By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on January 23, 2020.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (a.k.a. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) are welcome to spend time in Canada while they try to start new lives at a long arm’s length from the Royal Family.
The “buts” arise for the simple reason that they can’t immediately shed the considerable baggage that comes with being senior and highly visible royals.
Until their future role is defined, there are bound to be thorny questions involving Canada’s very particular relationship to the monarchy.
And that’s not up to the Sussexes alone to define. They’re now working it out with the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. And as far as their presence in this country is concerned, they’ll have to work it out with the government of Canada.
It’s up to the government, as representative of all Canadians, to put bounds on any public role that Harry and Meghan might be contemplating in Canada.
We already have people here designated to represent the Queen of Canada. They’re called the governor-general and the provincial lieutenant-governors, and they do a perfectly fine job of carrying out quasi-regal duties such as reading tedious speeches from the throne and giving official assent to new laws.
This is the system we’ve evolved over many decades; there hasn’t been a British G-G since Vincent Massey took the job in 1952. Canada’s version of the monarchy has been thoroughly Canadianized, and there’s really no room for the Sussexes except as private citizens – albeit famous and glamorous ones.
If there’s any doubt about that in royal circles, the government of Canada should make it crystal clear.
In fact, there’s little reason to think Harry and Meghan are craving such a role, or would even accept it if offered. That’s exactly the kind of thing they’re fleeing.
Nor does it appear they intend to “move” to Canada in any meaningful sense. The statement the Queen issued on Jan. 13 after her family conference with the Sussexes dropped big hints about that.
She said it had been agreed there would be “a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the U.K.” That’s about as vague as it could be, and suggests the couple isn’t going to be applying for any official status. Like any British (or American) citizens, they can spend months here at a time without going through any immigration rigmarole.
The second “but,” of course, involves money – specifically, who will foot the considerable bill for the Sussexes’ security?
As much as Canadians like the idea of having Harry and Meghan among us, in a non-official, celebrity type of way, we bet they won’t stand for paying the freight, at least not after the couple work through that “period of transition.”
And what do the Sussexes expect? Do they really think Canadian taxpayers will be content to absorb millions in security costs? That would be a great way to sour the public love affair with them.
Here, too, the Queen’s statement carries clues. She made clear that “they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.” If that’s the case, they shouldn’t expect Canadians to pay for their security on a long-term basis.
And in fact, British newspapers report that the couple have dropped their claim to be “internationally protected people,” for whom Canada provides security as a matter of course. Even in Britain that applies only to senior royals carrying out official duties. It doesn’t apply to minor royals who operate basically as private citizens with fancy titles.
Increasingly, it seems that’s what Harry and Meghan are aiming for. They are trying to figure out a way to carve out their own lives and declare financial independence from the Royal Family. That implies paying their own way.
If they want to hang out in Canada while they work all this through, then welcome to them. But it will have to be on our terms.
An editorial from the Toronto Star