An old video from 2012 shows twins Nadya and Amira Gill pushing an industrial-sized tire back and forth between each other in a gym. You can hear their coach encouraging them by name.
This video is among the plethora of articles and social media posts written about the two girls who were active growing up in Toronto and Mississauga.
Now grown, they’re claiming to be Inuit and have received thousands of dollars to help pay for their university degrees.
But according to family and documents reviewed by APTN News, there are questions about who Nadya and Amira claim to be.
Nadya and Amira’s parents are Karima Manji and Gurmail Gill, two immigrants to Canada according to articles published about the sisters. They also have a brother Liam.
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.
In 2015, their mother, Karima Manji, was charged with defrauding March of Dimes, a charity that works with people with disabilities for nearly $800,000.
According to records obtained by APTN, Karima was ordered to pay back $250,000.
Their father, vice president of Commercial Spring and Tool Company based in Mississauga, has also gone through legal troubles.
Despite the rough patches, Nadya continued her sports career Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut where tuition, student fees and living expenses add up to about $70,000 for a first year undergraduate program.
Another article in the same paper, written by Nadya herself, does not mention being Inuk and said she was “away from her home in Toronto, Canada.”
This information also aligns with Liam’s recollection of growing up. He said he did not have any memories of learning about Inuit culture.
“I left home as a teenager. I have not been close with my family and I do not identify as Indigenous in any way,” said Liam to APTN.
Liam left home to go to school in the UK, where he started a number of businesses. He now offers coaching to tech entrepreneurs.
He also mentioned he doesn’t have a status card and the family did not grow up with any sense of culture. Liam said if asked to identify himself, he would call himself Canadian.
On a UK government website which lists a corporation with the same address as Gill Innovations Inc., Liam’s nationality is listed as British (due to his father immigrating from England).
APTN was unable to reach Amira and Nadya Gill for comment because their social media profiles have been made private.
APTN has emailed Amira directly. We also called a number associated with Karima and Amira multiple times for comment but were unable to leave a message as the inbox was full.
Their law firm, Aird & Berlis LLP, has not returned our calls.
Winning Indigenous scholarships
In 2017 Amira won a $4,000 scholarship from HydroOne, the Ontario utility company.
The online announcement lists Amira as Inuk. This appears to be the first public reference that the sisters are Inuit. The twins are listed as born in 1998, making them either 18 or 19 at this point.
The scholarship was named in recognition of a First Nations judge – the Honourable Justice Leonard Mandamin. The award is granted annually to First Nations, Métis and Inuit post-secondary students.
“Our scholarship winners not only exceed in academic excellence but also in their commitment to supporting their communities which is important to recognize,” said Derek Chum, vice president of Indigenous Relations, Hydro One in an online statement about the award.
According to online information, individuals are eligible for an award if they are a “Status Indian, a Non-status Indian, Inuit or Métis person enrolled in a full time post-secondary program and are in financial need.”
In 2018, Amira also won an award for Indigenous students from RBC, one of Canada’s largest banks that was previously called the Aboriginal Student Awards program.
Award winners get $4,000 per academic year for two to four years.
The award description states that “[S]cholarship recipients are selected primarily on the basis of personal and academic achievements, as well as financial need. Similar to the HydroOne award, Status Indian, Non-status Indians, Inuit and Metis students are welcome to apply. “
Amira won two bursaries from Indspire, an Indigenous award granting organization that provides bursaries to Indigenous students.
The award amounts were undisclosed but Amira was granted a bursary in 2020 and 2021 according to their annual reports.
Indspire policy for determining Indigenous identity is having an Inuit Identity card.
“Inuit: means a person who self-identifies as Inuit. Applicants are required to provide proof of Inuit identity by providing a valid Inuit identity card issued by: 1) an Inuit organization that is recognized by the Government of Canada, 2) an Inuit organization that is recognized by the Government of Nunavut; or 3) an Indigenous group under a modern land claims agreement.”
Forming Kanata Trade Co.
In 2021 the twins said they wanted to give back.
They started the Kanata Trade Co. and sold COVID-19 masks with Indigenous art, journals and art cards.
Although claiming Inuit heritage, the name of their company, Kanata, is a Haudenosaunee word for village.
The two sisters who own Kanata Trade Co. in media interviews they say they both incorporated the business.
Amira is listed as a director in a federal corporate search.
In a 2021 post, the Elizabeth Fry society in Toronto spotlighted Karima as the CEO of the organization.
Amira and Nadya have appeared in media and on podcasts talking about their desire to give back to the Indigenous community through their company.
In a podcast called Soul Sister Conversations, host Dana Lloyd spoke to Amira.
Lloyd said in the podcast that Amira had reached out about featuring Kanata Trade Co.
In the same podcast, Amira said that they started the company in Nov. 2021 with the goal of helping out Indigenous communities.
“Kanata is a native word for Canada,” Amira tells Lloyd.
The podcast episode has now been removed from most major podcast channels.
Their website has also undergone a lot of changes.
It predominantly displayed an announcement that they were a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Buisiness (CCAB).
CCAB has told APTN News that they have suspended Kanata Trade Co.’s certified aboriginal business status pending an investigation.
“A businesses’ reputation is valuable. We would never want to cause unwarranted harm to any business’ reputation, so we take an evidence-based approach to decision-making,” says CCAB president & CEO, Tabatha Bull.
“In regards to this situation, the decision was made to suspend certification until the investigation has been completed by the organization that issued the Indigenous identification. Once the inquiry is complete, we will move forward with either allowing the business to re-instate its certification, or we will permanently revoke the certification based on the findings.”
The Kanata Trade Co. website is now password-protected.
In December 2021, according to the Internet archive, a nonprofit archival organization that preserved digital versions of websites, snapshots of previous versions of the website have the sisters writing as two Inuk twins.
On the About Us page, the sisters write: “Indspire supported them through their bursary program and say that they are now working to give back to the organization.”
A Nov. 27, 2022 snapshot of the website calls Kanata Trade Co. an “Indigenous owned business”
Then in March 2023, the page changed again.
“Kanata Trade Co. is in the process of being transferred to Indigenous (Métis) owner, Ernie Ouitmet. Ernie was born in Manitoba and is from the Lake Winnipegosis community.”
APTN was not able to speak to Ernie Ouimet. A phone number associated with his social media account is no longer in service and he did not respond to attempts to message him through email and on multiple platforms.
A 2021-2022 Indspire annual report shows that Amira Gill made a donation to Indspire in the $5,000 to $9,999 range.
A CTV article featuring the sisters said that they sold 3,000 masks and raised about $6,000 for the non-profit.
A Queen’s University alumni magazine also featured the sisters. That article was recently removed.
Amira studied civil engineering and Nadya studied law at Queen’s University.
In Spring 2021, the sisters are both featured by Indspire as donors and award recipients. This is the first place they appear to publicly list themselves as members of Nunavut Tunngavik.
“We received help from Indspire when we needed it most,” Nadya is quoted saying in the article. “Now is the time to give back.
“Many Indigenous students struggle and they really need this help to study and grow.”
APTN could not find any updates on the amount of donations provided to Indspire.
The CTV article also said that the artists receive a commission from the masks. APTN reached out to a number of artists to verify whether they had been paid by Kanata Trade Co. but did not hear back by press time.
Some of the artists previously featured on the website such as Benjamin Chee Chee and Curtis Wilson are deceased.
APTN has reached out to Indspire for comment both on the bursaries and the amount of money that the sisters have donated and has not heard back
An announcement by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) on March 30 said that they “became aware of a possible fraudulent enrollment of Amira and Nadya Gill” according to the statement.
In a statement, NTI said it has “received information from the woman identified as their birth mother that Amira and Nadya Gill are not her children. Today, she initiated the process to have Amira and Nadya removed from the Inuit enrollment list.”
The sisters are recorded on the 2020 outside of Nunavut voter’s list. But NTI would not tell APTN how long they had been registered members of the corporation.
APTN has identified through online posts by family members that the woman mentioned by NTI as “the birth mother” is Kitty Noah.
Barbara Akoak, an Inuit jewelry maker and designer, has been raising awareness of the sister’s apparent lack of Inuit roots online. Akoak told APTN that Noah was in a car accident and became mentally disabled in 2006.
Noah’s daughter-in-law is emphatic that the twins aren’t related.
“They are claiming to be birth children of my mother-in-law Kitty Noah and they definitely are not,” said Jennifer Noah in a Facebook thread.
Nadya placed on leave
Nadya Gill had recently been working at Durant Barristers as an articling student. In a now deleted profile of Nadya on the company website, it speaks about her soccer career and four years playing soccer in the United States. It does not mention being Inuk.
Erin Durant, lawyer and founder of Durant Barristers told APTN that Nadya had been placed on leave.
“We did recently became aware of concerning allegations made against one of our employees and are treating this matter very seriously. This individual has been placed on a leave of absence as we undertake a formal investigation into these claims. The Law Society of Ontario has also been made aware of the situation. We find it entirely unacceptable for anyone to falsely claim to be Indigenous and use it for personal gain,” said Durant.
Amira Gill has deleted her LinkedIn page, but she previously was listed as working at Defence Construction Canada, a Canadian Crown corporation, and being a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Amira is also on the Abilities Centre Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEAS) Council in Whitby, Ont. Although her profile at IDEAS mentions that Amira fundraises for “indigenous [sic] students to go to school” it does not mention that she is Inuk.
This story is developing
With files and research from Nashwa Lina Khan, Freelance writer and PhD student at York University
EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated to include comments from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business on April 1, 2023.