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Murray N. Trachtenberg

Dear Senator McCallum,

I have just finished reading your open letter of February 15th to Senator Beyak and I felt compelled to send you this email.

I was very moved by the revelation of your own experiences with the residential school system. Words can have such an impact, and when I saw that you referred to yourself as an "inmate", that told me that your experiences were based on suffering and the deprivation of your liberty.

As a father, and now grandfather, I tried, as you suggested, to imagine that stranger talking to me about my children or to my children about their children. I also tried to imagine my children or grandchildren being taken by the State and being helpless to prevent that from happening.

Try as I did, this scenario is so beyond my life experience that I cannot really experience the feelings it would cause a parent. Perhaps it is my personal limits that prevent me from achieving this.

Or perhaps that is one of the obstacles to real action happening on reconciliation—non-indigenous Canada can intellectually understand the horribleness of the residential school system but cannot (yet) really emotionally connect to it as if they actually experienced it? Many Canadians claim to be empathetic and while I do not question their sincerity I do question their ability to actually experience the emotional pain individuals such as you have experienced. Perhaps empathy is achievable. I do not know. At the very least, what we do need is compassion.

I do not pretend to have  great insight into this. I am writing to you to  encourage you to continue doing what you can to teach and explain to us why and how your heart has  been broken. Do not be distracted from this purpose by the negativity of others. Let us bear witness to your healing journey. As we do so, as we hear and learn from former school inmates, as we continue to learn about the great differences between the Canada you and others have known, let non-Indigenous  Canada develop compassion for our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The Cambridge Dictionary defines compassion as "a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering … of others and a wish to help them". I think that when we as a country develop a truly compassionate response to the TRC Calls to Action we will move forward towards reconciliation.

If we can do this, I would like to think that during my grandchildren's lifetime or at the very latest their children’s lifetime, an Indigenous leader will be able to say that the Canada she has known is the same Canada that they have known.

Respectfully yours,

Murray N. Trachtenberg

Barrister, Solicitor & Notary Public

Senator Marc Gold

Dear Mary Jane,

Thank you for sharing your open letter with me, I was very moved by it.  I hope you are having a good week back home, and I look forward to seeing you upon our return to Ottawa.

Best regards,


Carole Zoerb

Dear Ms. McCallum,

Thank you for your open letter to your colleague, and, quite frankly, all of us.

Your words have given me a renewed understanding of why we need to tell our own stories of violation at the hands of others and determine our own path to healing after such events in our lives. I admire your courage in sharing your wisdom on these issues with us.


Carole Zoerb

Senator Diane Bellemare

Bonjour Senator,

I just finished reading your touching and beautiful letter.

It went directly to my heart.

I remember when I was a kid, I did not want to go to any boarding school for any reason.

I am so sorry for you and for all the kids of your communities who were taken there away from their families.

There are hardly no words to characterize what you went trough.

But you did find the words in a respectful manner.

Your letter makes us understand delicately the horrors of those schools and the resilience of your community.

Thank you for this letter.