An affluent couple from Vancouver, Canada, has been charged after allegedly being dishonest about their eligibility to receive early access COVID-19 vaccinations designated for a Yukon community of Indigenous people.
Last week, wealthy casino businessman Rodney Baker, 55, and his 32-year-old wife Ekaterina Baker, an actress, flew into Whitehorse, Yukon, and chartered a private plane to a nearby White River First Nation community of 100 people, The Washington Post reported.
Once they arrived in the community, the couple allegedly misled medical professionals working in a mobile vaccination clinic, saying that they were employees of the local motel. After they received the shots they flew back to Whitehorse, but not before they drew the suspicion of some of the community members, who voiced their concerns to Yukon officials.
Investigators eventually discovered the couple when they arrived in the Whitehouse airport, just before they were supposed to board a flight to their luxury condo in Vancouver, Vice reported.
The Bakers each received two charges in accordance with Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act for not self-isolating and following the travel moratorium. They also face fines totaling about $900 for violating COVID-19 guidelines, per The Post.
will they be fined 1050 dollars each.
We'll also make them famous, bad-famous:
Rodney and Ekaterina Baker pic.twitter.com/TSbqpfXtz0
— Sandra Marcok (@skandhala) January 25, 2021
The White River First Nation released a statement to The Washington Post saying that the relatively meager penalties would be “essentially meaningless” for people as wealthy as the Bakers.
“It’s clear to me that because we are a predominantly Indigenous community, that they assumed we were naive,” White River Chief Angela Demit said.
Demit expressed being “deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes.” She shared that the First Nation community was chosen for priority vaccinations because of its large number of elderly people and limited healthcare resources.
On Sunday, Rodney resigned as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, The Post reported. The 55-year-old earned $10.6 million in salary and compensation in 2019 from his former role.
Ekaterina, an actress with minor roles in Fatman and Chickfight, was posting about the importance of social distancing and “staying home” to protect others on Instagram before the trip, but the account has since been deleted, Vice reported.
“I can’t believe I’ve ever seen or heard of such a despicable, disgusting sense of entitlement and lack of a moral compass,” Mike Farnworth, the British Columbia solicitor general, told The Vancouver Sun.
White River leaders said the penalties weren’t nearly heavy enough considering the seriousness and potential medical implications of the incident.
Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, suggested that the couple should be held penalized in a way that will make others think twice about taking advantage of the same loophole, per The Post.
On Monday, she released a statement calling the incident “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it,” and made the point that the couple’s actions could have put vulnerable elders living in the community at risk.