The president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says having charged dropped against the Toronto twins who said they were Inuit and received thousands of dollars in scholarship money wasn’t right.
“Colonization consisted largely of the theft of our lands and valuable resources, and this kind of identity theft represents a modern-day iteration of those same colonial practices,” said Aluki Kotierk in a statement after charges were withdrawn against Amira and Nadya Gill.
The twins were both facing two counts each of fraud over $5,000 but in court, the Crown read out what is called an agreed statement of facts that said neither girl knew about their “fraudulent” Inuit status. The agreed statement of facts also confirmed the twins did not have an Inuk parent.
Their mother, Karima Manji, entered a guilty plea of fraud over $5,000. She enrolled her twins as Nunavut Inuit beneficiaries by falsely claiming they were the daughters of the late Kitty Noah, a woman with a brain injury who was under the care of her son, Noah.
Kitty Noah died in July 2023.
“A family’s privacy, peace, and dignity has been affected because of the actions of these three women,” said Kotierk in the statement. “The two daughters benefitted from their mother’s fraud scheme, and yet their role in the scheme will go unanswered. This is not acceptable.”
On social media, people were having their say.
“I feel so much for the Noah family who endured colonial violence,” said Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Inuk artist in a public Facebook post about the verdict. “I feel so much for Inuit who are disconnected from culture and community. I feel so much for Inuit who need the benefits the Gills stole to attempt to fight for equality.”
Manji also attempted to apply for Inuit status in 2018 but was denied according to court records.
The agreed statement of facts from the court revealed that Amira and Nadya Gill received $158,254.05 between September 2020 and March 2023 from the Kakivak Association, the organization responsible for administering scholarships to eligible Nunavut Inuit from the Qikitani region.
“Relying on the fraudulently obtained status, not only did they receive funding specifically set aside to help Nunavut Inuit advance their education, but the Gill sisters also took up space in universities and programs that are designed for Indigenous participants,” said Kotierk.
The court case only dealt with money given by the Kakivak Association. A previous investigation by APTN News found that Amira Gill received two bursaries from Inspire. The amount was not disclosed. She also received scholarship money from HydroOne, Ontario’s utility company for $4,000 and another from RBC worth at least $4,000.
APTN reached out to Indspire, the Indigenous-led not-for-profit that gave money to the twins and had publicly asked for the funds back but did not receive a response.
Fraudulent enrolment cards leave questions
Although the charges are dropped for the twins, not all of the community members feel satisfied that justice was served.
In earlier reporting, APTN spoke with a brother of the twins, Liam Gill. Gill confirmed that the family was not raised with Inuit teachings and that he has never identified as Indigenous.
According to their brother, the sisters attended Toronto Prep School, an elite private school that lists their tuition as $27,250 for the 2020-2021 school year. A 2017 sports profile for Nadya also lists Toronto Prep School as her high school.
Liam and his sisters also went to Toronto French School.
The twins both claimed to be Inuit when they launched an online business together, Kanata Trade Co. That business sold masks with Indigenous artwork on them, among other things.
Bathony said she did not understand how the twins were unaware of the fact that the were not Inuit and hopes that people understand the details of the case.
“They owe the community so much,” said Bathory.
An additional $64,413 was on hold for Amira Gill in the spring of 2023 from the Kakivak Association but was not paid out.
The online statement by NTI went on to say that it’s rare to have false identity claims for Inuit.
“Inuit are not only known by name, but by shared experiences, family bonds and community ties,” said Kotierk in the statement.
APTN reached out to Amira and Nadya Gill for comment but did not hear a response.
With files from Trevor Wright.