Ex-Great Canadian Gaming CEO is Court No-Show on Covid Vaccine Tourism Rap

Posted on: May 5, 2021, 08:46h. 

Last updated on: May 5, 2021, 11:26h.

Former Great Canadian Gaming CEO Rod Baker and his wife Ekaterina, an aspiring actor, were happy to fly from Vancouver to Yukon allegedly to jump the COVID vaccine line. But they weren’t so eager to repeat the journey to appear in court Tuesday.

Rod baker
Road trip: Rod and Ekaterina Baker caused widespread anger when they traveled to Yukon to jump the line for a vaccine in January. (Image: Globalnews.ca)

The Globe and Mail reports that the Bakers failed to attend their first court hearing for breaking Yukon quarantine rules. Their lawyer, Jennie Cunningham, was present, however, and successfully applied for an adjournment for two weeks. She cited ongoing discussions between the Crown prosecutor and the couple’s legal representatives.

The couple were charged on January 23 after receiving their vaccinations in Beaver Creek, a small community a stone’s throw from the Alaska border. The town is home to the White River First Nation and was among the first communities in Canada to receive the shot.

Gaming the System

The Bakers, who are 55 and 32, chartered a flight from Yukon capital Whitehorse to an airstrip a mile outside Beaver Creek. There, they allegedly told staff at a mobile vaccination clinic they had been recently hired as hotel workers and were therefore eligible for the jab.

But the couple stood out like millionaires at a remote Yukon mobile vaccination clinic. They were stopped on their return to Whitehorse Airport and charged under the Civil Emergency Measures Act with failing to self-isolate for 14 days and “failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in the Yukon.” They were initially fined C$2,300.

But the story of the two wealthy vaccine tourists hit a raw nerve, and not just among the community they thoughtlessly endangered. The story made headlines around the world. Yukon authorities reviewed the matter and the charges were upgraded. Now the couple could face up to six months in prison.

Meanwhile, they are not expected to get their second dose of the vaccine until eight or nine months after their first.

‘This is Not Forgotten’

The Globe and Mail spoke to one woman who had made the five-hour drive from Beaver Creek to Whitehorse in hope of seeing the Bakers held to account for their behavior. Janet VanderMeer was in the line with the couple at the clinic, along with her elderly mother who is receiving palliative care.

This is not resolved, this is not forgotten,” she said, despite the adjournment. “I see nothing less than them having a conversation with not just myself, but with my people, and possibly some members of the community, and where they can own up to what has happened.”

Baker resigned from his position at Great Canadian Gaming after a decade at the helm just days after the story surfaced.

The company’s shareholders had just approved a $1.9 billion takeover by private equity giant Apollo Global Management. It owns and operates more than 20 casinos in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.