Canada has been providing RCMP security to Prince Harry and Meghan since November, Public Safety Canada tells CBC News — after weeks of speculation about whether Canadians would have to pay for the couple’s security bills while they are in this country.
But the Government of Canada intends to stop providing that service to the couple “in the coming weeks,” says the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex cease to be active members of the Royal Family on March 31.
Blair’s department sent a statement to CBC News Thursday morning.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing to relocate to Canada on a part-time basis presented our government with a unique and unprecedented set of circumstances,” it reads. “The RCMP has been engaged with officials in the U.K. from the very beginning regarding security considerations.
“As the Duke and Duchess are currently recognized as Internationally Protected Persons, Canada has an obligation to provide security assistance on an as-needed basis. At the request of the Metropolitan Police, the RCMP has been providing assistance to the Met since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess to Canada intermittently since November 2019. The assistance will cease in the coming weeks, in keeping with their change in status.”
That statement appears to be at odds with an answer given by Blair on Jan. 21, when he was asked whether Canadians were facing any expenses for Harry and Meghan’s security.
“Well, I can tell you now we are not engaged in providing those security services,” he said at a caucus retreat in Winnipeg.
Today, Blair told CBC News that the apparent contradiction was due to a misunderstanding.
“That was the information I had at the time,” he said. “But there were subsequent discussions between the [London Metropolitan Police] … ultimately responsible for the security of the royals, and the RCMP. And the RCMP were advised that those two individuals still had International Protected Persons status and therefore the RCMP have been intermittently assisting the London Met in providing security.”
Thursday’s news comes after weeks of journalists asking the government to reveal the arrangement under which Harry and Meghan have relocated to Canada.
British media, citing British sources, said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already given the U.K. a commitment that the Canadian government will contribute to the costs.
But Trudeau had never confirmed that.
Trudeau told Global TV on Jan. 13 that the Canadian government had not really been involved in any negotiations around the couple’s new arrangements.
“We haven’t, up until this point, not in any real way. But there will be many discussions to come on how that works … that will go about between officials at different levels,” he told Global TV.
Trudeau and other government officials had cited the need to keep security arrangements confidential as a reason not to disclose the arrangements made for Harry and Meghan. He had also said that discussions had not yet concluded.
When asked about it at a cabinet retreat in Winnipeg on Jan. 21, shortly after the couple confirmed their plan to move to Canada, Trudeau replied: “I have not spoken to Her Majesty directly…. Discussions continue to be ongoing and I have no updates at this moment.”
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Feb. 9, Trudeau said: “I don’t comment on operational details, but there are long-standing protocols in place that are being followed.”
It now appears the discussions have concluded with an outcome that leaves the question of security at the door of the couple themselves, and of the British government and Metropolitan Police that have always been charged with their protection.
By cutting off the famous couple “in the coming weeks,” the Trudeau government avoids taking on a deeply unpopular financial burden.
Polls by Leger and the Angus Reid Institute have found that only about one in five Canadians believe it is an appropriate use of tax money to pay for the couple’s security arrangements.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation delivered a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office with 80,000 signatures on it insisting that Canadian taxpayer money not be diverted to them.
Public Safety’s reference to the government’s legal obligation to provide security to what are called Internationally Protected Persons describes a group that includes visiting diplomats, dignitaries and functionaries of other governments who are in Canada on an official visit.
Harry and Meghan arrived in Canada as full working members of the Royal Family on a temporary visit, and the RCMP has always provided security for those visits, with taxpayers picking up the bill.
By the time Trudeau spoke in Munich earlier this month, much had changed. Harry and Meghan had announced their plans to leave their royal roles behind. Under an agreement reached with Buckingham Palace, they will officially end their royal duties on March 31.
The question of who will pick up the tab for the couple’s security after March 31 is far from settled.
The British media in recent days has been full of stories citing anonymous Metropolitan Police sources complaining about the strain the couple’s move has put on the force.
Security experts, including retired Met police protection officers, have estimated that the cost of protecting the couple in their new life could fall in the range of $10 million to $30 million a year.