IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut RCMP have charged three women after receiving a complaint that they used Inuit status to defraud two organizations.
RCMP say that between October 2016 and September 2022, the Ontario-based women applied for and obtained Inuit beneficiary status as adopted children through the land-claim body Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Mounties alleged Thursday that the women used the status to defraud the Kakivak Association and Qikiqtani Inuit Association of funds only available to Inuit beneficiaries. The associations offer grants and scholarships to Inuit.
Karima Manji, 59, and her twin daughters, Amira and Nadya Gill, 25, face two counts of fraud over $5,000. They are scheduled to appear in Iqaluit court Oct. 30.
"I'm absolutely thrilled that they've been charged," said Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., in an interview.
"I feel reassured that the system works, that we alerted the RCMP to this possible fraud in the spring, and the RCMP has done their investigation and has now announced that they've charged them."
In March, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. announced it was investigating alleged fraud, saying the sisters had received beneficiary status in 2016.
It said their mother claimed on an application form she adopted the girls from an Inuk woman. That woman's family disputed the claim, saying they have no biological relationship to the twins.
Kotierk said those overseeing applications at the time assumed the information in the mother's application was factual.
"The birth family that they name are actually true Inuit that are part of our community," she said.
Their beneficiary status had been cancelled in the spring, she added.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, a regional group representing about half of Inuit in Nunavut, had also said it completed an internal investigation into the family's claims.
It said it found a 2018 enrolment application from the mother that claimed she had been adopted by two Inuit from Iqaluit. The association said the enrolment committee rejected the application due to a lack of supporting documentation and based on their knowledge of the community.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Kotierk said since the claims surfaced, the organization has provided additional training to those who oversee the application process.
Online biographies describe Nadya Gill as a soccer player, coach and academic who was born and grew up near Toronto. She attended two universities in the United States as well as Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where she studied law.
Amira Gill also attended Queen’s University, where she studied civil engineering. Between 2017 and 2021, she was granted an award, scholarship and two bursaries designated for Indigenous students.
The sisters claimed to be Inuit in several news articles in 2021, when they launched Kanata Trade Co., an online business selling masks designed by Indigenous artists. The company's social media pages and website are no longer online.
The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business suspended Kanata’s certification.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.
— By Jeremy Simes in Regina
The Canadian Press