By Agence France-Presse
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.
Images of a smiling Meghan visiting on Tuesday with eight staffers at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center was posted on the center’s Facebook page.
“Look who we had tea with today! The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community,” said a caption.
The shelter in an impoverished Vancouver neighborhood provides counselling, hot meals, and basic needs for marginalized and vulnerable women and children. It serves about 500 women each day, according to its website.
The Daily Mail quoted staff as saying Meghan “asked what the women would need in terms of support. It was a nice meeting” and a boost to staff’s spirits.
“She was just casual and lovely,” the center’s acting director, Kate Gibson, told Canadian public broadcaster CBC.
“I thought she was really down to earth,” she said. “She’s very good at sort of picking up something from the conversation and expanding that a bit, and asking questions and (she was) empathetic. She was really great.”
Gibson added that Meghan seemingly “just wants to get to know the community. We know she’s going to come to Canada and I think possibly the West Coast.
“I think that she just doesn’t want to be sort of a stranger in the midst. She just wants to get to know people.”
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 found 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.