A Toronto mother involved in a case of Inuit identity fraud has pleaded guilty in a Nunavut courtroom, according to her lawyer.
John Scott Cowan said Karima Manji, the mother of Amira and Nadya Gill, entered the plea Friday morning and took "full responsibility for the matters at hand."
Iqaluit RCMP charged Manji and her daughters with fraud over $5,000 in September 2023. They said the women used their status to defraud the Kakivak Association and Qikiqtani Inuit Association of grant and scholarship money that was only available to Inuit beneficiaries.
The charges against Amira and Nadya Gill have been dropped.
Manji and the Gill sisters appeared in court on Friday virtually, from Ontario.
An agreed statement of facts entered into court said Manji filled out forms in 2016 to enrol her daughters as Inuit children so they could become beneficiaries of the Nunavut Tunngavik land claim, saying they were born to Iqaluit woman Kitty Noah and that Manji was their adoptive mother.
The information Manji provided was false, the statement said, because she herself gave birth to the Gill sisters in Mississauga, Ont., in 1998.
'Some closure' for Kitty
Noah Noah, Kitty Noah's son, said he's relieved Manji pleaded guilty and believes his mother would have been happy with the outcome as well. He told CBC News that his mother died in 2023, before RCMP laid charges in the case.
"We did get some closure that way, for her," he said. "A lot of family members have shared the same sentiment, they're very emotional about it as well."
Noah said he also wishes the charges against Manji's daughters had not been withdrawn, and that he believes Nunavut Tunngavik should also take responsibility in the case.
"It shouldn't have been that easy for them to get on the list," he said.
More facts of the case
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) run the Inuit enrolment process, and later in 2016 both sisters' applications were approved. Manji received NTI enrolment cards for her daughters, which the agreed statement of facts said she then provided to them.
"The daughters were unaware the cards were fraudulent," the statement reads.
"Ms. Manji acknowledged her involvement in the acquisition of funds from Nunavut with incorrect information in it, and took responsibility for any deception that caused," Cowan, her defence lawyer, told CBC News.
As a result of their beneficiary status under Nunavut Tunngavik's land claim, the Gill sisters were able to access funds for education-related expenses from the Kakivak Association. They received nearly $160,000 from the association between September 2020 and March 2023.
Another $64,000 was on hold for Amira Gill in the spring of 2023, the statement said, but it was never paid out. Around that time, both daughters were removed from the enrolment list after Kitty Noah's family raised the issue and an investigation was launched.
According to the statement, Manji submitted an application to NTI to enroll herself as a beneficiary in 2018 — claiming to be adopted by Inuit parents — but it was unsuccessful.
Cowan said a sentencing hearing for Manji is scheduled for June.
In a news release issued Friday evening, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said it welcomes the guilty plea by Manji, but added the Gill sisters should not have been let off.
"A family's privacy, peace, and dignity has been affected because of the actions of these three women," said NTI President Aluki Kotierk, in a news release.
"The two daughters [benefited] from their mother's fraud scheme, and yet their role in the scheme will go unanswered. This is not acceptable."
The release said as a result of the situation, NTI has adopted additional requirements for applicants to provide written documentation to verify their claims in "certain situations."