From fashion designer to salty sailor

Image Gallery

Navy News / May 26, 2020

By Captain Lisa Evong

Able Seaman (AB) Yukii Li, whose parents came from Hong Kong, grew up in Toronto surrounded by the arts.

She learned to work with a variety of mediums, including drawing, digital and 3D. She explored many different art forms, but eventually decided to study fashion and made an attempt at a career in the arts.

AB Li did very well in her program and graduated with ease; however, due to a lack of funding, finding a job in the fashion industry was limited and competitive. At that time, her only choice in the field was an unpaid internship.

“I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” so I had to make a serious decision about the next chapter of my life,” said AB Li.

AB Li’s father introduced her to the idea of the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF’s) Primary Reserve programs. He encouraged her to explore the idea.

“My uncle had been enrolled in the [Royal Canadian Navy] as a medical officer and had a positive experience,” she said. “And my cousin was in the Canadian Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan. My family is very proud of his service to Canada.”

In the end, AB Li decided on the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Primary Reserves because, despite her cousin’s stories, she wasn’t interested in the Army, but rather enjoys being on the water. For her, the choice was obvious.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says AB Li after being a member of the RCN for almost four years.

She has been a member of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Whitehorse, Edmonton, Moncton, Summerside, and is currently on Nanaimo, which recently returned from Operation CARIBBE – Canada’s contribution to Operation MARTILLO, a U.S.-led, multi-agency effort to monitor, detect and deter illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

This well-dressed sailor has turned out to be a natural naval combat information operator and a respected member of her team in Nanaimo’s operations department.

She is comfortable handling a C8 rifle, a weapon she has become familiar with, as she is Nanaimo’s upper deck sentry while the ship is in enhanced security posture during entrances and exits to the various ports. 

“If you are looking for an adventure, take a chance like I did, and do something great for your country.”

On 18 March it was announced HMCS Nanaimo and HMCS Whitehorse will return to Canada earlier than planned from Op CARIBBE due to ongoing concerns of the spread of COVID-19. The ships were originally set to return to their homeport of Esquimalt, British Columbia, in mid-May but arrived back in Canadian waters on 8 April.