If I ever say I am past being surprised by the depths of mendacity that people can exhibit, please quickly disabuse me of that motion. “Surprise” is an understatement for how I felt reading about a millionaire Canadian businessman and his actress wife who hired a private plane to fly into a small, isolated indigenous community in the Yukon and reportedly lied their way into getting COVID-19 vaccine shots meant for the vulnerable population—which includes especially at-risk elders.
Rodney Baker, 55, who recently resigned as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and his 32-year-old wife Ekaterina Baker have been charged by authorities in Vancouver, Canada, for defying isolation rules and flying into the Beaver Creek community in Canada’s Yukon territory to get vaccines meant for members of the White River First Nation.
According to a report from Yukon News, the couple went to a mobile clinic where vaccine doses were being distributed to members of the isolated community on Jan. 21 and pretended to be workers of a local motel. The Canadian government has said people working in the territory are allowed to be vaccinated.
After receiving shots of the Moderna vaccine, the Bakers headed to the airport (rather than a location they claimed they would be self-quarantining) and prepared to fly back to Vancouver. Luckily, they were nabbed by enforcement officials in Yukon who’d received a tip about the two and charged them with violations of the territory’s Civil Emergency Measures Act: failing to self-isolate and failing to follow their signed declaration to quarantine.
Unfortunately, those charges carry penalties of only six months in jail and/or fines of $575 Canadian dollars. The rich couple was able to pay the fines and return home to Vancouver happily protected from the coronavirus, after greedily and uncaringly threatening the health of a community they don’t belong to.
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” said Chief Angela Demit of the White River First Nation said in a statement (pdf) about the incident. The statement added that the small fines levied against the couple are too lenient a punishment for “the gravity of the actions taken, given the potentially lethal effects to our community.”
Baker also left his multimillion dollar-paying job on Sunday after he and his wife were caught in the repugnant alleged interloping of the vaccination program at White River First Nation.
Closer to home here in the U.S., there are already reports of white and comparatively wealthier people getting earlier access to COVID-19 vaccines by traveling to lower-income communities largely populated by people of color. The City recently reported its discovery that a good deal of the people getting vaccinations at a vaccination site in Washington Heights, a majority-Hispanic NYC neighborhood, were white people who had traveled miles to get there from the suburbs. Data also shows that most people who’ve received vaccine shots in New York City so far do not reside in any of the five boroughs.
A doctor who worked as a vaccine verifier at the site in Washington Heights confirmed seeing just as much earlier this week.
“Simply put, I’ve never seen so many white people in Washington Heights,” Dr. Susana Bejar tweeted.
Though Black people and Latinos continue to be disproportionately hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, in more cities across the country like Dallas and Chicago their vaccination rates are being outstripped by those of people from communities that are whiter and wealthier. The phenomenon is likely not only due to systemic racism or deliberate mendacity by some, but probably also a consequence of the suspicions African-Americans have expressed about taking the COVID-19 vaccines given this country’s horrific history of deliberate mistreatment of Black people in health care.