Former casino CEO, wife absent at first court hearing in vaccine queue-jumping case


Rod Baker, former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.

Great Canadian Gaming

Janet VanderMeer drove 5½ hours to a Whitehorse courthouse to hear a former casino CEO and his actor spouse explain why they flew across the country to allegedly jump the vaccine queue in her small Yukon hamlet on the border of Alaska.

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker did not travel from Ontario to their first court hearing on Tuesday afternoon. They were each charged with breaking Yukon quarantine rules on Jan. 21, ticketed at Whitehorse’s airport waiting for a flight out of the territory after their vaccinations that same day. But their lawyer sought and received an adjournment of two weeks after the Crown prosecutor agreed with the delay, citing continuing discussions between the two sides.

Court delays at this stage are not unusual, but Ms. VanderMeer, a member of the White River First Nation who leads its COVID-19 response, said she was frustrated with the adjournment.

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“This is not resolved, this is not forgotten,” said Ms. VanderMeer, who says she saw the Bakers at a mobile vaccination clinic in her hometown of Beaver Creek on Jan. 21.

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Ms. VanderMeer said she shared a clinic waiting room with the Bakers and her 72-year-old mother in palliative care that day, and that the couple put the elders in the community in danger by their unwelcome visit.

Ms. VanderMeer wants the couple to at least have a face-to-face video conference with her Nation to see the stress they caused her tightknit community.

“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,” she said.

The Bakers have not made any public statements since news of their alleged ruse made international headlines. They were initially ticketed with a total of $2,300 in penalties for allegedly failing to self-isolate for 14 days and allegedly failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in the Yukon. These offences were upgraded so that they would face a court hearing, where, if convicted, they could each spend six months in jail.

Three days after the Bakers received the fines in the Yukon, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., one of the biggest gambling conglomerates in the country, announced Mr. Baker had resigned from the company he had led for a decade. He had assumed the role after his father’s acquisition of masses of shares in the firm.

The Bakers’ lawyer, Jennie Cunningham, did not immediately respond to The Globe and Mail’s request for comment Tuesday. The Yukon’s Department of Justice refused to comment on the case.

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