Did Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Choose British Columbia Because of Its Privacy Laws?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made their desires known, they want to be left alone by the press. In October 2019, the prince issued a stern warning to the British media to leave him, his wife and his young son alone. In a scathing statement, Prince Harry accused the press of bullying Meghan Markle. The warning did little to slow coverage, and in January 2020, the couple announced that they’d be stepping down from royal life in pursuit of more privacy. They appear to have their sights set on British Columbia as their new home, and there might be an excellent reason; British Columbia has pretty intense privacy laws.

Are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry really settling in Canada?

Prince Harry arrived on Vancouver Island last week. He joined his wife and young son, leading most royal family followers to assume the pair are planning to set down roots in the area. That might not actually be the case, though. The couple may be merely vacationing in the area while they consider their options.

Rumors were swirling that they were eyeing a $35 million mansion in Vancouver’s most exclusive neighborhoods, but according to the New York Times, the listing agent claimed to be completely unaware of any interest by the couple.  There is some belief that the couple may be considering Victoria for its moderate climate, as well as Toronto. Before she became the Duchess of Sussex, Markle called Toronto home and forged plenty of friendships there. It’s possible she’d like to head back to an area where she felt supported.

Speaking of support systems, Markle’s mother resides in California, and there was some belief that the royal couple would eventually settle into the sunny landscape of Malibu to be close to Doria Ragland. Heading to California would offer the couple very little in the way of protection from the paparazzi, though, and, instead, would place the family in their direct sights. People believe New York City might be on the couple’s shortlist, as well. Regardless of the possible United States locations on media shortlists, Canada, no matter what city, seems like their most likely home base, and that’s because of the country’s privacy laws

What privacy laws does Canada have?

Privacy laws exist throughout Canada, but British Columbia appears to have laws specifically about photography and video. In fact, The Privacy Act specific to the province allows private citizens to sue individuals if they can prove that their privacy has been invaded when they had reasonable expectations of privacy. Surveillance and eavesdropping are also considered violations of the law.

The laws, however, have not been tested when it comes to a celebrity just yet. Canada, by and large, does not have the paparazzi culture that exists in other parts of the world. It’s also impossible to tell how the country’s laws would translate to individuals who are not citizens of the country. For example, it’s hard to say if the regulation would be enforceable on individuals who travel to Canada to photograph the couple. By and large, privacy laws in the province and the overarching federal regulations have been primarily used for organizational data breaches.

Will Harry and Meghan be left alone if they do settle in British Columbia?

While British Columbia does have privacy laws on the books, the Huffington Post notes that they’ve very rarely been challenged, and winning a case would be difficult. Any photos taken in a public space of a public figure would likely be considered fair game, explains Roger McConchie, a Vancouver-based lawyer who spoke with the Huffington Post. Since the royal couple are considered public figures, their privacy is far from a sure thing.

Harry and Meghan postcards for sale next to a Union Jack flag card with the slogan 'Keep Calm And Carry On'
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle postcards | Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

If Markle and Prince Harry were to have their pictures taken in public, like in a park or out to eat, those pictures would likely be considered publishable. Photos that are taken using telephoto lenses of the couple in a home or in a private space, however, are subject to privacy laws, and any publication who chooses to use them could be sued, according to the privacy regulations currently on file.

The BBC suggests that the couple was probably safer from the lens of paparazzi back in the United Kingdom. Paparazzi photos of the couple have not been published since their wedding, although the media firestorm surrounding their movements is part of the reason they stepped away from the royal family, according to reports.