From security to royal duties: The big questions Canada has to figure out if Prince Harry and Meghan are living here

From security to royal duties: The big questions Canada has to figure out if Prince Harry and Meghan are living here
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OTTAWA — There is no exact precedent in Canadian history for what the government has to figure out now as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — appear set to live here semi-permanently and largely withdraw from royal duties in Britain.

Members of the royal family have lived in Canada for extended periods before, notably for six months in 1977 as Prince Andrew attended Lakefield College School in Ontario. Canada also gave refuge to members of the Dutch royal family during the Second World War, and a Dutch princess was even born here. But it’s a brand new situation to have royals settling in for long-term residence in Canada, and it poses complicated questions.

The Prime Minister’s Office is saying little about the situation. “There remain a number of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family and the Sussexes themselves,” the PMO said in a statement. “We are of course supportive of their reflections but have responsibilities in this as well. There are still many discussions to be had.”

To get a sense of what’s likely taking place behind the scenes, the National Post spoke to two sources with direct experience of handling royal affairs in Canada. They agreed only to speak confidentially, though neither are currently in the federal government.

“This is unprecedented, it really is,” was how one source summed it up.

What is Harry and Meghan’s royal status when living in Canada?

This is perhaps the biggest head-scratcher right now. Do they keep their titles? Do they have any royal duties when here? Do they represent the Queen here? Do they interact with our viceregal officials, including the provincial lieutenant-governors and Canada’s governor general?

The Queen herself doesn’t have good answers on this yet. “These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days,” she said in a statement released Monday .

These are complex matters for my family to resolve

On a purely ceremonial level, it creates bizarre scenarios, one source said. The lieutenant-governor of the province represents the Queen at formal events, but now you’ve got her grandson living nearby. Do you invite him? Do you just pretend he isn’t there?

But there are more practical matters too. “Will they have staff here?” the source asked. “I presume an office will remain in place at Buckingham Palace, but will they have a branch or a satellite office here? You would think while they’re in this Commonwealth country, they would need some staff to support them on an official basis. Who’s paying for that?”

The Queen’s statement says the couple “do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives,” but it may not be so simple.

Where do they live and who runs their security?

The Sussexes will presumably find private accommodation, something that can be set up with a security perimeter. Over the past month they’ve been staying at , owned by a country club.

When royals are in Canada their security is normally handed by the RCMP’s Protective Policing unit. One source pointed out that Harry was a frequent visitor to Toronto when Meghan was working there as an actress, so the RCMP will already be very familiar with him.

But living here is a whole new scenario. Do you have a full security detail on Harry, Meghan and their son Archie whenever any of them leaves the house for any reason? “Security is a biggie,” one source said. “You’re talking about the movements of three separate individuals … It’s a complex issue even beyond the issue of who pays.”

Another source said the “nightmare scenario” of something terrible happening to them here makes it impossible for Canada to just ignore the issue. “We don’t want Diana in a tunnel in Paris,” the source said. And yet if the couple is withdrawing from royal duties, it’s also hard to justify getting involved.

How do they earn income here?

This question can’t be fully answered until their status in the royal family becomes clearer. But neither of them are Canadian citizens , and we do happen to have immigration laws here. Visitor visas don’t allow for working income.

Their claim to not want public funds indicates they plan at least some private work in the future. “Are they going to be paid for appearances?” one source said. “Are they going to be paid for endorsements? Is that income going to affect their status here?”

If you re just international celebrities... do we have an obligation to you anymore?

One source said it’s still possible the couple sees Canada simply as a way-station for spending more time in the United States. “They could just come in and out (of Canada) to satisfy immigration, but then that raises financial implications and taxation implications.”

The Privy Council Office will be hard at work on these questions — security, taxes, citizenship, royal duties — with Buckingham Palace. For Canada, it very much depends on how far Harry and Meghan are truly extracting themselves from royal life. As one source put it: “If you’re just international celebrities, you’re not undertaking official engagements, do we have an obligation to you anymore?”
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