By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An Iqaluit man says his mother is the victim of an alleged enrolment fraud that’s being investigated by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and he wants police to get involved.
NTI announced March 30 it’s investigating claims of Inuit heritage made in connection with Amira and Nadya Gill, twin sisters living in Kingston, Ont.
As the organization responsible for ensuring promises made to Inuit under the Nunavut Agreement are carried out, NTI enrols Inuit as beneficiaries of that agreement.
NTI said in a news release last week that a woman named Karima Manji claimed she had adopted the twins from an Inuk mother. However, new information prompted it to launch an investigation into that claim.
Iqaluit resident Noah Noah said his mother, Kitty Noah, is the unnamed Inuk woman mentioned in NTI’s news release — the woman initially identified as the birth mother of the two sisters.
Noah said his family had no idea until last week that the Gill twins existed or that the Noah family had been named when the sisters were enrolled as Inuit beneficiaries.
Noah, the eldest of Kitty’s seven children, said he is her legal guardian because his mother has suffered two brain injuries in her lifetime and requires daily assistance.
Speaking on his mother’s behalf, Noah wrote in an email that he was shocked to learn about NTI’s investigation into what it called “possible fraudulent enrolment.”
“My mother has no knowledge of these people or that her name had been used to grant them Inuit land claims beneficiaries,” Noah said.
NTI contacted Noah’s family after receiving a tip about the Gill sisters’ claim, Noah said. He added he’s not sure who made the initial call, but thanked the organization for swiftly responding to the allegations.
The Gill sisters identified as Inuit in several news articles in 2021 about their business, Kanata Trade Co., which sold products such as COVID-19 masks, pins and clothing that featured Indigenous artwork on them.
The business’s website site has been taken down, but archived versions can still be accessed.
“We are twin Inuit sisters both attending Queen’s [University],” the About Us page stated on June 11, 2021.
Amira Gill completed a science degree in 2019 and a master’s degree in 2021. Nadya Gill completed a law degree in 2022, then a master of law degree later that year.
On the business’s web page, the sisters said they got through their education at Queen’s in Kingston, Ont., with the help of Indspire, a national charity that provides financial support to Indigenous post-secondary students.
Kanata Trade Co.’s website said some proceeds were donated to Indspire and other Indigenous initiatives.
Kanata Trade Co. had been listed as a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses until a few days ago. Inuit business owners applying for association membership must present their beneficiary cards as a part of the application process.
Council president and CEO Tabatha Bull said Kanata Trade’s membership has been suspended while NTI does its investigation.
“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,” she said in a statement.
In an email March 29, Amira Gill said their Inuk heritage comes through the Noah and Hughes families from Iqaluit, and that their mother lived with a man named Harry Hughes.
Noah said Hughes is his father, who died in 1997. He added that Hughes and Manji briefly dated before Hughes died.
“This has been a lot to process out of nowhere. We are trying to respond to many media requests and also want to protect the dignity of my mother, who is the real victim in all of this.”
Amira Gill has not responded to several emails requesting a response to the Noah family’s allegations or the NTI investigation.
Last week, she told Nunatsiaq News the NTI enrolment cards she and her sister have were given to them “at a young age” and they have “no knowledge of the enrolment process.”
She said Nunatsiaq News has not revealed the identity of the people making the allegations on social media, nor assessed their credibility. She made that comment earlier in the day, before NTI issued its news release.
Nunatsiaq News has not been able to contact either Nadya Gill or Manji.
However, the founder of an eastern Ontario law firm where Nadya Gill had been working said Monday she recently became aware of “concerning allegations” regarding an employee and was “treating the matter very seriously.”
“We find it entirely unacceptable for anyone to falsely claim to be Indigenous and use it for personal gain,” Erin Durant, a lawyer and founder at Durant Barristers, wrote in an email.
The employee was placed on a leave of absence and an investigation started, she said.
Indspire said the Gill twins were eligible for its bursary and scholarship program due to their NTI enrolment, but has not answered questions about the NTI investigation.
Noah said he wants justice for his mother, and to figure out how this all happened.
He also said he plans to go to the RCMP to file a report.
“Our hope is that NTI does an investigation as well as RCMP regarding this situation,” Noah said.
“We also want to see Indspire and workplaces that have granted Inuit-specific funding and employment opportunities to these twins to also investigate.”
Nunatsiaq News has asked Nunavut RCMP whether an investigation has started, but has not received a response.
NTI said it is not providing further comment on the investigation other than what it included in its March 30 news release.
Queen’s University media manager Julie Brown said the school does not comment publicly about students, staff or faculty, but did provide the Gill sisters’ graduation information, which is a matter of public record.