Protecting Prince Harry and his family during visits to Canada has cost Canadian taxpayers more than $ 334,000 in less than four years, CBC News has learned.
Records obtained by CBC News from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the Access to Information Act show that security related to Harry’s visits between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 cost taxpayers 182 $ 430. This amount covered things like overtime and travel expenses, but not police salaries.
In January 2020 – as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex publicly considered living in Canada for part of the year – the RCMP estimated that protecting them and their son while they were there could cost taxpayers nearly $ 33. $ 000 per month.
According to the court circular, which describes the public activities of members of the royal family, Prince Harry made a public visit to Canada in 2017 and 2018 – a week-long trip to attend events in Toronto. Events included the Invictus Games – founded by Harry – a celebration of WE Day and a reception for young people who received gold awards from the Duke of Edinburgh.
Prince Harry’s appearance at the Invictus Games drew media attention as it was one of the first times he was seen in public with Meghan Markle, an American actress living in Toronto.
The couple, who met in July 2016 in London, got engaged in November 2017 and married in May 2018, when Prince Harry was granted the title of Duke of Sussex.
It was not Prince Harry’s only visit to Toronto during this time. In April 2017, paparazzi photographers waiting outside Markle’s home in Toronto’s Seaton Village neighborhood captured footage of Prince Harry arriving at her home on an unannounced private trip.
It is not known how many times Prince Harry has come to Canada to visit Markle. The RCMP declined to provide a breakdown as to how they spent $ 182,430 to protect him in 2017 and 2018. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office referred questions to the RCMP.
Spokesmen for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell organization did not respond to CBC News questions and interview requests.
Pursued by the press
Alastair MacPherson, a freelance photographer for Splash News, said photographers started hanging out around Markle’s house when the news came out in the fall of 2016 that she and Harry were dating.
“Before everyone knew they were seeing each other, he had been here for a while around Halloween and they went to a Halloween party,” he said. “After that, people found out that they might be seeing each other and that’s when reporters and photographers allegedly tried to find him. “
When Prince Harry visited Markle, six black SUVs with members of Prince Harry’s British security services could be seen on the residential street, MacPherson said.
Pierre-Yves Borduas, a former RCMP deputy commissioner who is now chairman of PY Safety, said RCMP officers allegedly accompanied the British security officers.
Prince Harry took a private trip to Toronto in December 2016, making a detour to visit Markle on his way back from an official visit to seven Caribbean countries. He also visited Toronto on a public trip earlier that year in May – two months before meeting Markle – to announce that the 2017 Invictus Games would be held there.
The additional costs to the RCMP for the safety of Prince Harry during this period totaled $ 52,978.
The RCMP incurred $ 5,726 in costs to protect the Duke and Duchess of Sussex between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 and no costs from January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2016.
Canada’s image is at stake: security expert
When someone like Prince Harry travels to Canada for official duties or a private visit, the RCMP must assess potential threats to his safety and provide him with protection, Borduas said.
“They still have the responsibility, because what if something happens to this very important person in our country? ” he said. “The ripple effect … could have a negative reflection on our country and how [seriously] we take the safety of those types of individuals who appreciate our country’s hospitality. “
While Borduas said he couldn’t explain how the RCMP spent $ 182,430 in a single year to protect Prince Harry, he said protecting him during the high-profile and well-attended Invictus Games would cost more than security. for a discreet private tour.
Once Harry stepped down from royal duties, the RCMP’s obligation to provide protection while traveling in Canada would have ended and responsibility for his safety would have shifted to other providers, Borduas said.
“It could cost us dearly”
In heavily redacted emails obtained by CBC News, the prospect of ensuring the safety of a member of the royal family living part of the year in Canada weighed heavily on people like Deputy Commissioner Bernadine Chapman, who headed the division. that ensures the protection of VIPs.
“The media are like a hot potato on this … so a lot of coverage of the potential of royalty to spend half of their time in Canada now, as an independent couple,” she wrote on January 10. 2020. “The media spin is on the cost to Canadians… (Redacted)… We’re having a more in-depth conversation next week on the future on this. It could cost us dearly! “
Ultimately, protecting the Sussexes during their Christmas in Canada until February 27, 2020 cost the RCMP more than $ 93,000 – part of the total of $ 334,000.
In a briefing note to then Public Safety Minister Bill Blair explaining his decision to tell the Metropolitan Police in early January 2020 that they would end protective policing services for the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex, the RCMP made a distinction between the couple’s private and official visits.
“The Sussex family’s stay in Canada is private in nature and to date there has been no official outing where the Duke and Duchess represent the Queen,” the force wrote. “There is no indication that the Duke or Duchess will participate in any official title for the Crown in Canada in the next two months. However, if that changes, the RCMP will assess and provide security accordingly. “
The couple’s decision later this month to step down from their roles as senior royals also played a role in the RCMP’s assessment, according to the briefing note.
“Family members visiting privately to Canada are eligible to receive RCMP Protective Policing services in accordance with the RCMP Threat / Risk Assessment, but this reflects their official status within the Royal Family. », Indicates the note. “According to the Buckingham Palace statement of January 18, 2020, the Duke and Duchess” will no longer use their HRH titles as they are no longer active members of the Royal Family. “”
The Canadian Taxpayers Foundation – which first revealed the cost of RCMP security for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Christmas in Canada – says it wants to see more transparency about the destination of the taxpayer money.
“It’s not just a few dollars and cents,” said CTF Federal Director Franco Terrazanno. “Thousands and thousands of dollars are being billed to taxpayers. So we certainly deserve an explanation and we certainly deserve full transparency. “
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at [email protected]