Canadians have been largely indifferent to the arrival of the royal couple. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has faced repeated questions about who will foot the bill for the family’s security.
It had offered little in the way of details — until Thursday.
“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,” the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement. “The [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] has been engaged with officials in the U.K. from the very beginning regarding security. 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.”
Harry and Meghan are slated to scale back their official duties on March 31. After protracted negotiations with Buckingham Palace, the couple agreed last week to abandon the “Sussex Royal” branding they have used to promote their online presence and to withdraw any trademark applications on the name.
“In keeping with their change in status,” Blair’s office said, the security assistance will “cease in the coming weeks.”
While the announcement was likely to be cheered by Canadians, it appeared to contradict previous statements by Blair about the family’s security — and who is paying for it.
He told reporters at a Liberal Party Cabinet retreat in Winnipeg in January that the RCMP was “not engaged” in providing security services for the royal family “right now.”
“That was the information I had at the time,” Blair said Thursday. But following “subsequent discussions” with the Metropolitan Police, he said, the RCMP has been “intermittently assisting” in providing security.
Public opinion surveys show Canadians are strongly opposed to being on the hook for Harry and Meghan’s security.
More than half of those surveyed by the Leger polling firm last month said they were “indifferent” to the family’s move. But nearly 70 percent said the couple, not Canadian taxpayers, should be responsible for covering their security costs.
An online petition from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calling on Trudeau to ensure that taxpayer money would not be used to support the couple picked up more than 120,000 signatures.
Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the organization, called the announcement Thursday a “tremendous victory for Canadian taxpayers.”
“The Trudeau government is doing the right thing,” he said. “Canadians were unequivocal that the duke and duchess are welcome here, but that they need to pay their own way.”
The couple plan to close their office in Buckingham Palace next month and have said they plan to start a nonprofit organization this spring as they map out their nontraditional future.
But questions remain about what that will look like, including where in Canada they will settle. Meghan has made a handful of surprise visits to charities in Vancouver.
Lawyers for the couple threatened legal action last month against British reporters who they claim lurked in bushes to snap photos of Meghan walking with Archie and the family dogs. The Daily Mail posted photos and a video that dissected her baby-holding technique.
Neighbors have been more protective, opting to give the family the privacy it craves.
At least one member of the family is enjoying the new surroundings.
Archie has witnessed his first snowfall, Harry said at a charity event in London last month — and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”