The Casino CEO quit his job following a controversy that he had allegedly pretended to from Indigenous community to get the vaccine.
A wealthy couple took a private plane to Canada’s Yukon, and got the Coronavirus vaccine doses that were reserved for a remote Indigenous community in the region, said authorities. Rodney Baker, a Casino CEO, and his actress wife, Ekaterina Bak, pretended to be local members of a community that is home to roughly 125 people, with a majority of them being members of the White River First Nation. Ekaterina Bak had featured in two movies in 2020—Fatman and Chick Fight. The wealthy Vancouver residents had taken the private flight to the isolated region with the intention of getting the vaccine shots that were intended for vulnerable Indigenous elders of the community, reported The Washington Post. The entitled couple had claimed to work at a local motel while turning up at a mobile vaccine clinic in Beaver Creek to receive their shots. The locals suspected them immediately, with the authorities learning they had broken quarantine to get the shots—while pretending to be locals and almost made away on a private jet—before they caught up with them. Rodney Baker and Ekaterina Baker, first identified by Yukon News, were charged under the Yukon territory's Civil Emergency Measures Act with failure to self-isolate for 14 days on entering the territory and for refusing to uphold the declaration they provided on entering the region. They also faced a fine of about $900 for violating quarantine guidelines.
Canada had prioritized people from remote and isolated Indigenous communities to receive the vaccine first, along with healthcare workers, and long-term care facility residents and staffers. The wealthy couple had hoped to capitalize on that and secure the vaccine by traveling to the isolated community and pretending to a member from the region, said authorities. The pair had traveled to Whitehorse before taking a chartered plane to Beaver Creek. As per the vaccine rollout plan, all residents of Beaver Creek aged 18 and older were eligible for the vaccine. The couple was supposed to spend two weeks in quarantine in Whitehorse but ignored guidelines and flew to the remote region. They managed to get the Moderna vaccine and with many people working in Yukon hailing from other parts of Canada, proof of residency wasn't demanded at the mobile clinic, said Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker told Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The couple told officials they were new hires at a nearby motel and almost got away with it, until they asked for a ride to the airport after getting their shots. “People were like, ‘Well, why would you be going to the airport?’” said Streicker. Officials at the clinic checked with the motel before alerting law enforcement that the couple didn't work there. Police officers found the couple had checked out of the Whitehorse hotel and were on their way to the airport. The authorities caught up with them and charged them with violating quarantine protocols.
Ekaterina Baker’s Instagram was filled with posts about staying home, quarantining and keeping communities safe. I worry it feels vindictive, rather than journalistic to share this, but it suggests the Bakers knew the implications of their actions. pic.twitter.com/9ciAVmPCbx— Haley Ritchie (@hyritchie) January 25, 2021
The White River First Nation community slammed the couple for "blatant disregard for the rules" and is calling for harsher punishments that extend beyond just financial penalties. "We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes," said the nation's chief, Angela Demit, in a statement. "While we understand many want to have a vaccination immediately, it is not appropriate to skirt the rules put in place and approach our community in this way."
Demit said imposing small fines on wealthy individuals was meaningless and called for punishments that would deter any further situations like this. “It’s clear to me that because we are a predominantly Indigenous community, that they assumed we were naive,” said Chief Angela Demit, before adding that Beaver Creek and the White River First Nation were prioritized for distribution of vaccines because of the remoteness of the area, elderly and high-risk population, and the communities' limited access to health care. The indigenous communities' nearest health clinic is more than three hours away, with the closest major hospital, in Whitehorse, being a five-hour drive. Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, wants jail time for the couple for potentially exposing the community to the virus as well.
The @yukon_news has decided to name the two individuals who have been charged with breaking self-isolation to get the Moderna vaccine in Beaver Creek. CBC North and @xjackiehong broke the first story on Friday. https://t.co/LYbdb3ynzp— Haley Ritchie (@hyritchie) January 25, 2021
Later, it came to light that Rodney Baker earned more than $10.6 million in 2019 as CEO and president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns more than 20 casinos across Canada. Baker resigned from his job after the news broke. The Gaming corporation made a statement denouncing his actions, saying the company “has no tolerance for actions that run counter to the company’s objectives and values.”