Ellis Kirkland 'a remarkable woman,' says former colleague

The Toronto architect accused of stabbing a concierge in an unprovoked attack at her apartment building last week has been described as a "remarkable woman" who seemed in good spirits last summer.

Designer of suicide barrier championed by Kirkland shocked by her arrest in connection with stabbing

Ellis Kirkland, a renowned architect and philanthropist, has been charged with attempted murder. (Toronto Police Service)

A friend and former colleague of a Toronto architect accused of stabbing her apartment building's concierge in an unprovoked attack told CBC News she's a "remarkable woman" who seemed to be in good spirits the last time he saw her. 

"When I saw this on the news at first, I didn't believe it," said Dereck Revington, the designer behind the Bloor Street Viaduct's suicide barrier, of which Ellis Kirkland was a major proponent.  

"I thought it must be another Ellis Kirkland, there must be two Ellis Kirklands."

Kirkland, 60, has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a 67-year-old man with a kitchen knife. The victim, whose name is under publican ban, is recovering and will be released from hospital today.

She was arrested after a city-wide manhunt on Thursday that ended on the 27th floor of a balcony of Toronto's Town Inn Suites (not the apartment building that she lives in) after two police officers rappelled down from the floor above.

'An unstoppable force'

The suicide barrier, called the Luminous Veil, was a project more than 20 years in the making — and it never would have seen the light of day without Kirkland's staunch advocacy and fundraising, Revington said.

"When she took on a cause, she was almost an unstoppable force," he said, calling her a "a woman of extreme intelligence and passion."

Kirkland was the head of the Ontario Association of Architects when she was first appointed by the city to oversee the project.

But even after the city cancelled the barrier due to the high costs associated with its implementation, she remained dedicated to seeing it through, Revington said. 

Ellis Kirkland talks about suicide prevention on the Bloor Street Viaduct in 2001. 1:44

She has worked as a philanthropist in other areas as well, serving as a  provincial lobbyist for two First Nations, Fort Albany and Kashechewan, and the former vice-president of the non-profit NATO Association of Canada. 

Although they worked closely on the barrier project in its early stages, Revington said they lost touch for years, until they were reunited in July 2015 when the Luminous Veil was lit up during a Pan Am Games celebration.

"Ellis suddenly appeared out of the crowd and embraced me and I embraced her. It had been such a long time since I'd seen her and we had a very brief exchange and both swore to get together again," he told CBC News.

"There was absolutely no sign of any personal trauma or anxiety or anything. She seemed perfectly balanced and on top of the world."

He said he's very concerned about her now and hopes she has a support network of friends and family around her. 

Ellis is due to appear in mental health court on Monday.

With files from Chantal Da Silva