Yukon town still fuming as ex-casino executive faces court appearance for crashing COVID clinic
|Toronto Star 14 Jun 2021 at 17:55|
A millionaire casino executive and his actress wife who sparked global outrage after flying into a small Yukon community to get COVID-19 vaccines meant for locals should be jailed for what they did, residents of the town say.
Rod and Ekaterina Baker have a court appearance Tuesday at which they’re expected to enter pleas to charges under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act. It will be the third court hearing in the matter; the Bakers have yet to make an appearance themselves.
Five months after the Bakers got their vaccines during a January clinic at the local community centre, emotions are still raw in the tiny community of Beaver Creek, Yukon.
“People have been pretty pissed off at what happened,” said Carmen Hinson, owner of Buckshot Betty’s Restaurant and Cafe.
Beaver Creek is home to 40 members of the White River First Nation, a few dozen other permanent residents, and a handful of rotating Canada Border Services guards and RCMP officers.
“As First Nations people, we have been abused for so long. Enough is enough,” said Janet Vander Meer, Beaver Creek’s volunteer COVID co-ordinator. “The Bakers used the community of Beaver Creek. They put the entire community in danger.”
The Bakers each face two charges: failure to self-isolate and failure to follow a declaration. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $500 plus six months in prison.
Vander Meer, who is getting up early Tuesday morning to make the 450-kilometre drive from Beaver Creek to the courtroom in Whitehorse, says she’d been told by a prosecutor that jail time isn’t being sought for the Bakers.
“The fact that prosecutors aren’t even talking about jail time is disheartening,” said Vander Meer. While she’s still hoping to see a guilty plea Tuesday, Vander Meer says she’ll make the drive again if she needs to.
Prosecutors declined to comment for this story. The Bakers’ defence lawyer, Jennifer Cunningham, didn’t respond to several requests for comment.
Even the maximum fine would be a drop in the bucket for the Bakers, said Hinson.
“They need to understand that just because they have money doesn’t mean they can get away with something like this,” said Hinson, who urged prosecutors to push for jail time.