Her transformation has been inspiring.
Kathy Middleton, 58, has gone from an outcast, constantly being picked up by Toronto cops for prostitution and drugs, to a reformer whom police often invite to share her story with officers of her life of addiction and the steps she has taken to stay clean and give back to society.
On April 24, she was among 42 citizens presented with Community Member Awards at Toronto Police Service headquarters.
“It’s funny, because I caused the police a lot of grief and problems over the years and here I am now being embraced by them,” she said, fighting back tears. “This award is a real honour because it shows how much I have been able to turn my life around.”
The mother of two children and former bank assistant manager was charged almost 20 times for prostitution, theft and other crimes she committed to feed her drug habit.
She said the turning point in her life came after she was arrested on November 29, 2009 for trafficking cocaine and possession of the proceeds of crime.
“I was incarcerated for a month and it was then that I decided to apply to enter the Toronto Drug Treatment Court (TDTC),” she said. “Justice Paul Bentley, who had expelled me before, gave me a second chance and I decided to grasp it with both hands. If he was willing to give me another chance when I didn’t deserve it, I was determined to prove myself worthy of it.”
I am proud of all our participants because it takes tremendous courage to actually face your addictions and the many circumstances that lead to that... Kathy not only has faced that, but she has decided to give back
Bentley, the TDTC founder and presiding judge, succumbed to cancer in June 2011, six months after Middleton graduated from the program.
“There was this wonderful man fighting for his life and I was throwing mine away,” she said. “If I was going to dedicate this award to someone, it would be definitely Justice Bentley.”
Inspector David Rydzik, the second-in-command at 51 Division, arrested Middleton for prostitution on Kingston Rd. in the 1990s.
“In fact, she was the one that reminded me that I picked her up when I was at 41 Division, working undercover,” he said. “She has proven that the person walking the streets doing prostitution and drugs can be saved. They are not a lost cause. Often times, we are dealing with people like Kathy over and over and, sometimes, we can become jaded and declare they are losers. She was someone who was so far gone that nobody ever thought she could change. Now look at her now. It’s a very inspiring story.”
Sharon Cairns, the Service’s drug treatment liaison, nominated Middleton for the honour.
“Volunteering her time, Kathy has attended several training days at various police Divisions and spoke at the Toronto Police College as part of the crime prevention course,” said Cairns. “She has bravely stood in front of rooms of officers, sharing her story of addiction and the avenues she has taken to overcome and persevere… She’s adamant about sharing her story with officers so they can have the knowledge that is needed when dealing with addicts in our communities.”
Robin Cuff, the TDTC manager at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, attended the awards ceremony and praised Middleton for her courage.
“I am proud of all our participants because it takes tremendous courage to actually face your addictions and the many circumstances that lead to that,” she said. “Kathy not only has faced that, but she has decided to give back. It’s so hard to face the people who, perhaps, weren’t your best friends. When our clients are faced with contact with the police, it is not when they are at their best. It’s usually when they are not feeling good about themselves and often those interactions aren’t positive.”
A total of 42 citizens were recognized for unselfish acts of bravery and courage.
They included 16-year-old Jacob Landau, the youngest honouree.
On his way home from school on a crowded TTC bus on April 7, 2015, he jumped to the defence of a woman who was assaulted by six teens who attended his school.
“As the bus was approaching the Eglinton Ave. subway station, they pounced on her and I jumped in to try to stop them,” the Grade 11 student and martial arts exponent recounted. “They were shoving her around and I tried to stop them because that’s the right thing to do when people are being taken advantage of.”
The suspects, who fled the scene before police arrived, were identified and arrested within 24 hours.
Marni Miller said she’s proud that her son stepped in to help someone in trouble.
“He always has had a very strong understanding of what is right and wrong and helping people in need, regardless of the situation,” she said. “Even though it was a situation that became a bit dangerous, he thought of someone else’s safety instead of his own.”
Federal Minister Dr. Kirsty Duncan, along with Benjamin Abis and Delaney Ratnakulsingam, were honoured for rendering First Aid to an elderly man.
They were canvassing in 23 Division on August 20, 2015, when they saw a woman standing in front of her residence, screaming for assistance.
“He was purple and I knew he was in trouble,” recounted Duncan, who is the Minister of Science and a medical geologist.
Paramedics were able to stabilize the man and take him to hospital. He, however, passed away the next day due to other complications.
“It was awful,” said Duncan. “The day after he died, I went to see his wife, who was a nurse, and I presented her with roses and told her how sorry I was for her loss. Receiving this award today is bittersweet.”
Mayor John Tory, a Toronto Police Services Board member, thanked the recipients for their heroic acts that he says represent the best of citizenship in Toronto and Canada.
“We view it as not only the police’s responsibility to maintain a safe city and to maintain a city that is the most liveable in the world,” he said. “We know it is our responsibility as well. The police, there wouldn’t be enough of them to do the job alone. They need to have our help. Today, we are honouring those who have followed that greatest of instincts, which is the human one that says no matter how the circumstances might seem in terms of danger to yourself or some kind of threat to yourself, you step up and help a fellow human being.
“…I hope it sets an example in terms of that obligation we all have to help the police do their job as we try to help the city stay safe and liveable. Part of that is for people to come forward and do their duty as citizens to help our police service do their job, which is difficult and challenging.”
Chief Mark Saunders said the annual celebration is one of the days he most enjoys being the Toronto Police head.
“What makes this city great is not that we have the greatest police service,” he added. “We have some of the most amazing citizens.”