A Canadian casino company’s former president and CEO and his wife are the couple charged with violating Yukon COVID-19 rules and chartering a plane into the small community in the Beaver Creek to receive doses of the Moderna vaccine.
According to court records, Rodney Baker, a 55-year-old who resigned from the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation on Sunday, and Ekaterina Baker, a 32-year-old aspiring actress, both received tickets at the Whitehorse airport on Jan. 21.
John Streicker, Minister of Yukon Community Services, told CBC Monday that the couple arrived in Whitehorse on Jan. 19.
However, the Bakers chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, a community of approximately 100 people located approximately 450 kilometers northwest of Whitehorse near the border with Alaska, rather than completing a required 14-day isolation period on Jan. 21.
They took advantage of a mobile vaccination clinic there, according to Streicker, that administered the first doses of the Moderna vaccine to locals, claiming they were new employees at an area motel.
Vaccinations are a priority for Yukon’s rural communities because they are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Most are hours away from a hospital and lack the equipment to address an outbreak.
By failing to self-isolate and failing to adhere to entry declarations, the pair are accused of violating the territorial Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA).
The CBC reached out for comment to both Bakers, but had not received any responses as of publication.
In 2010 and then CEO in 2011, Rodney Baker, who also goes by Rod, was appointed president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.
The corporation operates more than 20 casinos in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and was involved in an investigation last year investigating charges of corruption and money laundering in B.C. With casinos.
On Monday, great Canadian Gaming spokesperson Chuck Keeling told CBC in an email that the company “does not comment on personnel matters.” However, he wrote that it “strictly follows all directives and guidance issued by public health authorities in each jurisdiction where we operate.”
Meanwhile, Ekaterina Baker is a Russian-born actress. She appeared in a handful of films last year, according to her IMDB page.
Posts on social media reveal that the couple got married in 2017.
In Beaver Creek, the couple raised suspicions when they demanded a ride to the airport after getting their shots.
Minister Streicker said that “And people were like, ‘Well, why would you be going to the airport? And so that’s when the CEMA enforcement unit got called and said, ‘Hey, who’s this couple that may be flying back? You should check to see whether they really are here in the territory.’ ”
According to Streicker, members of the mobile clinic team have called the motel and were told that the couple did not work there.
Via their entry declaration forms, CEMA officers were able to recognise the couple. Anyone who enters Yukon from another jurisdiction is asked to fill one out and went to the Whitehorse airport, where the chartered plane of the couple had returned from Beaver Creek.
CEMA officers discovered that they had already checked out after going to the hotel where the two were expected to be self-isolated. Streicker said that a s they were getting ready to leave the territory, the officers returned to the airport and found the couple.
The tickets list the Bakers in downtown Vancouver as sharing an address, while social media posts seem to suggest that they are splitting their time between B.C. Toronto as well.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, the White River First Nation, whose government office is in Beaver Creek, released a statement condemning the actions of the couple and calling for harsher penalties.
The statement also slammed the communications protocols of the Yukon government, noting that the First Nation first learned from the media rather than the territory about the incident.
Streicker said in his interview Monday that he took responsibility for the failure to immediately contact the First Nation and that he and the territory’s chief medical officer of health have since spoken to the First Nation’s leadership.
CEMA violations come with a maximum fine of $500 per charge, six months’ jail, or both. There are 30 days for the couple to either pay the fine or plead not guilty and request a trial.
Streicker also said that the area is working on stricter measures to prevent a similar incident from happening again, the probability of which he found to be low.
He said that one had presented an Ontario health card, for example, in the case of this couple, and the other had a B.C. medical card. Since there are many out-of-territory staff in the North, they would not necessarily have prevented them from having a vaccine.
But he said the territory has obtained sample copies of all other provincial and territorial health care cards to be kept with the mobile vaccine units so the units can determine if a health card is valid, “in case someone’s trying to fake that.”
The Yukon government is also working on ways to find supporting evidence that someone is actually employed in the territory.
Streicker said that “All that is being sorted out by the team right now to try and figure out how to keep everybody safe.”
He added that the incident was shocking, but said officials don’t think it will happen again.
Streicker also said that “We just didn’t anticipate that anyone would go to this length to effectively deceive the team to get vaccinated, and I think we all felt pretty offended at the whole thing. But we will put in place additional procedures … I don’t imagine that this is going to repeat itself.”