Meghan Markle never stepped foot inside the shabby Canadian women’s refuge that she has been praised for visiting, DailyMail.com has learned.
Nor did she actually meet with any of the 500 at-risk women who use the Downtown Eastside Center in one of Canada’s poorest areas.
Instead the Duchess of Sussex went to the Vancouver organization’s administrative offices in a former hotel building, where she met only with members of staff, acting executive director Kate Gibson told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
Logistics for the visit to the center itself would have been too difficult, Gibson explained. For one thing the center only allows in ‘women and those who self-identify as women’ so Royal Protection Officers would have had to stay outside, she said.
‘It would have been a way bigger deal for her to have actually met our clients in a trip to the center,’ she added.
Meghan Markle visited employees at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver, Canada on Tuesday to ‘offer support’ and ‘boost the staff’s spirits’, but never actually met any of the 500 at-risk women served there
On Tuesday, Meghan was seen for the first time since the bombshell news that she was quitting the Royal Family. She broke cover leaving the $14 million mansion where she has been holed up since last week to visit a women’s shelter in Canada’s poorest neighborhood. Meghan pictured with staffers from Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Kate Gibson, Acting Executive Director Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, shows a photo of staffers posing with Meghan Markle. ‘It would have been a way bigger deal for her to have actually met our clients in a trip to the center,’ she said, citing security issues that complicated Meghan meeting the at-risk women served there
Even so, Meghan’s visit was fraught with security issues. The offices on the ground floor of the former New World Hotel are just across the street from a tent city that has grown up for the homeless in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park.
There have been two shootings and one man was beaten to death in the park in the past several months, Gibson said. She described the area as ‘shockingly poor.’
Megan visited in an effort to ‘offer support’ and ‘boost the staff’s spirits’.
Meghan also visited another women’s group, Justice for Girls, during her trip from the home on Vancouver Island where she is staying. JFG describes itself on its website as an organization that ‘promotes social justice and an end to violence, poverty and racism in the lives of teenage girls who live in poverty.’
Each visit lasted around an hour. A Wednesday tweet from JFG said: ‘Yesterday, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited to discuss climate justice for girls and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Was great to talk about the importance of a holistic approach to social justice and the power of young women’s leadership.’
JFG co-director Zoe Craig-Sparrow told Harper’s Bazaar: “We were very moved by the duchess visiting us despite terrible weather conditions in Vancouver and her very recent arrival.
Meghan also visited the non-profit group Justice for Girls in Canada on Tuesday
The Duchess of Sussex was photographed enjoying herself and making notes as she met with the Justice for Girls group in Canada on Tuesday
‘We were struck by how engaged and informed she was on the issues we discussed, and how quickly and gracefully she put us at ease.’
Gibson of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center said she was given just 24 hours’ notice of Meghan’s plan to visit. She got an email saying that ‘someone’ would like to speak to her, giving a number to call.
‘I emailed back that I didn’t know who it was and asked for details and for them to give me a call,’ she said, admitting that she had an inkling as the number she was given started with 44 which she recognized as the international code for the United Kingdom.
She said the whole visit was arranged very quickly but was affected by bad weather that canceled ferries and threatened flights from the island. Eventually Meghan made the trip by seaplane.
‘The weather certainly complicated things,’ said Gibson, who heads up the $5.1 million-a-year shelter that employs more than 50 people.
Meghan’s friend explained that the 38-year-old feels she can ‘finally breathe’ since leaving and has free reign over her life again. They also said Meghan felt that living within the royal family confines was ‘soul crushing’ and she didn’t want Archie around such a ‘toxic environment’, deciding to leave in part for his benefit
Gibson selected a handful of workers to meet with the duchess but only told them she wanted them for a meeting. She admits there was ‘a bit of giggling’ when her staff realized who was coming in.
She said Meghan seemed genuinely interested in the work of the center and felt the Duchess had welcomed the opportunity to step back from the pressure of her day-to-day life.
‘I found her as a woman who understands how life works for women — hers is just amplified but at the end of the day we are all women. She just doesn’t need any more pressure.’
Now Gibson hopes that Meghan might take a long-term interest in the center which provides beds and hot meals for at-risk women, but does not know if that will happen. ‘It is certainly not for us to put pressure on,’ she said.
Meghan’s outings on Tuesday come after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex dropped the bombshell news that they were quitting as senior royals, dividing their time between North America and the UK and working to become financially independent last week.
The news caught the Royal Family and the rest of the world off guard.
Meghan and 8-month-old son Archie have been staying at a $14 million mansion called Mille Fleurs in North Saanich on Vancouver Island since last Friday.
On Thursday back in London, Harry made his first major royal engagement since Megxit – and possibly his last – before he will reportedly join Meghan and Archie in Canada in the coming days (pictured)
Harry’s Instagram story marked what could be his last event as a senior royal, giving fans a behind-the-scene glimpse before the Rugby League World Cup 2020 draw set to a Stone Roses hit with lyrics: ‘I’d like to leave the country’
She and Prince Harry had stayed there for six weeks around Christmas. Harry is expected to fly back out to reunite with his family next week after hashing out details of the couple’s decision to step back as senior members of the royal family.
He carried out his last official duty as a royal, presiding over the draw for next year’s Rugby League World Cup at Buckingham Palace on Thursday morning.
A close friend revealed to DailyMail.com that Meghan feels she can finally ‘breathe again’ since quitting as senior royal.
‘Meghan felt she had to escape because living within the royal confines was soul crushing,’ the friend said.
The friend said: ‘She told her inner circle of friends that her soul was being crushed and that the decision to leave was a matter of life or death – meaning the death of her spirit.
‘She also felt like she couldn’t be the best mother to Archie if she wasn’t being her true, authentic self. Something she felt she couldn’t be in the royal family confines.
‘She said she didn’t want Archie picking up on her stress and anxiety. She felt like it was a toxic environment for him because there was too much tension and pent-up frustrations.’