Why Canada could be expected to pay for security for Prince Harry and Meghan

Why Canada could be expected to pay for security for Prince Harry and Meghan
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Prince Harry and Meghan have received permission from the Queen to divide their time between Canada and the United Kingdom, but it’s still not clear who will pay to protect them during their indefinite stays across the pond.

The RCMP’s National Division Protective Operations — the same division responsible for the prime minister’s security detail — is responsible for providing protection for visiting International Protected Persons (IPPs), which include heads of state and their families. Currently, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as IPPs, although that could change depending on how much of a step back they take from royal duties.

It’s unclear what obligation Canada has to protect IPPs who decide to make this country their home. There doesn’t seem to be a precedent, although Prince Andrew would have received some level of protection when he came to study at Ontario’s Lakefield College School for six months as a teen in 1977, said Joe Balz, a retired RCMP officer who was part of the VIP protection team for 14 years.

While the government considers who should pick up the tab in the long-term, it’s possible that the RCMP is already providing some security protection for Meghan and Archie, the couple’s son, who are both in Canada now awaiting Prince Harry’s return. And the Mounties may have protected the family during their recent holiday in North Saanich, B.C., about 23 kilometres north of Victoria. The RCMP said in a statement that it would not confirm or speculate on any present or future personal protection measures.

Typically, when heads of state and other IPPs come to Canada, they travel with a liaison team, but leave most of the security to the RCMP, Balz said.

“All the hard security — the body guarding, the driving — that would be done by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” said Balz, who has worked on RCMP protection teams for members of the Royal Family, including the Queen. He currently works as a trainer for Sentinel Security Plus, based in Toronto.

The British government is going to have to make its own decision about whether or not to continue providing security for the couple in the U.K. and whether to fund a liaison team based in Canada. After her divorce from Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, lost her police security team. At the time of her death, she had one bodyguard (who was seriously injured in the crash that killed her), paid for by her boyfriend’s father Mohamed El Fayed.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave Canada House in London, England, Jan. 7, 2020. Toby Melville/Reuters

If the Canadian government does decide to foot the bill, it’s hard to say how much it would cost. According to records obtained by La Presse, between November 2015 and June 2016, it cost an average $2 million per month to protect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Ottawa could also decide just to provide protection for official events.

“They could say, ‘OK, you want to live your life in a secluded spot of Vancouver Island, that’s fine. Get your own security,’” Balz said.

Estimates for the couple’s security vary wildly. One thing the couple will have to decide is how they want to balance protection with privacy, Balz said.

A formal royal visit would typically include 24-hour bodyguards, a driving team and additional security at events. But that is for a short period of time.

If the couple truly wants to live a more normal life, they may want to cut back on the level of security, but a risk assessment would need to be performed to determine what’s viable.

The property where, according to British news reports, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, spent the holidays at the end of 2019, in North Saanich, B.C. Kevin Light/Reuters

At the low end, private security costs could be $10,000 to $20,000 per day, in line with a top Canadian CEO who has remote monitoring of their home, or perhaps a neighbourhood patrol and a bodyguard for special events, Balz said. But the Sussexes have a very public profile. And it’s unknown what kind of threats they receive.

If they want 24-hour personal bodyguards on site, the yearly costs can quickly climb into the millions.
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