Parksville Sea Cadet’s legacy makes Canadian history


Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon awarded a posthumous Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award to family of late Sea Cadet Samantha Calder. Left to right: Samantha Calder’s brother Will, her father Dave, Lieutenant Governor Guichon, Samantha’s mother Carol, and her sister, Eva.

Deborah Morrow, Contributor ~

One year after Parksville Sea Cadet Samantha Calder was taken from her family in the prime of her adolescence, her parents received the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at Government House on her behalf.  
It was the first posthumous award of its kind ever given in Canada.

In the drawing room of Government House, a testimony to the kindness of Canadians was quietly expressed in the private ceremony hosted by Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Judith Guichon. Her Honour presented Carol and David Calder with the Gold Award in celebration of the achievements of their deceased daughter. Samantha was a three-day camping trip away from completing her award when she was tragically killed in a car crash.  

Supporters from across Canada attended the ceremony including Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, and his wife Sylvie Tremblay; Jim Kershaw, National President of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program; Debbie Yates and her husband Dave Yates, National President of the Navy League of Canada; and Sushil Saini, Executive Director of the B.C. Yukon Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program.
It was Saini who coordinated and organized the intimate British Columbia ceremony, adding her personal touches to create a memorable day for the Calders.

Doug Thomas, Executive Director of the Navy League of Canada (in absentia), seeded the idea of the posthumous presentation from Ottawa.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said, “They deserve this, and then they can move on, knowing Sam finally got her Gold.”

For Samantha’s mother Carol, the gesture represented the essence of the Canadian spirit.

“It’s beautiful. I never thought things like this could happen,” she said, as she admired the certificate signed by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Samantha Calder was a Chief Petty Officer Second Class in the Parksville Sea Cadet Corps and had worked for three years to complete her Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award requirements.

The Duke’s challenge is a Canadian youth achievement program, open to Canadians ages 14 to 25, encouraging them to reach their highest potential. Participants must complete a set amount of community service, physical activity, skills and adventurous journeys.

“This honour is awarded to those who have earned it. It is not just given to them,” said Jim Kershaw, in his speech.

Kershaw is the Canadian program director from Ontario who gave final approval for the posthumous award. “I had to make this happen for Sam,” he said. Kershaw travelled across the country for the ceremony.

“The Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Program is an ideal partnership for the Duke of Edinburgh Award,” said Dave Yates in his address to the group of attendees. “Samantha’s legacy was to challenge herself to defeat her fears.”
In her award record book, Samantha advised others to face their fears. “For in life,” she wrote, “we cannot succeed if we don’t try.”

The Lieutenant Governor spoke softly to the Calder family in those moving moments following the presentation. Her empathy sifted through the room, uplifting the spirits of Carol and Dave Calder and Samantha’s siblings, Will and Eva.  Her Honour spoke of how in life, Samantha was a gift to her family, Sea Cadet Corps, her school, and made a lasting contribution to her community.

Samantha Calder’s story has touched lives across the country and now in death, she has made Canadian history.

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