Canadian casino executive Rod Baker and his partner, actor Ekaterina Baker, have allegedly flown to a remote Indigenous community in Yukon Territory, near the Alaskan border to access doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
After touching down in the tiny community of Beaver Creek, which had been prioritised for the vaccine rollout because of its older population, it is alleged the couple travelled into town, posed as local motel employees to receive their shots, then left.
The treatment was intended for the most vulnerable members of the White River Nation, their Elders.
The couple have since been charged with failing to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Yukon and were fined $1,150.
They risk facing up to six months behind bars as part of a charge for having failed to behave in a manner “consistent with their declaration” and could be fined an additional $500.
White River First Nation (WRFN) Chief Angela Demit voiced her dismay at the Bakers’ actions on Facebook.
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for self-purposes.”
After the Bakers allegedly asked for a ride to the airport, members of the vaccine team grew suspicious, calling local motels to confirm that neither were employees.
The team then contacted local law enforcement officials.
From early January the Yukon Government has used two mobile vaccination teams to target vulnerable and hard-to-reach areas such as Beaver Creek.
It is unclear how the Bakers knew about the team visiting Beaver Creek.
Since reports surfaced internationally of his actions, Mr Baker has since resigned as Great Canadian Gaming Corp’s President and Chief Executive.
Great Canadian Gaming Corp, an Ontario-based company that runs racetracks and casinos across the country, said in a statement that it received the CEO’s resignation, but offered no details, stating that it did not comment on personnel matters.
Yukon’s Community Services Minister John Streicker said in a statement he was outraged and found it “disturbing that people would choose to put fellow Canadians at risk in this manner”.
The Bakers’ choice to jump the vaccine line follows Canada’s continual vaccine shortages and delays.
Provinces across the country have been told by the Canadian Government to expect fewer vaccine doses until early February due to production issues overseas.
The temporary shortage has forced provinces and territories to halt their vaccine rollout plans, with many reworking their vaccination plans to prolong the time between vaccinations and in some cases, turn people away from new vaccine appointments.
WRFN said they are also taking issue with the Yukon Government. Janet Vander Meer, who leads the local COVID-19 Inter-Agency Team, said the First Nation feels deeply disrespected that they had to hear the story from local media, creating a panic in the community that could have been avoided.
By Darby Ingram