By Julia Magsombol
Local Journalism Initiative
A national Indigenous charity, Indspire, wants their money back from Toronto twins who claimed to be Inuit and Indigenous citizens for their university education.
“I was not impressed. It blocks other people from applying as well. Let’s say we only have a certain amount of money to work with, and we’re giving it to people who don’t deserve it; when an Indigenous person applies, they struggle to try to finish school . . . there’s no money left, and all the resources are gone,” said Kim Beaudin, the national vice chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP).
Beaudin explained that in Indigenous communities, most people know where they come from or what band they’re a member of, except if they are a part of the Sixties Scoop – a term that refers to the period in the 60s where Indigenous children were “scooped away” from their birth families without their consent.
“As Indigenous people…. in my family, we all know where we come from, other than if you’re a Sixties Scoop survivor,” Beaudin added. “For the twins, they couldn’t even make any connection because there was no connection to be had.”
Beaudin shared that his Pakistani friend married an Indigenous woman. Their kids know where they come from and what particular band they belong to. But there was nothing for the twins.
Based on the news, further investigations will be made, but the Gill sisters, Nadya and Amira Gill, are being investigated on their background. An investigation was also launched into potential Inuit status enrolment fraud.
In Spring 2021, the sisters were both Indspire donation and award recipients. They listed themselves as members of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI). They used their NTI enrolment for eligibility in the Indspire funding.
In a news release, the NTI stated a woman named “Karima Manji claimed that twins Amira and Nadya Gill were her adopted children and identified an Inuk woman as their birth mother.”
But NTI added it “has received information from the woman identified as their birth mother that Amira and Nadya Gill are not her children.”
After reports of their identity and background were questioned publicly, the Twins were removed from the NTI’s enrolment. “People see distinct advantages to applying for funding,” Beaudin said. Several post-secondary institutions and bands provide support for Indigenous students, including financial assistance and scholarships.
“Some just check off a box . . . with no real serious research or any documentation or anything backing it up,” Beaudin added.
In a recent interview, Beaudin explained how non-status Indigenous students have difficulty getting the funds. He said that this fund could be for those who truly fit the government criteria of being an Indigenous student. “Some students don’t fit the First Nations bands, despite the fact that they have a history of direct link to their families and direct link to culture. They just don’t fit,” Beaudin added.
Indigenous identity fraud is a problem that hasn’t been solved yet, he added.
In a related issue some Manitobans are pressing provincial political parties to do more to ensure candidates’ Indigeneity.
Jean Teillet, a lawyer and great-grandniece of Métis leader Louis Riel explained that “these individuals are said to be ‘wannabees’ or ‘pretendians,’ and “the advantage they gain is stolen, causes harm and breaches our trust.”
“And that’s what happens is probably going on for years. We’re just seeing little bits and pieces of it now, and it’s starting to become more prevalent.”
There are no recent updates on the twins; however, based on the investigation, Indspire concluded that they want the twins to return all the funds they’ve received from Indspire.
“They’re causing many problems for a lot of people by doing that . . . by taking advantage of a system they don’t qualify for. They shouldn’t be doing that.” Beaudin said. “We want to ensure that Indigenous students have an opportunity to further their education and get the degree or diploma that they need to become part of the community.”