VANCOUVER: Prince Harry´s wife Meghan has visited a women´s shelter in Vancouver, her first public appearance since the couple´s sensational decision to pursue greater independence from the British monarchy by living part-time in Canada.
The Duchess of Sussex visited the Downtown Eastside Women´s Centre on Tuesday and met with staffers.
The centre is a non-profit organization that provides support to women who are fleeing violence, dealing with homelessness or living in poverty. It offers daily hot meals, counselling, clothing, showers, toiletries and more. It serves about 500 women a day.
On a cold, uncharacteristically snowy day, the centre was bustling, as women from diverse ethnic backgrounds and all ages gathered in its main hall. Still bundled in their coats, many sat around tables and on sofas sipping hot beverages, using their phones, chatting and warming up.
Markle met with the director and a handful of frontline staff to discuss the challenges women in the neighbourhood are facing.
“She was very interested in what goes on for women in this community, who we all know are marginalized women who´ve faced many challenges and barriers to their wellbeing,” said Kate Gibson, the acting executive director of the centre.
“She was interested, she was informed, she had great questions, followed up with questions on things that the staff had spoken about,” Gibson added.
Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan last week announced they intend to step back as senior royals and strive to become financially independent, splitting their time between Britain and Canada where they spent six weeks over Christmas with baby son Archie.
They are now in talks with senior royals about how their wished-for new roles within the monarchy could work.
The Daily Mail also published photos of Meghan in a parka, boarding a seaplane from Victoria, British Columbia, where she´s currently staying, to Vancouver for the shelter visit.
– Paying for the relocation –
Earlier, an Angus Reid Institute survey said that despite Canadians´ affection for the royal couple, a large majority (73 percent) do not wish to foot security or other costs for their relocation.
Nineteen percent said they´d agree to cover part of the costs, while only three percent agreed with Canada paying all of the costs.
Canadian media have estimated the costs of protecting Prince Harry and Meghan at approximately Can1.7 million (US$1.3 million) per year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau´s government has yet to take a position publicly on the matter, saying there are “discussions going on,” while extending a warm welcome to the couple.
The survey of 1,154 Canadians on Monday and Tuesday also found that while respect and affection for Queen Elizabeth II — Canada´s head of state — is broad-based and strong, Canadians are “at a crossroads” over future ties with the monarchy.
Most say the House of Windsor has lost relevance, while only 39 percent believe Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy after the queen, who has reigned for 66 years, dies.
Paradoxically, support for Prince Harry is much higher. He is viewed among Canadians as the most personally popular member of the royal family, with 69 percent viewing him favorably.