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

LOOK BACK: The men who built the first Stamp Falls fish ladder

Delve into Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum online

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

ALBERNI GOLF: Van Lent gets hole in one

Next Sunday, Oct. 4 will be the windup for Sunday morning golf for this crazy year of 2020

EDITORIAL: Election forces change, uncertainty for Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding

The Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding is heading into a snap election at a time when we least need it.

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Most Read