Families of missing and murdered indigenous women will meet with two federal cabinet ministers in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday to help design a national public inquiry.

Participants must register and are encouraged to take part in an orientation session on Tuesday before meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu, the following day.

An invitation to the so-called "engagement event" was sent out to Aboriginal organizations last week from the federal government's MMIWG Secretariat, asking them to distribute and share the email addressed to "Survivors, Families and Loved Ones".

"In the first phase of the pre-inquiry design process, we want to hear directly from you on how to design an inquiry that will result in concrete recommendations to work towards ending violence against Indigenous women and girls," said the email from Margaret Buist, director general of the secretariat.

The orientation sessions are to allow participants to meet each other and prepare them for the session with the Ministers by discussing "the kind of information needed from participants in order to inform an inquiry process," the email said.

'Difficult and painful'

Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario is encouraging its community members to participate in the meetings.

"These consultations may be difficult and painful but it is important for the government to hear directly from the families and friends who have lost their loved ones," Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum said. "We will do everything possible to support them so they can share their experiences and expectations of the inquiry process."

Two pre-inquiry consultation meetings have already been held in Ottawa, a spokesperson for Indigenous Affairs said. The schedule for upcoming meetings is as follows:

•Thunder Bay, Ontario: January 6, 2016

•Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: January 8, 2016

•Whitehorse, Yukon: January 11, 2016

•Vancouver, British Columbia: January 13, 2016

•Prince George, British Columbia: January 15, 2016

More meeting locations and dates will be added as they are confirmed, according to the department. The meetings are closed to the public and to media.