Gill twins, mother charged with fraud over Inuit ancestry claims

Click to play video: 'Metis lawyer Jean Teillet explains how to deal with the Indigenous identity fraud'
Metis lawyer Jean Teillet explains how to deal with the Indigenous identity fraud
Jean Teillet urges organizations to set up Indigenous identity verification processes adding, "the first big thing that would stop a lot of this is just saying we're going to check." – Apr 6, 2023

The Iqaluit RCMP have charged Amira and Nadya Gill as well as their mother, Karima Manji, with two counts of fraud after they allegedly falsely claimed to have Inuit ancestry.

The Ontario twins made headlines earlier this year after Nunatsiaq News reported that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. — the organization in Nunavut that, among other things, checks claims of Inuit ancestry — was investigating allegations of fraud.

On Thursday, the RCMP said an investigation found that the three women had applied for and obtained Inuit beneficiary status as “adopted Inuit children” between October 2016 and September 2022.

“The women used this Inuit beneficiary status to defraud the Kakivak Association and Qikiqtani Inuit Association of funds that are only available to Inuit beneficiaries by obtaining grants and scholarships,” police said.

Nadya and Amira Gill’s Inuit identity has been questioned by Indigenous people for years. urfavpup_ace / Instagram

Indigenous people have been raising alarm bells over the Gills’ claims of Inuit ancestry for years.

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Following its investigation in the spring, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. removed the Gill twins and their mother from the beneficiary list and asked the RCMP to look into the matter.

The issue of people who make false claims of Indigenous ancestry, often called “pretendians,” has been gaining traction across North America.

Click to play video: 'Metis lawyer Jean Teillet talks about how deep-rooted the ‘pretendian’ problem is'
Metis lawyer Jean Teillet talks about how deep-rooted the ‘pretendian’ problem is

Earlier this year, Global News spoke with Métis lawyer Jean Teillet in light of news surrounding the twins.

“I’m not greatly fond of (the term pretendian) because ‘pretend’ sounds harmless, right? Like, kids pretend. And so it sounds like there’s no harm that comes out of this,” she said.

“I prefer to call it fraud because the definition of fraud is intentional deception to obtain a material gain and that’s what we’re talking about here.”

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Indspire, a registered charity that invests in Indigenous education, has asked for the Gill sisters to return all the funds they received through the organization’s Building Brighter Futures program.

The sisters and their mother are scheduled to appear in an Iqaluit court at the end of October.

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