Violence against women and girls will remain the primary focus of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, despite a push to expand their mandate, commissioners say.

"The national inquiry will stay focused on its mandate to inquire into and report on systemic forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada," Susan Vella, the inquiry's lead legal counsel, said Tuesday.

While Vella said that the inquiry will likely hear from men and boys, it's only "to understand whether the circumstances they face have contributed to the vulnerabilities faced by Indigenous women and girls."

Vella made the comments in Ottawa when MMIW inquiry commissioners held their first news conference, months after the inquiry was launched in August 2016.

'Husbands, fathers, brothers'

Some critics, like B.C. Chief Ernie Crey, wanted the inquiry to do more to include men and boys.

"A lot of the missing and murdered boys and men share a similar experience  [with girls and women] of being removed from their communities and being placed in non-Native homes," he told CBC News Monday.

Ernie Crey

B.C. Chief Ernie Crey was hopeful the inquiry would be expanded to include missing and murdered Indigenous men. (CBC)

Crey is part of a group called Expand the Inquiry that urged commissioners to change their mandate to focus on violence against all Indigenous people.

His sister Dawn went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in December 2000. Her DNA was later found on convicted killer Robert Pickton's farm.

"I don't know if there's room for it, with the timeline [the inquiry] must follow," said Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, co-chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), a support group for Saskatchewan families of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

She welcomes the testimony of men and boys, but believes the mandate of the inquiry should remain focused on women and girls.

"There's families with husbands, fathers, brothers that are part of the missing and murdered experience," she said. 

With files from Angela Sterritt