Canada has been helping London's Metropolitan Police provide security to Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, "intermittently" since November - but will stop in the "coming weeks" as the pair step back from their roles as senior royals, the office of Canada's public safety minister said Thursday.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced last month that they intended to cut most of their ties to the royal family, to pursue financial independence and to relocate - at least part time - to Canada. The couple and their infant son, Archie, have been holed up in a secluded $14 million mansion on Vancouver Island, where they spent their Christmas holidays.
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Canadians have been largely indifferent to the arrival of the royal couple. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has faced repeated questions about who will foot the bill for the family's security.
It had offered little in the way of details - until Thursday.
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing to relocate to Canada on a part-time basis presented our government with a unique and unprecedented set of circumstances," the Office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement.
"The (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) has been engaged with officials in the UK from the very beginning regarding security. As the Duke and Duchess are currently recognised as Internationally Protected Persons, Canada has an obligation to provide security assistance on an as needed basis."
Harry and Meghan are slated to scale back their official duties on March 31. After protracted negotiations with Buckingham Palace, the couple agreed last week to abandon the "Sussex Royal" branding that they have been using to promote their Instagram account and website and to withdraw any trademark applications using the name.
The security assistance will "cease in the coming weeks, in keeping with their change in status," the statement from Blair's office said.
While the government's announcement is likely to be cheered by Canadians, it appears to contradict previous statements from Blair about the family's security - and who is paying for it.
Last month, he told reporters at a Liberal Party cabinet retreat in Winnipeg that the RCMP was "not engaged" in providing security services for the royal family "right now."
Mary-liz Power, a spokeswoman for Blair, did not respond to questions about the apparent contradiction or how much the provision of security has cost Canadians.
Public opinion surveys show that Canadians are strongly opposed to being on the hook for Harry and Meghan's security.
More than half of all those surveyed by the Leger polling firm last month said that they were "indifferent" to the family's move. But nearly 70 per cent of them said that it was the couple - and not Canadians - that should be responsible for covering the security costs.
An online petition from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation demanding that the royal couple pick up the security tab picked up more than 120,000 signatures.
"This is a tremendous victory for Canadian taxpayers and the Trudeau government is doing the right thing," said Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the organisation. "Canadians were unequivocal that the Duke and Duchess are welcome here, but that they need to pay their own way."
Harry and Meghan will close their office in Buckingham Palace next month and have said that they plan to start a nonprofit this spring as they map out their nontraditional future.
But several questions remain about what that will look like, including where in Canada they will settle. They are currently ensconced in a waterfront mansion in a gated community on Vancouver Island. Meghan has made a handful of surprise visits to charities in Vancouver.
Lawyers representing the couple threatened legal action last month against British reporters who they claim snapped photos of Meghan walking with Archie and the family dogs while lurking in the bushes. The Daily Mail posted the photos and a video that dissected Meghan's baby-holding technique.
Local residents have been more protective, opting to give the family the privacy it craves.
At least one member of the family is enjoying the new surroundings.
Archie, Harry said at a charity event in London last month, witnessed his first snowfall and "thought it was bloody brilliant."