A wealthy White couple in Canada received a fine of $2,300 Canadian dollars ($1,900 US) for endangering First Nation community members in the White River First Nation, based in Beaver Creek, Yukon, Canada.
Rodney and Ekaterina Baker of Vancouver flew a private plane to a Covid vaccine center in the small town of 100 people, most of whom are White River First Nation citizens.
In January, White River Chief Angela Demit said:
"[I was] deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes."
The White River First Nation community was chosen for priority vaccination due to its high concentration of elderly citizens, limited access to healthcare and remote location.
The Bakers initially traveled to Whitehorse, disregarded the 14-day quarantine upon arrival, then charted another private plane to reach Beaver Creek which sits near the Alaskan border.
In an official statement, the remote Yukon community wrote:
"White River First Nation is particularly concerned with the callous nature of these actions…as they were in blatant disregard of the rules which keep our community safe during this unprecedented global pandemic."
According to Yukon News:
"Individuals living and working in the territory do not need Yukon ID to be vaccinated—the government had previously announced that health cards from other jurisdictions would be accepted if the individuals were residents of the territory."
Community Services Minister John Streicker told Yukon News Rodney and Ekaterina lied about their affiliation with the community, claiming they worked at a nearby motel.
They pled guilty for violations under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act.
While delivering the sentences Judge Michael Cozens said:
"Fortunately, nothing physical happened in this case, no one got COVID as a result."
"There was harm, but the harm wasn't anyone catching COVID. It was certainly psychological."
The Bakers will not be receiving any jail time, though their violation could have warranted up to six months in jail.
Janet Vander Meer of the White River First Nation gave a victims impact statement for her community:
"There was never a thought in our mind that someone would take advantage of our situation as a small, remote community."
Vander Meer spoke about the sleepless nights, fear and anxiety the incident caused some community members.
In a direct statement towards the Baker's, Vander Meer said:
"Educate yourself on First Nations people, on small communities."
"Educate yourself, please."
At the time, Rodney Baker was the CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, owning 20 casino's across Canada, with a yearly salary of $10.6 million dollars as of 2019. Ekaterina Baker is a professional actress.
Given the Baker's wealth, many are upset with the outcome and minuscule amount of the fines.
Rodney Baker resigned from his position as CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation after the news broke back in January 2021.
The couple also donated $5,000 to a charity that ensures Covid vaccine access globally, but many in Canada's First Nations communities are rightfully still upset.
Assembley of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek said:
"Like so many, I'm shocked and angry, but not surprised."
"These actions are a blatant display of disrespect and an exemplification of true privilege and entitlement; a selfish millionaire and his wife, stole doses of the vaccine from a vulnerable population, and put an entire community, nation and region at risk."
"It's not enough that Baker resigned. Baker and the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation have a moral debt to White River First Nation that needs to be repaid."
"Any type of reparations should be determined for and by the community."
No reports of any official statements or apologies to White River First Nation made by the Bakers have been reported yet. The community asked for an apology.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said in a press release:
"The community of Beaver Creek feels violated by the actions of the Bakers."
"They have called for an apology and they deserve one."