As people everywhere anxiously wait for doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to become available, and death tolls rise by the day, a Canadian casino tycoon and his actor wife managed to jump to the head of the line.
On Jan. 19, the now former CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, Rodney Baker, and Ekatrina Baker flew from Vancouver to Whitehorse, in the Yukon, where they were supposed to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Instead, they broke quarantine and took a private flight to Beaver Creek, a tiny remote community of under 100 residents. They managed to pass themselves off as new employees at the local motel, duping health workers at the mobile vaccination clinic. They were each administered a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. All doses at the mobile clinic were intended for elderly and other high-risk individuals in the area.
The pair’s charade was found out after they raised suspicions by asking for a ride to the airport. They were apprehended in the Whitehorse airport by a Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) enforcement officer. However, the Bakers will not see any meaningful consequences for their shameful and illegal actions.
Lives on the line
Beaver Creek is among several rural Yukon communities being prioritized for vaccination distribution. These isolated regions are more harshly affected by the virus, because they are often hours away from any hospital, and lack local healthcare resources. This remoteness poses a particular risk to elderly people, who may have more difficulty travelling the long distance to a hospital, and are already more vulnerable.
Most residents of Beaver Creek belong to the White River First Nation (WRFN). However, the WRFN was not informed by Yukon authorities about the quarantine breach nor the vaccination fraud, instead finding out about it days later through the media. Their response was to call for harsher punishment of the Bakers. Chief Angela Demit of White River First Nation said,
While we understand many want to have a vaccination immediately, it is not appropriate to skirt the rules put in place and approach our community in this way. WRFN was selected for vaccines given our remoteness, elderly and high-risk population, as well as limited access to health care.
The fact that the couple did not obey quarantine protocol means that they could potentially have infected residents of the community. If they caused an outbreak of COVID-19, the consequences could be extremely grave. As Chief Angela Demit put it, their actions could have “potentially lethal effects to our community.”
The Yukon is facing an unexpected shortage of vaccine doses, but will be continuing to roll them out as planned. The Bakers getting vaccinated means that they directly deprived two people who need it more, who will now have to wait longer.
A slap on the wrist
Nominally, members of the capitalist class are not exempt from capitalist laws. After all, Rodney and Ekaterina Baker were apprehended at the airport, issued tickets, and were each charged fines for violating orders of the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA). Charges under the CEMA may include fines up to $500, with an additional $75 victim surcharge. The consequences may also include up to 6 months in prison.
The couple is facing a combined total of $2,300 in fines, and no prison time. For many, that amount of money is a couple months’ rent, and would be a devastating sum. But for Rodney Baker, it amounts to spare change.
As CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, Baker’s annual salary was $10,643,100. He made about $887,000 every month. That amounts to $28,600 every day. These figures are based solely on Baker’s base salary, not including bonuses and revenue from other stocks. A full-time minimum wage worker in BC makes about $26,312 a year. This means Rodney Baker makes about $2,300 more every day than a full time casino worker makes in a year of work. $2,300 is absolutely pocket change for a fat cat like Rodney Baker.
Punishment by fine is another way of saying legal for the rich. For someone as wealthy as Rodney Baker, legal repercussions to the tune of $2,300 are meaningless. Baker resigned his position as president and CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation after the media scandal surrounding the vaccine fraud began to pick up. However the Bakers are not exactly in danger of going bankrupt. In fact, Rodney is still a board member for the corporation, and therefore still on payroll. Besides, members of the capitalist class do not keep all their eggs in one basket—they invest their capital in many trusts, shares and stocks, and see profits from it.
The laws are written by and for the ruling class. A punishment by fine simply puts a price tag on illegal action, and the price is one that members of the ruling class can easily afford. This is another example of the two separate pandemics the world is experiencing: one pandemic for the rich, and another for everyone else. The way we in the working class experience COVID-19 is completely different from the way people like Rodney Baker do.