A casino boss and his actress wife have sparked outrage across Canada after allegedly claiming to be local workers to get COVID jabs intended for residents of a vulnerable remote community.
Rodney, 55, and Ekaterina Baker, 32, are alleged to have flown to the city of Whitehorse from their home in Vancouver on January 19.
Instead of quarantining for a fortnight in Whitehorse – as they were required to do – the couple are said to have chartered a private plane to fly to tiny Beaver Creek, a community of about 100 in the Yukon, on January 21.
It is five hours from the nearest major hospital, and home to many vulnerable First Nations people.
In Beaver Creek, the Bakers headed straight for the mobile vaccination clinic that was administering the first dose of Moderna’s coronavirus shot to locals.
Community Services Minister John Streicker told the Yukon News the Bakers apparently lied to clinic officials and represented themselves “in various ways”, including claiming to be workers at a local motel.
Authorities became suspicious when the couple revealed they weren’t from the area and were heading back to their plane.
“People were like, ‘Well, why would you be going to the airport?’ “ Mr Streicker told the CBC.
According to one news report, locals were so angry that none would give the couple a lift to the airport. They had to walk.
Mr Streicker said the Bakers had endangered the community by breaking quarantine rules and travelling to remote Beaver Creek. He also questioned how they thought they would get their second dose of the vaccine.
“I am outraged by this selfish behaviour,” Mr Streicker said.
“We had not been imagining that someone would go to this sort of length to mislead or deceive.”
The Bakers were each fined a total of $C1150 ($A1170) for failing to self-isolate as required and not following their signed declaration forms. The incident has also been reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The White River First Nation, whose government office is in Beaver Creek, condemned the couple’s actions and said the charges were too lenient.
“WRFN is calling on the Yukon government as well as the RCMP to pursue a more just punishment. It is important that the penalty seriously discourages any future similar behaviour,” the office said in a statement.
In the fallout from the incident, Mr Baker has resigned from his job as chief executive of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, a major owner of casinos and racecourses across the country.
According to the company’s financial documents, he was paid $10.6 million in 2019.
“As a company, Great Canadian takes health and safety protocols extremely seriously, and our company strictly follows all directives and guidance issued by public health authorities in each jurisdiction where we operate,” the company said in a statement.
White Nation chief Angela Demit said the Bakers’ “selfish” actions put elders at risk.
“We implore all Canadians to respect the vaccination rollout process and to not take similar actions,” Ms Demit said.
She told the Washington Post that the Beaver Creek community was considered a priority “given our remoteness, elderly and high-risk population, as well as limited access to health care”.
“It’s clear to me that because we are a predominantly indigenous community, that they assumed we were naïve,” she said, calling the fines for the couple “essentially meaningless” given their wealth.