Never in her wildest dreams did Norica Labadie think a policing career would be on her radar.
That thought process changed a year ago when she entered a community home for young mothers and their children and became an active volunteer with Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) 31 Division Community Police Liaison Committee.
A resident at Humewood Home that offers a unique transitional support housing program that gives young mothers and their children a four-year tenancy at a subsidized housing rate along with guidance to achieve their goals, Labadie also took part in two TPS-administered youth initiatives – SURVIVORGIRL and the Toronto Recreational Outreach Outtripping Program (TROOP).
Participants in the SURVIVORGIRL program created in November 2012 are offered bullying, personal safety, no-snitching and family law presentations while TROOP offers youths the opportunity to challenge their self-imposed boundaries through free outdoor experiential learning opportunities, including a five-day excursion to the northern Ontario wilderness and a seven-day leadership trip at the end of the season.
Constable Jennifer Nantais is actively involved in both programs sponsored by ProAction Cops & Kids, a charity devoted to funding initiatives linking police officers with challenged young people.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” said 23-year-old Labadie, an immigrant from St. Lucia who has a three-year-old daughter. “Meeting Jennifer was such an uplifting and inspiring experience. I am from the Caribbean where most people do not have many positive experiences with police. She has however changed my perception of law enforcement officers and provided me with an insight into the important roles they play in communities.”
Labadie, who aspires to be a TPS officer, was recognized with an Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) Public Heroes Recognition Award last week.
“This means everything to me because I didn’t see it coming,” said Labadie who came to Canada in 2010 to support an older sister who is suffering from cancer.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly made the presentation to Labadie.
“She’s an outstanding young lady who has been doing some great work in the community,” he said.
The awards coincided with the IDI media launch to announce details of this year’s Public Heroes Awards.
For the first time, the public can nominate police, fire and paramedic personnel for the awards to be presented on April 23 at the Japanese Cultural Centre.
“These awards are just one way of honouring the excellent work of our police officers, paramedics and firefighters,” said IDI executive vice-president M. Fatih Yegul at the media launch at Toronto police headquarters on Jan. 20. “Many of them put their holidays on hold during the last Christmas holidays to help out during the ice storm.”
Established in 2011, the awards will, for the first time, recognize “public heroes” from the Greater Toronto Area – Durham, York and Peel – as well as Toronto. In the past, they focused on Toronto Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the nominees were chosen by a committee of community leaders.
The awards recognize cops, firefighters and paramedics for their outstanding work.
“This is becoming a bit of tradition for us where we have a great community partner who is willing to step up, and quite frankly, honour our emergency service providers who step forward not just in the line of duty but go beyond the call of duty in what they are doing,” Sloly said. “It’s one thing to be recognized by your supervisors, but another to be honoured by your peers. In policing and emergency services, it’s yet another thing to be recognized by the public and this is what this is all about.”
The nomination website is publicheroes.org.