British Columbia

Haida student wins UBC's first-ever Lieutenant Governor medal for work supporting peers

Chelsea Gladstone is the first UBC student to be given a Lieutenant Governor medal. She was awarded for her work supporting and empowering Indigenous students on campus.

Chelsea Gladstone awarded for helping Indigenous students develop leadership skills, engage in advocacy

Chelsea Gladstone, 21, has been awarded a Lieutenant Governor medal, which is given to outstanding students who contribute to their institution or community. (Jessica Gladstone)

Chelsea Gladstone is not just leaving the University of British Columbia with a degree, she is also leaving with something no other student at the university has won before — a Lieutenant Governor medal.

Since 1979, the medals have been given to outstanding students who contribute to their institution or community by the Queen's representative in British Columbia. It has never been awarded to a UBC student until now.

Gladstone, 21, is a fourth-year arts student graduating with a double major in Indigenous Studies and Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.

During her time on campus, Gladstone worked as a peer advisor for Aboriginal Student Affairs and became the facilitator for the UBC Indigenous Leadership Collective.

The collective provides opportunities for Indigenous students to develop their leadership skills, get involved in cultural events and engage in advocacy work.

'A step in the right direction'

'I think it's very important for Indigenous students to have representation,' Gladstone told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

She said it "does feel a little weird' to receive an award from the Queen's representative in light of Canada's colonial past, but sees it as "a step in the right direction toward decolonizing it".

Gladstone said she approached her role as a peer supporter for other Indigenous students from a non-hierarchal perspective and wanted to create safe spaces where students from different American and Canadian Indigenous backgrounds felt comfortable.

She hopes winning such a high-profile award will "show other Indigenous students that you can study at UBC and do things that align with your Indigenous perspectives and world views."

Gladstone grew up with her five siblings in the close-knit Haida community of Skidegate in Haida Gwaii, and is the first member of her family to graduate from university.

She plans to take a year off to be with her family before tackling law school.

Chelsea Gladstone, 21, from Haida Gwaii, has won the first Lieutenant Governor Medal award ever awarded to a student at the University of British Columbia. 6:03

The Early Edition