint about a lawyer unless it results in a regulatory proceeding.
Lori Idlout, Nunavut’s MP and a lawyer herself, also weighed in on the controversy.
In an April 14 interview, Idlout said she supported the NTI process and an RCMP investigation.
“What the Gill sisters have done is taken grants and scholarships and money that are meant for Inuit, Inuit who already struggle to even get any of those scholarships,” Idlout said.
“I think that it’s very unethical.”
Jeff Pelletier is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with NUNATSIAQ NEWS. The LJI is a federally funded program.