Why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Might Benefit From Moving to British Columbia
The province has a very unique privacy law.
If anyone believed that Vancouver and British Columbia was a strange place for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to pick for their new life — Markle worked in Toronto previously, making it the obvious choice — a detail about the area could explain why they picked the city. In a report by People, legal experts explained that privacy laws in British Columbia would allow Meghan and Harry to take legal action if they feel like photographers and reporters are being too invasive and encroaching on their personal privacy.
"British Columbia is one of a handful of provinces that has a law like this, which specifically creates a right to sue if your privacy is invaded," expert David Fraser of law firm McInnes Cooper, told People. "It specifically says that surveillance can be a form of privacy invasion."
The Canadian approach to privacy is surprisingly straightforward. Fraser says that it's about feeling watched or just "creeped out." Thanks to that broad language and a general attitude towards celebrities in Canada, Markle and Harry could live a more normal life.
"Privacy is also one of the only areas of law that protects a certain set of feelings related to being surveilled or being 'creeped out,'" he added. "So, if you think you're alone and somebody steps out from a shadow, that jarring feeling of intrusion is something that privacy law increasingly is protecting."
Canadian media isn't about just leaving people alone, however. While there are rules, Fraser says that since the royals have voiced their concerns about their safety and privacy, reporters and photographers are likely to understand. They didn't step back from their royal duties for no reason, after all.
"We have a notion here in Canada that if you are a public figure — if you have stepped into the spotlight — along with that you have to accept that there is a reduced expectation of privacy. But with Harry and Meghan in particular, they have specifically said that they are stepping out of the spotlight. They have specifically said that they are moving from the U.K. in order to preserve their privacy — and some of the statements I have seen have tied it to the experience of Princess Diana or mental health concerns associated with perhaps unfair media coverage or unfair scrutiny of their private life," Fraser finished. "So, I would imagine that there would be a sympathetic ear within the courts that would at least take a look at all these factors without kind of dismissing it outright by saying, 'Look, you're a member of the royal family. You may no longer be a senior royal, but ...'"
Another legal expert agreed with Fraser, saying that reducing their royal duties also means that Meghan and Harry are reducing the opportunities that photographers will have to snap photos of them. He adds that, like the United States, Canada has "freedom of the press," but it's not as "absolute," according to People. It also differs from the U.K.'s press policies, so Meghan and Harry obviously did their homework before settling on this specific spot.
"The point is that we all have a zone of privacy — even around famous folk," Mark Stephens, partner at London law firm Howard Kenned, added. "That zone of privacy is slightly smaller around famous folk than it is around somebody ordinary walking along the street. What they are doing is essentially giving themselves a larger zone of privacy — what they're saying is, 'We're not going to the opening of an envelope anymore. We’re not going to be spending all of our waking hours in the public eye and thereby we're going to live a life of greater seclusion, which gives us a greater degree of privacy as a matter of law.'"