FILE - In this Monday Nov. 27, 2017 file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

Media outlets in Canada should practise civility and self-regulation in respecting the privacy rights of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, says British Columbia’s privacy commissioner.

Michael McEvoy said Wednesday media freedoms in Canada are vast and paramount to ensure a free press, but the couple’s privacy should be a consideration as they take up residence near Victoria.

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to the British press threatening legal action after Meghan and her young son Archie were photographed walking in a public park north of Victoria.

“I would just say as B.C.’s privacy commissioner that I think it behooves us all to exercise some kind of self-regulation, some kind of civility to respect the rights of others to go about their daily business without being surveilled,” he said in an interview.

McEvoy said individuals, regardless of their celebrity status, deserve some privacy rights.

B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act restricts private organizations, including corporations, unions and political parties, from disclosing the personal information of individuals, but the act does not apply to the collection of information for a ”journalistic or literary purpose,” McEvoy said.

B.C.’s Privacy Act allows individuals who believe their privacy has been invaded to go to court, but the law has not been well tested, he said.

“It’s an open question whether that legislation would provide a remedy to royals or anybody else who wants to exercise it,” said McEvoy.

ALSO READ: Anti-tax group calls for no federal funds for Prince Harry, Meghan Markle while in Canada

Vancouver media lawyer Dan Burnett said the couple’s expectation of privacy in Canada would depend on the individual situation if they decided to take the matter to court. He said claims by media that photos were taken in a public place may not be enough.

“It’s very situational, and too simplistic to say ‘It’s a public place,’ ” he said. “Factors, such as young children and surreptitious photography, tend to suggest an expectation of privacy.”

Burnett said court claims in B.C. for breach of privacy are based on whether reasonable expectations of privacy are violated.

Alfred Hermida, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia who worked as a reporter in the U.K., said the royal couple are hot news and they should expect to be making headlines when they step out in public.

“It’s really complex, really complicated because the law is not clear cut here,” he said. “Press coverage of this is this thin line of what is in the public interest and whether you’ve breached that just to have photos that are interesting to the public and will sell newspapers or get clicks.”

Hermida said there is a long tradition in the U.K. of media of investigating and exposing the private lives of well-known people, but that approach is not as prevalent in Canada.

“Taking a walk in the park and having their picture plastered across the world’s media, is that an intrusion that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person?” he said. “It might be to a Canadian, might not be to somebody in the U.K., where this is more common.”

Hermida said he finds it difficult to understand that Harry and Meghan believed their recent decision to step back from the Royal Family and move part-time to Canada would not place them in the media spotlight.

“In some ways I would argue by making the decision to step back formally as royals they’ve created more interest in what they are doing,” he said. “There’s the expectation of reasonable interest in them in how they chart a new life in Canada. We’re looking at royals, post royalty, and this is new.”

Dirk Meissner , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Royal family

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Coast Mountain College appoints a new president

The promotion came from within the school

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

Prince Rupert launches community review plan

Prince Rupert launches community review plan with online survery

College finds a new president

Promotion comes from within

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

First case of COVID-19 in B.C. has fully recovered, health officer says

Three other cases are symptom-free and expected to test negative soon

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees temporarily as anti-pipeline blockades drag on

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto

VIDEO: Knife-wielding man arrested after barricading himself in Lower Mainland Walmart

A man had barricaded himself in the freezer section of the fish area at a Walmart in Richmond

Budget 2020: Weaver ‘delighted,’ minority B.C. NDP stable

Project spending soars along with B.C.’s capital debt

B.C. widow ‘crushed’ over stolen T-shirts meant for memorial blanket

Lori Roberts lost her fiancé one month ago Tuesday now she’s lost almost all she had left of him

Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, federal opposition says

Most recent total was $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate

Most Read