A Canadian casino mogul and his aspiring actor wife have been charged after they allegedly posed as motel workers to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses intended for Indigenous residents.
Rodney Baker, 55, resigned as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. on Sunday after being accused with his wife, Ekaterina Baker, 32, of violating Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act.
This followed the Vancouver couple allegedly breaking a mandatory 14-day self-isolation that they agreed to upon flying into the Whitehorse airport on Jan. 19. Just two days later, on Jan. 21, they chartered a plane to the small community of Beaver Creek, which is roughly 270 miles northwest along the Alaska border. There, they allegedly identified themselves at a mobile vaccine clinic as new employees at a local motel in order to qualify for the coronavirus vaccine, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported citing local officials.
The couple allegedly then traveled back to the Whitehorse airport, where they were intercepted by Yukon Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) officers for questioning.
“Effectively what they did was they put our community and our isolation team at risk,” Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker told the CBC. “I’m pretty angry at the whole thing.”
Yukon’s rural and remote communities have been given vaccine priority due to the residents having limited access to health care. These residents include members of the Yukon First Nation.
Anyone found to have violated Yukon’s CEMA faces a maximum fine of $500 and/or up to six months in prison.
The White River First Nation, whose main population is in Beaver Creek, condemned the couple’s actions in a statement on Facebook Monday and called for them to face a more serious penalty in order to discourage similar behavior.
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put or elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” Chief Angela Demit said. “WRFN was selected for vaccines given our remoteness, elderly and high-risk population, as well as limited access to health care.”
According to Yukon News reporter Haley Ritchie, Ekaterina Baker had publicly posted on Instagram about staying home, quarantining and keeping communities safe during the pandemic, suggesting that the couple were aware of the implications of their actions. Her Instagram account has since been deactivated.
The Bakers could not be immediately reached for comment.
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