The Current

Sister of N.S. shooting victim wants answers and action to ensure 'my family's death wasn't in vain'

Sunday is the anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 22 people in Nova Scotia, marking a year of pain, perseverance, and lingering questions for bereaved loved ones.

Inquiry into police response must find answers, protect Canadians, says Tammy Oliver-McCurdie

From left, Emily Tuck, Jolene Oliver and Aaron Tuck. Investigators believe the family was killed in their home in Portapique, N.S. the night of April 18, 2020, but their bodies were not discovered until 19 hours later. (Tammy Oliver-McCurdie/The Canadian Press)

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A woman who lost three family members in last year's mass killing in Nova Scotia wants firm action to make sure other Canadian families never face the same loss.

"Nothing will ever bring my family back, nothing," said Red Deer, Alta. resident Tammy Oliver-McCurdie. Her sister Jolene Oliver, brother-in-law Aaron Tuck and their daughter Emily were killed.

But if an inquiry into the shooting and RCMP response can bring change, "it'd help me to know that my family's death wasn't in vain," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings and deliberately set fires that killed 22 people, when a gunman travelled almost 200 kilometres through Nova Scotia, disguised as a police officer. 

The RCMP has faced criticism over its response as the attack unfolded, in particular what steps were taken to warn the public. An inquiry is underway, with its commissioners pledging to find out why it happened, how it happened, and ways to stop it from ever happening again. It is expected to release findings and recommendations in Nov. 2022.

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O'Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (CBC)

The pandemic has prevented Oliver-McCurdie's family from travelling to Nova Scotia to attend memorials this weekend, but her other sister, Crystal Mendiuk, is holding a remembrance walk in Cardiff Park, outside Edmonton. Oliver-McCurdie is holding a rally at 1 p.m. Saturday in Calgary, as a way to remember the victims of the shooting, and demand answers about how it unfolded. 

She wants to see improvements in response times in rural areas, as well as how those communities are alerted to danger. 

"If they would have received a text or information or some kind of alert, I don't know if Aaron would have opened that door so readily," she said.

She also wants restrictions on the sale of uniforms or equipment that could allow someone to pose as law enforcement.

Investigators believe Jolene, Aaron and Emily were killed in their home in Portapique, N.S. the night of April 18, 2020. However, their bodies were not discovered until 19 hours later, at 5 pm Sunday, despite police arriving in the subdivision Saturday night.

The gunman was still loose for more than 12 hours after he murdered the Oliver-Tuck family, travelling 195 kilometres until he was shot by police in Enfield, N.S., at 11:26 a.m. Sunday morning.

Oliver-McCurdie lives in a rural area in Alberta, and wonders what would happen if a similar shooting attack happened there. She questions if police would call to her house in the search for a suspect, or to check if she was OK.

"God hopes that this never happens again, but how many people is it going to take to get better at public safety, not just in Nova Scotia, across Canada?" she said.

Portapique councillor Tom Taggart wants his community to have the time and space to heal. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

Inquiry is key to healing: councillor

Portapique councillor Tom Taggart wants the inquiry commissioners to understand that their work will be "the key to a lot of people healing."

"The people of the community and the families have got to — at the end of the day — they've got to be able to say, 'Well, finally, we know what really happened.'"

Thirteen people were murdered in Portapique alone, and the approaching anniversary has resurfaced a lot of trauma, he said, adding that he wants his community to be afforded the privacy to heal. 

"We properly want to remember the people that lost their lives, not only here, but up the road or anywhere else in Nova Scotia," he said.

"And then we want to be forgotten about, OK? And I mean that big time: we want to be forgotten about."

'Managing our emotions'

Oliver-McCurdie remembers her sister Jolene as someone who loved people, and music. Her daughter Emily played the violin, and had overcome her nerves to upload a performance to an online kitchen party that kept many Nova Scotians connected in the early days of the pandemic.

A final song: Emily Tuck plays the violin

3 years ago
Duration 2:22
Emily Tuck, 17, was one of the victims of a deadly shooting rampage in N.S. She and her parents were found dead in their Portapique home. This is the final video posted of her online.

"That song used to make me cry profusely and so I've gotten to a point in my healing … where I can smile at that song now, and think it's amazing that she can share that with the world," Oliver-McCurdie said.

"She did something amazing and she was beautiful."

The entire family were car enthusiasts, with Aaron restoring an old Ford Pinto that was intended to one day belong to Emily. Family friends took up the restoration, and it's now featured as a memorial to Jolene, Aaron and Emily in an annual car show

Oliver-McCurdie said she and her family have "just been kind of managing our emotions for the last year."

She's found support with other families who lost loved ones, and is hoping that as the pandemic eases, she can pay her respects in Nova Scotia along with father, who has been unable to travel for health reasons. 

"I'm really hoping my dad can make it out to Nova Scotia," she said.

"He really wants to go see the car show this summer."

The CBC is hosting a one-hour memorial, Stronger Together at 6 pm AT Sunday. Here's how to tune in on TV and Radio.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Mary-Catherine McIntosh.

Hear full episodes of The Current on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service. 


  • An earlier version of this story said Tammy Oliver-McCurdie was resident of Calgary. She lives in Red Deer, Alta.
    Apr 16, 2021 3:17 PM ET

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