The plan allegedly hatched by the casino mogul and his Russian actress wife wasn’t exactly worthy of Ocean’s Eleven when it comes to felonious sophistication.
As alleged, the perfect heist, it sure wasn’t. How the heck Rodney and Ekaterina Baker expected to waltz into a remote Yukon village of 100 people and demand a COVID-19 vaccination meant for Indigenous elders without sticking out like proverbial sore thumbs is hard to comprehend.
But that’s what the now-notorious couple stands accused of doing, after Yukon authorities charged them with breaking the territory’s public-health rules to get the scarce vaccine.
Rodney Baker resigned as CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. after he and his wife were each fined $1,150 for breaking Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act.
The outrageous story of the millionaire couple’s vaccine skullduggery has made headlines around the world, and it still has people fuming all across Canada — especially in the Yukon.
“Here in the Yukon we talk pretty plainly about stuff and I’m trying not to use expletives,” Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker told me.
“We’re choked. We’re absolutely choked.”
He’s not alone. Many more people are furious that a wealthy, privileged couple would even think of jumping the vaccine queue, especially in a remote and vulnerable Indigenous community.
And many others are frustrated that the punishment doesn’t come close to fitting the offence.
Rodney Baker reportedly made $45.9 million on stock options over the past 13 months and stands to pocket an additional $28 million if the sale of Great Canadian to an American buyer goes through later this year.
For a guy in that stratospheric income bracket, a $1,150 fine barely qualifies as pocket change.
Could they face stiffer punishments? Under Yukon law, the offence also carries a potential six-month jail term.
“Normally … we just fine people, but every once in a while there’s also a court date set, so I’m still looking to follow up on that with our minister of justice,” Streicker told me, adding the territorial government alerted the RCMP to the case.
“We advise the RCMP and let them do their job.”
But a legal analyst said pursuing the case could be complicated, especially if the Bakers have already paid their fines.
“Many people are clamouring for them to go to jail, especially when we send homeless people to jail for stealing a sandwich,” said Toronto lawyer and legal analyst Ari Goldkind.
“But if they’ve paid their tickets already, they’ve admitted guilt and they’re done with it. That’s the smartest thing they could do.”
It’s not clear if the Bakers have paid their fines, or what the outcome of any RCMP probes may be.
But that won’t deter people from demanding tougher justice. A petition started by members of the White River First Nation in Beaver Creek, Yukon, calls for stiffer penalties against the couple.
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, meanwhile, said the Bakers should consider paying “reparations” to the community they offended.
“I understand these people are wealthy and I won’t tell them what to do with their money but, you know, perhaps reparations are due at some level,” he said.
“There’s certainly a gesture of individual reconciliation and contrition that can be exercised, and certainly, communities in need like White River First Nation would more than appreciate that.”
One thing is clear, though: the couple are paying a heavy price in the court of public opinion.
“Their life as they know it is forever changed,” Goldkind told me.
“Lots of people might still be their friends but they’re going to be shunned in a lot of places. This is a couple that made a terrible decision.
“Do I think they need to be banished to the gulag forever? No, but certainly the punishment that they’re going to get from the rest of the world and broader society is significant.”
If anything, the public shaming will hopefully deter others from trying to pull a similar stunt.
With deadly and contagious COVID variants on the rise and vaccines in short supply, that might be the best thing that comes out of the great Yukon vaccine caper.
Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews.
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