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Vivian Tuccaro is faced with her daughter, Amber Tuccaro’s death every minute of the day.
“I am 56 years old now and raising a little boy that is so full of energy... He drives me crazy but at the same time, he’s my sanity. I mean, he is all that I have left of my baby,” Vivian said while talking about her grandson and Amber’s son, Jacob.
“Just the way he looks at me sometimes, and the way he stands like his mommy... The way he says words, he says them the way Amber used to, like Amber had a witty attitude and that’s what Jacob has,” she said in between sobs.
Amber, who was from Alberta’s Mikisew Cree First Nation, was last seen on Aug. 18, 2010, in Nisku, Alta. just outside of Edmonton.
She arrived with a female friend and Jacob, who was 14 months old at the time, from Fort McMurray, where she was living with her mother. Their plan was to stay the night outside the city to save money, and head into Edmonton the next day.
Amber was too excited and decided to hitchhike into the city that night. When she didn’t return by the next day, the friend called her mother, who then called the RCMP.
On Aug. 28, 2012, RCMP released a cell phone conversation Amber had while in the company of an unidentified man. They hoped it would bring in tips to help identify him.
Sergeant Josee Valiquette says there continues to be tips coming forward but won’t elaborate on what they are or if they’ve identified the man behind the voice.
On Sept. 1, 2012, just four days after the audio was released, Amber’s remains were found on a rural property near Leduc County by horseback riders.
Vivian says the way the case was handled from the beginning is a joke.
She says police even told her, ‘well maybe she’s out partying and she will call or whatever.’
“And I was like, ‘no Amber doesn’t leave her baby anywhere,’” Vivian said.
On March 20, 2014, Vivian filed a complaint with the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the Leduc RCMP. The complaint says investigators downplayed Amber’s disappearance and took her off the missing persons list after one month despite no one seeing her.
“So when they told me they took her off the missing persons list my first question was ‘did you guys see her?’ And they said ‘no.’ And I was like, ‘how could you take her off after telling me time and time again that you have to see her and be 100 per cent sure that’s her and yet you take her off?,’” Vivian said.
“So it took me one month to get her back on the missing persons list. I got the run around. They told me call this number, call that number and I ended up back in Leduc again.”
What’s worse, Vivian is left to wonder if any of Amber’s personal property the police collected could have been used as evidence — it was destroyed when she was taken off the missing persons list.
The Leduc RCMP wouldn’t elaborate to CBC but say its policies and procedures have changed as a result of the Amber Tuccaro investigation.
Vivian travelled to Ottawa in February 2015 for the first-ever roundtable into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It was also the one year anniversary of the death of her husband, Andrew Tuccaro.
She and dozens of families across Canada met with premiers, representatives from six national aboriginal organizations and two federal cabinet ministers. There, she expressed her support for a federal inquiry into the issue.
She believes it could highlight the gaps that exist, especially in the area of reporting a missing person.
“I guess being more caring and not just saying, ‘oh, she will call, anyway she’s probably just out partying.’ Like, have more respect and more compassion. You know, don’t just treat her like she’s nothing. I’m not just speaking for Amber but for all the missing and murdered,” she said.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.