Photo by Whitehorse Star
Judge Mike Cozens
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Judge Mike Cozens
The two B.C. residents who failed to self-isolate after arriving in Whitehorse but instead travelled to Beaver Creek to get vaccinated pleaded guilty to two counts each of breaching public safety measures.
Rodney and Ekaterina Baker were both fined $500 on each count this morning in Whitehorse, amounting to total fines of $1,150 each when the $75 court surcharge is added on.
They pleaded guilty to failing to self-isolate and breaching the declaration they made upon arriving in Whitehorse by air that they would self-isolate in a local hotel room.
The couple appeared in court by video.
Their actions have been called disrespectful and potentially dangerous for residents of Beaver Creek.
Rod Baker resigned as president of Great Canadian Gaming, and surrendered his seat on the company’s board of directors as a result of the incident.
The court heard today that after arriving in Whitehorse last January, the wealthy couple charted a plane to take them to Beaver Creek instead of self-isolating as they said they would. They attended the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the western Yukon community, then returned to Whitehorse on the charter the same day.
Community members became suspicions of the Bakers and contacted CEMA officials but they’d already departed the community.
Officials caught up with the couple at the Whitehorse airport, where they were waiting for a return flight home.
This morning, territorial court Judge Mike Cozens described the Bakers’ actions as deliberate, cavalier and reckless.
The incident, he said, caused great concern and fear among members of the Beaver Creek community.
“This is a community that immediately suffered the impact of somewhat cavalier behaviour,” Cozens said.
He invited the Bakers to make a personal apology to the comnunity.
The judge said working in the Bakers’ favour were their early guilty plea, their obvious remorse and voluntary $5,000 donations from each of them to COVAX.
COVAX is the international body that ensures access to the COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Bakers also reported their negative COVID-19 test results to the community when they became available, he said.
Defence lawyer Jennifer Cunningham said the Bakers have also faced the public embarrassment from all the national and international media coverage.
“The Bakers apologize unreservedly for their actions and for the impact on the community,” she said.
Janet Van Der Meer, a representative of the White River First Nation, read out a community impact statement at this morning’s sentencing hearing.
She said the reaction in the community to the incident went from shock to outrage.
“Many community members said they developed anxiety and had many sleepless nights after the incident,” she said.
Van Der Meer pointed out there were many people sitting with the Bakers at the community vaccination clinic, including many elders, the most vulnerable members of the community.
She cited several individual words community members have used to describe the incident and the Bakers – trauma, selfish, lack of trust, sneaky, liars, lack of respect, outrage, disgust, premeditated.
Those words, Van Der Meer said, she heard at community meetings.
Beaver Creek is a remote community with no doctors, and if anyone needs to see a doctor they have to make the 457-kilometre drive to Whitehorse, she noted.
Van Der Meer said the community was already dealing with a local economy that has been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly with its reliance on tourism.
In fact, she said, there are those who think Beaver Creek is less desirable for people to visit now.
After the incident, many felt unsafe, Van Deer Meer said.
“Our humble veneer has been scared by the actions of the two accused.”
In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.
Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.