By: Jeff Pelleter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An organization that provided funding to Ontario twins, claiming to be Inuit, for their university education says it wants its money back.
Amira and Nadya Gill received funding from Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures program to support their education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. The amount of money, when they received it and how many years’ worth of funding the Gills received from Indspire remains unclear.
The sisters were eligible to receive Indspire funding by using their Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. enrolment as proof of Indigenous identity, Indspire communications director Brandon Meawasige said in March.
However, the twins were removed from NTI’s enrolment list in April after questions were raised on social media about their identities.
NTI, the organization responsible for ensuring obligations made to Inuit under the Nunavut Agreement are met, called on the RCMP in April to investigate how the Gills got on the enrolment list that entitles them to benefits.
An RCMP investigation into the case is ongoing, spokesperson Sgt. Pauline Melanson confirmed on Sunday.
“Indspire’s programs require proof of Indigenous identity, and we take misrepresentation of this proof very seriously,” Indspire said in a statement dated July 6 and posted on its website.
“As a result of NTI’s investigation, Indspire has requested the return of all funds that both Nadya and Amira Gill received through Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures program.”
Indspire said that it continues to work with NTI and with law enforcement “as required.”
Indspire’s statement did not say how much money the organization had given to the Gills, how many years of studies the funding covered, or when that money was given to them.
Nadya Gill received a master of law degree in 2022 while Amira Gill received a master of applied science in 2021.
Nunatsiaq News left a message and sent an email to Meawasige asking for that information, but did not receive a response on Monday.
The accusations of enrolment fraud against the Gills and Manji became a national story earlier this year.
Social media users began raising questions about the Gill twins’ Inuit identities following media coverage in June 2021 about an online store they ran.
Kanata Trade Co., which no longer has an active website, sold products decorated with Indigenous artwork, including shirts, pins and COVID-19 face masks with a promise that profits would be donated to Indspire.
The twins claimed to be Inuit on their business’s website, and presented themselves as such in various news articles and TV appearances.
According to a 2021 newsletter from Indspire, the twins donated $6,000 to the organization through their business.
Amira Gill sent a picture of her NTI enrolment card to Nunatsiaq News in March, saying she and her sister were “being attacked online by extremist individuals.”
She said she had no knowledge of NTI’s enrolment process. She said her Inuit ties come from the Noah family in Iqaluit, and that she would not be commenting further.
Kitty Noah, left, poses for a photo with her son Noah Noah. (File photo by David Venn)
The Noah family disputes those ties.
Noah Noah, who lives in Iqaluit, said the twins’ mother, Karima Manji, had enrolled the Gills with NTI in 2016, falsely claiming that the twins were the biological children of his mother, Kitty Noah.
Kitty Noah suffered a brain injury in the 1990s, and Noah Noah is her legal guardian.
At the time of enrolment, the twins, who were born in 1998, would have been in their late teens.
Nunatsiaq News has not heard from Amira Gill since she sent a photo of her enrolment card and a statement in March.
She did not answer a phone call, or respond to a text and email asking for comment on Indspire’s request to repay the money she received from it.
Nadya Gill could not be reached on Monday either.
This newspaper has not been able to reach Manji at all.