The federal government should set up a separate investigative unit to look into unsolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, according to one academic.

Kim Stanton is the legal director at Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, or LEAF, a national organization that works to ensure Canadian courts treat women and girls equally, and wrote her PhD thesis about the institutional design of inquiries.

As the Liberal government gears up for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, Stanton said they will be facing a "big challenge" when it comes to the number of unsolved cases.

Kim Stanton

Kim Stanton says the Liberal government should set up an independent investigative unit to look into unsolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, that runs parallel to the upcoming national inquiry. (submitted)

"These families deserve answers and they deserve to know what has happened with their loved ones," she said.

"It may not be feasible for this commission to really deeply investigate each single case."

Stanton suggests an independent investigative unit run parallel to the commission.

"An investigative unit which is led by civilians, so that is not led by the RCMP for example, would be able to really dig into the cases and continue for as long as it needs to and inform the commission's work," she said.

Independent inquiry

Stanton believes the national inquiry should be run by an independent group, given the poor history between indigenous peoples and the federal government. Though Stanton said the government is taking a "refreshing" approach to that relationship, she says the process should be conducted by an arms-length group.

"It's important because it enables the public to see the process as independent and that gives it credibility," she said.

The Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, held private meetings with families of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Yellowknife on Friday and will be in Whitehorse on Monday.

Stanton said she would prefer to have seen the pre-inquiry consultations also conducted independently.

"I don't doubt the ministers' sincerity at all. It really has been a terrific commitment from the three ministers who've been engaged."

"I'm sure that they will hear in their travels, as they do these pre-inquiry consultations, the importance of an independent commission," she said. "So there's still lots of room for this to go right."