Career goals of former Raven take flight

Haylee Gardiner is a Raven Program graduate, starting her first semester at the University of Victoria to become a family doctor. Photo supplied

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

A former member of the Raven Program credits the outreach to Indigenous peoples with propelling her toward a career in medicine.

Haylee Gardiner of Saskatoon graduated from Raven in August 2021 and said it made a huge difference in her life. She recently returned to Victoria to commence her first semester of undergraduate studies at the University of Victoria (UVic) to pursue her ultimate goal of becoming a family doctor.

“The Raven program boosted my confidence and strengthened my identity,” says Gardiner. “Getting through basic [training], graduating the program and then being presented with a sash from the Métis Nation of British Columbia was a turning point and proud moment for me.”

The program is operated by HMCS Venture at CFB Esquimalt and blends Indigenous culture with military training. Candidates in the Raven Program come from across Canada and are sworn into the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Ravens go through Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) and are educated about careers in the CAF while earning a salary.

In June 2023, Gardiner was one of 20 Indigenous students nationwide to earn a scholarship of $10,000 per year for up to four years through RBC. She says the award will help pay for a big chunk of her expenses and help her avoid taking out a student loan. It also gave her a confidence boost when she needed it most.

“I shed tears of happiness when I received the award,” Gardiner says. “I can focus on my studies without having to think of the financial ‘what if’s’ and plans to repay a loan.”

Three months later, she is busy cracking the books at UVic in biology, chemistry, calculus and academic reading and writing courses. Her goal is to become a family physician for Indigenous communities. She firmly believes healthcare should be accessible to all.

Gardiner credits the program’s Culture Camp with pushing her in the right direction, where elders from Indigenous communities share their knowledge. Along with helping her set goals, the Raven Program helped her embrace her culture by creating dreamcatchers, which she sees as a symbol of strength. The program also helped her understand the dire need for National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“One key lesson I learned from the Raven Program is there is strength in identity,” she said. “Raven and sister programs designed for Indigenous youth is a call to truth and reconciliation.”

After she graduated from Raven, she became a member of the Gabriel Dumont Local 11 but stayed connected to the CAF: she is currently joining the Army Reserves as a medical assistant.

Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Michelle Howell of HMCS Venture, Indigenous Program Coordinator, says she and Raven’s support staff are brimming with pride about Haylee’s success and academic pursuits.

“There was never any doubt Haylee Gardiner was going to do great things, so it’s great to see she is carrying on these skills to a future in medicine,” PO1 Howell said. “During her time with the Raven [Program] she was organized, determined and showed positive leadership skills, conquered the confidence course and field phase of the program, and excelled in academics.”

The CAF across Canada offers a few Indigenous training programs; the Raven Program, in particular, can accommodate a maximum of 50 candidates. For more information about the Raven Program, visit:

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