Duchess of Sussex visits women's centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
VANCOUVER -- The Duchess of Sussex spent Tuesday afternoon visiting a women's centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
With international photographers camped out for a glimpse of Meghan on Vancouver Island, the visiting royal boarded a float plane on Tuesday morning that apparently took her back to the mainland.
Hours later, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre posted a picture of Meghan posing with a group of eight women in a kitchen.
"Look who we had tea with today!" the post reads. "The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community."
The Downtown Eastside Women's Centre provides everything from meals to clothing to computer access for women and children in the neighbourhood. It also operates a low-barrier emergency shelter.
The acting executive director of the centre, Kate Gibson, said she found out Monday morning that the Duchess of Sussex was hoping to arrange a visit.
"I got an email from a Hotmail account that asked if someone could come by with their security," said Gibson. "I didn't know who it was so I wrote back and said, please let me know who you are and we'll go from there."
Gibson said she knew there was "something up" when she later got a call from a +44 number, and it turned out to be Meghan's assistant. The day of the visit, Gibson simply asked her staff members to come to a meeting because they had a guest who wanted to meet them.
"So they came to the meeting, and the first they knew is that they were shaking hands with her," she said.
Meghan's visit lasted more than an hour, and Gibson said she was interested in hearing about the work the centre does for women in the Downtown Eastside.
"She was very interested in the plight of women in our community. And she would really like to learn more about things that she's interested in like women's issues," said Gibson. "She has a real heart for it."
Meghan was accompanied by two security guards for the visit to the centre's office, which is located across from Oppenheimer Park.
"I think it's remarkable that she's interested," said Gibson "And I think that it's fantastic because she's someone who can lend her voice to the whole discussion about women who are marginalized and women who live in poverty."
Members of the international media have been keeping their eyes peeled for Meghan since her reported return to Vancouver Island, where she spent the holidays with Prince Harry and their son Archie.
The couple stunned royal watchers last week by announcing plans to "step back" from their official duties, and Queen Elizabeth has since confirmed they will be spending time in Canada – but whether that means an extended stay in B.C. remains unknown.
On Monday, B.C. Premier John Horgan suggested the province would welcome the royal couple with open arms.
"If they want to come back and put down roots here, I'm sure I can find something for Harry to do," Horgan said.
He also joked that Meghan, who had a successful career in acting before joining the Royal Family, would make an obvious guest star on the B.C.-filmed Netflix series "Riverdale."
"Wouldn't it be great to have a royal who named their child Archie on 'Riverdale'? Writes itself!" he joked.
Not everyone is so keen on welcoming such high-profile guests, however. Some have expressed concerns about what kind of security costs might fall to taxpayers to keep the Duke and Duchess safe.
On Monday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the federal government hadn't held any discussions on the issue.