Ellis Kirkland has been an architect, a provincial lobbyist, a volunteer NGO member, an infrastructure expert, and the owner of her own consulting company.
Now the 60-year-old Toronto woman is charged with the attempted murder of a concierge at the Rosedale apartment building where she lives.
Kirkland was arrested Thursday on the 27th floor of a balcony of Toronto's Town Inn Suites, 620 Church St., after two police officers rappelled down from the floor above. She was taken into custody in connection with the stabbing allegedly involving a large kitchen knife.
She was charged Friday with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, weapons dangerous to public peace. She appeared in a Toronto court Friday and was remanded into custody. She is due to appear in mental health court on Monday.
Kirkland, up until the events of Thursday, had made a name for herself through her work.
Kirkland called a 'trailblazer'
Toronto interior designer Sasha Josipovicz described her as a successful, ambitious woman, and a "trailblazer."
Josipovicz said he was close to Kirkland in the 1980s, after she graduated from the University of Toronto's architecture program.
Kirkland, who was then known as Ellis Galea, graduated from the school in 1981, one of just a handful of women in the program and one of only nine graduates in total.
Josipovicz said Kirkland grew up in a modest Maltese family in Toronto after coming to Canada as a child.
Canadian Women Studies, a York University quarterly, published a profile of Kirkland under her maiden name in 1987. The article, titled Ellis Gallea: A Maltese Maverick, said Kirkland was born in Malta, "a product of two very ancient Maltese families," and came to Canada with her parents when she was two years old.
The article describes her "passion for work" and describes her as a "petite workaholic."
"It becomes very evident in conversation that there is nothing average about Ellis. Born to a family of overachievers (one uncle is vice-president of the European Economic Council; another is a Vatican theologian who writes on the affairs of the church and state), Ellis is certainly more than holding her own in such illustrious company," it reads.
But Josipovicz said Kirkland's success was hard won.
"She refused to be defined by men," he said.
Kirkland reached the highest echelons of her field through tenacity and skill, he said, recalling one occasion where she was brought off a plane on a stretcher. She hadn't eaten or slept for a week while trying to close a deal in China. She managed to close the deal, Josipovicz said.
In 2001, Kirkland appeared at a Toronto city council committee meeting to advocate for barriers for the Bloor Street Viaduct, which was known as a "suicide magnet" at the time.
"People are wanting to jump off a suicide magnet," she said. "If you stop that, they don't actually go to another bridge. They don't go to the next location in the area."
On Thursday, police sources said she screamed at the officers who rappelled onto the balcony of the hotel room where she was and tried to jump off the balcony. They stopped her and took her into custody.
Lobbyist, volunteered at NGO
Records from Ontario's Office of the Integrity Commissioner show Kirkland was registered in 2015 as a provincial lobbyist for two First Nations, Fort Albany and Kashechewan. The company listed was the Kirkland Capital Corporation.
Kashechewan Chief Leo Friday said the news that Kirkland has been charged is disturbing.
"This is surprising and shocking news. I can't make any comments at this time," he said.
Kirkland's LinkedIn profile says she is a director and vice-president of the NATO Association of Canada, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that "strives to promote peace, prosperity and security through awareness of NATO and international relations issues."
On the association's website, Kirkland's name has been removed from its list of vice-presidents.
"The NATO Association of Canada has no knowledge of an incident connected with one of our volunteer members that has been reported in the press today and is unable to comment further. It is our policy to not comment on its members and volunteers," reads a note posted on the organization's website.
Her LinkedIn profile also says Kirkland is past vice-chair of the Kirkland Global Corporation and past president of the Kirkland Partnership, a company incorporated in November 2011.
Kirkland is past chair of the Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils and past president of the Ontario Association of Architects. She has a master's in architecture in urban design from Harvard University, with a specialty in critical infrastructure, and a bachelor of architecture degree, honours, from the University of Toronto.
Ellis Kirkland in YouTube video about trip to Golden Temple in India
Ottawa Life pulls profile from website
Kirkland was the subject of a profile in Ottawa Life magazine, dated Oct. 22, 2014. The story titled "Improving the World Through Infrastructure: The PaxBuild Platform," has been removed from the magazine's website.
The story described Kirkland as the "go-to person for insight into large infrastructure projects" and said she focuses on the infrastructure of failed regions.
"Infrastructure operates on many, many levels," Kirkland is quoted as saying in Ottawa Life. "I can actually see the layers and envision it all at once and see what needs to be done."
Kirkland created a large-scale infrastructure strategy called the PaxBuild Platform, described as a way to redefine how the reconstruction of critical infrastructure can stabilize regions to make them self-sufficient.
The article said early in her career Kirkland advocated for policies linking infrastructure and government.
"The real issues are not the independent building or the individual architectural structures," Kirkland is quoted as saying in Ottawa Life. "It's really the architecture of society, or humanity. We call that large-scale infrastructure. It's the architecture that supports the world, supports communities and creates countries."
Joseph Glazner, a Toronto resident who lived one floor above Kirkland, said she was always very friendly. "She seemed very nice and very intelligent," he said.
"I'm surprised by what happened. It doesn't make sense in any conventional way. It's out of character with what I know of her," he said.