Thousands of Canadians have signed a petition demanding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pay for their own security costs, amid mounting concern the country could be saddled with a bill costing millions of dollars.
Since the couple announced they were giving up formal royal duties and public money, they have been holed up in a $20m private mansion on a secluded cove on Canada’s Victoria Island.
When they leave the property they are escorted by a number of bodyguards, several of whom are British. In recent days, the guards have also been filming cars driving past, many of them belonging to international media.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau has to date failed to say what agreements have been made to cover such costs.
Reports in the UK media say he told the Queen that Canada would foot the bill, but Mr Trudeau told Canadian reporters this week: “I have not spoken to Her Majesty directly. Discussions continue to be ongoing and I have no updates at this moment.”
Campaigners behind an online petition calling on the royal couple to pay their own costs said they had gathered at least 90,000 signatures. The petition, addressed to Mr Trudeau, reads: “Canadians wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, all the best as they seek financial independence. That goal is important because Canadian taxpayers shouldn’t have to cover the couple’s bills.”
Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a campaign group “dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government” told The Independent there was no personal animosity aimed at the royal couple, who are living in the town of North Saanich, 20 miles north of Victoria, the largest town on Vancouver Island.
“In the last two weeks I received lots of phone calls from people saying the couple were welcome here, but that they did not want to pay for them,” said Mr Wudrick.
“I think in recent weeks, that feeling has become more clear. Canada is a welcoming country, but some people excited they are here are viewing them as wealthy celebrities, rather than official members of the royal family where there is a protocol.”
He added: “They are coming here because they want to leave the royal family, but part of that is paying their own bills.”
Earlier month, the Globe and Mail quoted security experts who suggested the annual cost of protecting Harry, Meghan and their eight-month-old son Archie, could reach C$10m (£5.8m).
The point made in Mr Wudrich’s petition, first reported by the New York Post, was echoed by many residents in the part of Vancouver Island where the royal couple are living. While having offered them a warm welcome, and even helping them avoid media scrutiny, there is a view Canadians should not pay.
“I think the point is, they are either private citizens or members of the royal family,” said Bruce Welsh, 70, a former musician and radio show host in Sidney. “If they are private citizens, they should not need security guards. Either way, Canada should not be paying.”
Mena Brash, a retired political scientist who was having coffee in the Georgia Cafe on Thursday morning, said Mr Trudeau would be required to study what laws existed.
“If there’s an agreement in place, we will have to pay it. A petition will not make any difference,” she said.
Michael Phillips, 73, who moved to Canada from Britain three decades ago, described himself as an arch anti-royalist. He said he thought the media should leave the couple in peace, but said Canadians should not bear the cost of that privacy.
“Canadians should not pay a single cent,” he said. ‘The royal family should be disbanded and they should all be allowed to live their own lives.”