Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier Sandy Silver
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier Sandy Silver
A wealthy B.C. couple who received COVID-19 vaccinations last January in Beaver Creek owes the community an apology, Premier Sandy Silver said Wednesday.
Rodney and Ekaterina Baker failed to self-isolate after arriving in Whitehorse from B.C. They flew to Beaver Creek to get vaccinated.
During a Wednesday court proceeding in Whitehorse, they pleaded guilty to two counts each of breaching public safety measures.
They were both fined $500 on each count, amounting to total fines of $1,150 each when the $75 court surcharge is added on.
This is the maximum amount allowable under the Civil Emergency Measures Act.
The couple appeared in court by video.
“(Wednesday), Mr. and Mrs. Baker pleaded guilty to failing to self-isolate as required and failing to abide by their declarations made upon entry into the Yukon,” Silver said.
“The territory’s self-isolation requirements are in place to protect the health and safety of all Yukoners. Anyone who violates the self-isolation requirements puts all Yukoners at risk, and we take those actions very seriously.”
The Bakers’ choices, he pointed out, “put the people of Beaver Creek and White River First Nation citizens at risk, including some of the most vulnerable members of this isolated community.
“Yukoners are outraged by this selfish behaviour, and find it disturbing that people would choose to put fellow Canadians at risk in this manner,” Silver added.
“We acknowledge the Bakers have each donated a modest amount ($5,000) to the COVAX program, an international organization that works to ensure global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” the premier said.
“While this donation reflects remorse on the part of the Bakers, they have not yet directly apologized to the White River First Nation and the residents of Beaver Creek.
“The community of Beaver Creek feels violated by the actions of the Bakers. They have called for an apology, and they deserve one,” Silver concluded.
Defence lawyer Jennifer Cunningham said Wednesday the Bakers have faced the public embarrassment from all the national and international media coverage of their actions.
“The Bakers apologize unreservedly for their actions and for the impact on the community,” Cunningham said.
After the couple returned to Whitehorse from Beaver Creek on their chartered aircraft, officials caught up with the couple at the Whitehorse airport, where they were waiting for a return flight home.
Judge Mike Cozens described the Bakers’ actions as deliberate, cavalier and reckless.
Rod Baker resigned as president of Great Canadian Gaming shortly after their trip, and surrendered his seat on the company’s board of directors.
Before Wednesday’s plea and sentencing hearing, the White River First Nation (WRFN) said in a statement:
“The couple endangered the community of Beaver Creek, under false pretence, to get early vaccines. At the time of this callous and irresponsible behaviour, WRFN and members of the community sought justice and continues to seek a just punishment.
“The Bakers have not communicated directly with WRFN to make amends for the endangerment they subjected elders and vulnerable peoples to during their unsolicited entrance into the community; as well as their clear lack of respect for other people’s safety, other than their own.”
Chief Bessie Chassé said the Bakers “acted knowingly because they felt entitled to do so.
“The courts cannot let the fact that time has passed cloud the seriousness of their offence to our community and to the rest of the Yukon.
“We demand that the Yukon government and the courts not reward the Bakers for their self-centred actions. Issuing a fine to the entitled elite, without additional punishment, would have little to no effect. It would not send a sufficient message to others who may choose to behave in this fashion in the future.”
Janet Van Der Meer, a WRFN representative, read out a community impact statement at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.
She said the reaction in the community to the incident ran from shock to outrage.
“Many community members said they developed anxiety and had many sleepless nights after the incident,” she said.
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.