Family of Nunavut woman says she was used to get Ontario twins Inuit status 19 April 2023 12:49 PM: Kitty Noah sits barefoot on her son Noah Noah's couch in Iqaluit, sipping a hot cup of coffee. 

Occasionally, the 62-year-old blurts out "aakuluk" to her family, who repeat the Inuktitut term of endearment back to her.

"I love her a lot," says her son, Samuel Hughes, Kitty's caregiver. 

When Hughes heard that his mother was the victim of an alleged lie to gain Inuit identity for a pair of Ontario twins they had never met, he said he was surprised and upset. 

"I wanted to make sense of it. And yeah, I mostly felt bad for my mom because she's already had such a tough life." 

Noah Noah says his mother has suffered multiple brain injuries and is also in remission from cancer. 

She also never gave birth to twins, he said.

Three smiling men sit with a smiling woman on a sectional sofa.
Kitty Noah, second from right, has a comical personality, according to her sons, from left, Gordie Kopalie, Noah Noah and Samuel Hughes.  (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

'We didn't even know they existed' 

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), the organization that maintains the Inuit Enrolment List governed by Article 35 under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, issued a statement on March 30, saying it was investigating a case of "possible enrolment fraud" by a woman named Karima Manji.

In 2016, Manji applied for Inuit status for her twin daughters, Amira and Nadya Gill, identifying an Inuk woman as their birth mother and stating that she was their adoptive mother. The twins are now 24.

"We didn't even know they existed," said Noah Noah, who was shown the enrolment application at NTI that he said named Kitty Noah as the twins' biological mother.

"She was definitely taken advantage of by this Karima Manji," Noah Noah said. "They are not my mom's twins. We had a conversation with her about it and she was just as flabbergasted as we were." 

Then in an April 13 statement, NTI said that it had revoked the sisters' Inuit status the previous week. NTI officials later told CBC News the twins have 30 days to appeal. NTI also said it asked the Gill sisters for proof of an Inuk birth parent, but did not receive a response.

NTI noted that in 2018, Manji applied for Inuit status for herself, claiming to have been adopted by Inuit birth parents. But she couldn't provide the names of the birth parents, or other information, so her application was denied. 

CBC has made numerous requests to speak with the Gill sisters and Manji. These requests have not been answered and it is not known if the twins believe they are Inuit.

The family connection 

Noah Noah says his family knew Manji because she dated his father in the '90s after a brief relationship that began in Iqaluit.

He believes that's how Manji knew about his mother. "I suspect the only way that she would have known any Inuit names."

His father, Harry Hughes, who died in 1997, is not of Inuit descent.

Kitty's niece, Caroline Noah, says she feels hurt that her aunt was taken advantage of and that "in some ways," she's mad at Manji.

"And at the same time, I don't know, for some reason I feel sorry for her." 

Two smiling women sit on a sofa in front of a window.
Caroline Noah, Kitty’s niece, says she always looks out for her aunt. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Possible fraud

In NTI's April 13 statement, it said it has asked the RCMP to investigate the actions of Amira Gill, Nadya Gill and Karima Manji in applying for enrolment under the Nunavut Agreement, noting it had passed the applications over to police.

NTI told CBC News it has only been in contact with RCMP in Nunavut.

Because they were recognized as Inuit, the Gill sisters were able to access thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants. 

WATCH | Family wants police to investigate sisters' claims of Inuit background: 

Calls for RCMP to investigate allegations twins lied about Indigenous background

2 days ago

Duration 3:05

There are calls for an RCMP fraud investigation into an Ontario family that has claimed Inuit ancestry. The family the twin claimed to be related to says they are ‘flabbergasted’

CBC has been unable to verify the exact amount received in scholarships and grants because some educational institutions the girls attended, including the Toronto Prep School, said they don't release specifics of students.

Both sisters attended Queen's University, where Amira studied civil engineering and Nadya studied law. 

The national Indigenous charity, Indspire, confirmed the sisters received money earmarked for Indigenous students to help fund their education.

During the pandemic, the twins also started an online mask business, Kanata Trade Co., which was given aboriginal certification by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

In its newsletter, Indspire says the Gill sisters gave more than $6,000 in profits from the business back to the organization.

On April 17, the CCAB told CBC it had revoked Kanata Trade Co.'s aboriginal certification based on the decision to remove the sisters from the Inuit Enrolment List.

A screenshot of a news article featuring two smiling women, with the headline
A screenshot of an article from New Canadian Media about Kanata, the business Amira and Nadya Gill ran during the pandemic selling face masks with Indigenous artwork on them. (New Canadian Media)

Academic violations could lead to sanctions: Queen's

Queen's University refused to comment on allegations about the Gill sisters, citing privacy concerns, but it did confirm that both sisters had each received two degrees from Queen's. 

The university said that individuals who provide reputable verifiers of Indigenous identity that are later revoked could potentially face sanctions for violating the academic integrity policy. 

The nature of the sanctions "would depend on the circumstances that led to the revocation," said Queen's in an emailed statement. 

Queen's has previously been in the spotlight after some members of faculty and staff were accused of falsely claiming to be Indigenous. The university says it takes the issue seriously and has "developed policies" to handle those situations. 

Nadya Gill has since been placed on a leave of absence at Durant Barristers, the Ontario law firm where she was articling. 

In an email, the firm's founder, Erin Durant, said it had launched an internal investigation and that the Law Society of Ontario had been made aware of the situation as well. 

"We find it entirely unacceptable for anyone to falsely claim to be Indigenous and use it for personal gain," Durant wrote in the email. 

'Wake-up call'

NTI says its enrolment process is "robust."

Community Enrolment Committees are established in every one of Nunavut's 25 communities to review enrolment applications.

NTI says this case is the first of its kind and that it is working to strengthen the enrolment application and review process. 

Paul Quassa, one of Nunavut's land claim negotiators, calls the case a wake-up call. 

"I believe there has to be a more strict way of ensuring that whoever is applying to be a beneficiary is in fact a beneficiary or is eligible. I think there has to be a much … stronger process."

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