'I was expecting more respect': advocate criticizes RCMP handling of formal apology

The RCMP is being sharply criticized by some for the way it handled an Edmonton news conference Thursday. About 40 minutes into the event, the attendees were told the commanding officer had to leave to attend another appointment.

RCMP commanding officer left Thursday news conference early

Tootsie and Paul Tuccaro speaking with advocate Stephanie Harpe after it was announced the RCMP deputy commissioner was leaving Thursday's news conference. (Travis McEwan/CBC )

The RCMP is being sharply criticized by some for the way it handled an Edmonton news conference on Thursday.

The media event was held so Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki could issue a formal public apology to the family of homicide victim Amber Tuccaro. 

About 50 minutes after the news conference began, the victim's mother, Tootsie Tuccaro, was asked if she accepted the RCMP's apology for its handling of the homicide investigation. 

 "No," she said.

Forty-nine seconds later, the RCMP director of communications interrupted the victim's brother, Paul Tuccaro, while he was speaking, to announce the deputy commissioner had another appointment and had to leave the news conference. 

Looking angry, Paul Tuccaro was overheard to say, "I'm just shaking my head that he's leaving." 

He wasn't the only one. 

Paul Tuccaro at the RCMP news conference in Edmonton on Thursday. (Sam Martin/CBC )

Stephanie Harpe, an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, was at the news conference to support the Tuccaro family. 

"I was expecting more respect," Harpe said. "I thought that that was really disrespectful. Going to another meeting at a time like this. It just speaks volumes to all the work that they have to do."

Harpe said she felt the tension in the room when Zablocki left, and thinks the commanding officer should have stayed until the end. 

"There has to be a line drawn in the sand with something like this, because it affects a whole family, a whole community and a whole people," Harpe said. "What was shown spoke volumes. It just wasn't suitable, it wasn't respectful, it wasn't honourable."

RCMP update 

Hours after the news conference ended, the RCMP director of communications sent an email to the media to explain Zablocki had been "called away to an unmovable appointment."

She said he had to return to an all-day meeting with senior police leaders from across the province. 

"We are disappointed that the departure of one of our senior leaders has become part of the story," Suzanne Vuch wrote. "Rather than what it should be, focusing on finding Amber Tuccaro's killer."

Media trainer Grant Ainsley calls the optics of the RCMP's actions on Thursday "terrible." (Grant Ainsley )

Edmonton media trainer Grant Ainsley called the optics of the news conference and email update "terrible."

"Amber's mom was right. He was the one making the apology. He should have stayed longer," Ainsley said. "He was the man. I don't believe anybody in Canada would think he would have had anything more important to do than that news conference."

During the apology, Zablocki admitted the RCMP's initial handling of the file was "not their best work." 

"I think the news conference obviously wasn't their best work as well," Ainsley said.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

with files from Raffy Boudjikanian