Meghan Markle was photographed for the first time since she and Prince Harry announced on Instagram last week that they would like to step back from royal duties and spend part of their time living abroad. And this just 48 hours after the Queen’s letter was released confirming that she and the British royal family were in support of their plans.

As always, timing here is critical. She wasted no time getting back out there because, as we know, it’s been a few weeks. She and Prince Harry were on break before the holidays and during the holidays to focus on family and being with Archie and then all the drama exploded, but in spite of all the recent noise, they’ve always maintained that they’ve wanted to work. Some of the critical narrative about the Sussexes, and Meghan especially, as you know, has been that they just want to jet out of England and live the celebrity life and go to parties. The decision, then, to reemerge so quickly as soon as the Queen gave her blessing is, in part, to offset that assumption. 

And there’s no better place to do that than Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside:

This blog was born in Vancouver. I lived and worked in Vancouver almost 15 years and those of you who’ve been reading this blog from the beginning will know that I started it before I joined Covenant House Vancouver, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping the city’s at-risk and homeless youth. Between all the agencies based in Vancouver’s downtown core, there is a lot of overlap in service because there’s overlap in the client base and because the need is so great. Even before the opioid crisis became mainstream news, there were so many, too many, people struggling in Vancouver. And on top of that, young people, many of them girls, are escaping violence and abuse. 

This, of course, is not new for those of us who know Vancouver. But it’s probably not all that well-known to those who’ve been talking about Vancouver and British Columbia over the last couple of weeks since Harry and Meghan put the city so brightly in the spotlight. British Columbia IS beautiful. But BC isn’t perfect. Canada isn’t perfect. For many years now we’ve been confronting our nation’s negligence in caring about and seeking justice for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on the Highway of Tears, an 800 km stretch of road in British Columbia where dozens of women have disappeared. Beyond the Highway of Tears, it’s estimated that thousands of Indigenous women have vanished, to the point that it’s been called a “genocide” and it’s undeniable – their whereabouts weren’t pursued, their wellbeing wasn’t considered, because of their Indigenous heritage. As a Canadian myself, I can’t say honestly that I paid the situation enough attention, and as terrible as it feels to admit it, it’s certainly nowhere near as terrible as it feels to be a member of the Indigenous community, your loved ones gone missing and perhaps murdered, and to know that nobody gave a sh-t. This is a national shame, a shame has to be acknowledged because there’s no way to move on and find solutions and, hopefully, ultimately heal so that some form of justice can be achieved and so that change can happen. 

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, where Meghan visited yesterday, is based in a neighbourhood “known as ground zero for violence against Indigenous women and girls” and last year shared a report called Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, “based on the lived experience, leadership, and expertise of Indigenous survivors. This comprehensive report is the culmination of a participatory process with 113 Indigenous women and 15 non-Indigenous women regarding the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

These were the stories that would have been shared with Meghan yesterday. And this is the work that is hopefully being highlighted by her appearance.