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Royal engagement: Why not everyone is thrilled for Harry and Meghan

A deeper dive into the day's top stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A deeper dive into the day's top stories

Britain's Prince Harry with his fiancée, U.S. actress Meghan Markle, at a press conference about their engagement at Kensington Palace. If past princely weddings are any indication, the bill for British taxpayers from next spring's wedding will be hefty. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

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The cost of love

U.K. papers are filled with pictures of Prince Harry and his bride-to-be, Meghan Markle today. And all of the sorts of chatty details you might expect for the announcement of a pending Royal wedding.

The "sparkling three-stone masterpiece" engagement ring was designed by the prince, reports the Evening Standard.

The couple will live in Harry's two-bedroom Kensington Palace "love nest," says the Sun.

And the Prince's revelation, "I Knew She Was The One," is the banner headline in the Daily Mail.

But not everyone is thrilled for the Prince, now fifth in line for the throne (and soon to be sixth, with the pending birth of a third child for his elder brother William).

Meghan Markle shows off her engagement ring. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Royal Family will pay its own, undisclosed share of the costs of the showpiece nuptials, scheduled for next spring. But if past princely weddings are any indication, the bill for British taxpayers will be hefty.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's April 2011 ceremony in London is estimated to have cost more than $43 million, with the lion's share — some $40 million for security and transportation — borne directly by the government. The wages for police alone were a staggering $34 million — the cops earned double-time because the wedding was held on a holiday Monday.

(The two families did pay for the now-Duchess of Cambridge's $552,000 dress.)

The tradeoff was supposed to be the boost to Britain's then-flagging economy, with an estimated $181 million for London hotels and a $850 million windfall for pubs, restaurants and grocers from all the visitors and street parties.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron invested $50 million to promote the U.K. as a "perfect tourism destination," citing a year that began with the wedding, then the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and ended with the London 2012 Olympics. The so-called "halo effect" was estimated to be worth $3.4 billion.

The thing is, despite all the worldwide interest in the British Royals and their weddings, there is little evidence that they draw visitors to the country.

Carriage restorer Dave Evans cleans the Glass Coach at the Royal Mews in London ahead of Prince William and Kate Middleton's April 2011 ceremony, which is estimated to have cost more than $43 million. (Dominic Lipinski/Getty)
In 2011, The Guardian obtained some frank analysis from Visit Britain, the tourism authority, via access to information. It included an internal email sent two days after Kate and William's engagement was announced.

"If we look at the marriage of Andrew and Sarah in July 1986, we find that across the year as a whole there were 4 per cent fewer visitors to Britain than in 1985, but that in July [1986] there were 8 per cent fewer than in July of 1985," it read.

And when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married in the summer of 1981, foreign visits dropped 15 per cent from the 1980-85 average.

Throw in the economic costs of the day off the public is traditionally given for the wedding — estimates run between $2- and $10-billion — and it might be a better investment to have the Royals go common law.

And while we don't even have a firm wedding date yet for Harry and Meghan, the price debate is already raging on Twitter.

Explosive danger

To the people of Bali, Mount Agung is sacred. It's the site of the island's most important Hindu temple, and its slopes are believed to be at the very heart of the spiritual universe.

But now, it's a very real danger to locals and tourists alike.

On Sunday, Indonesian officials issued a red alert for the massive volcano, citing an "imminent risk of disaster." An exclusion zone 10 kilometres in diameter has been declared, and more than 100,000 people are under an immediate evacuation order.

Balinese Hindus take part in a prayer ceremony on Nov. 26 near Mount Agung in hope of preventing a volcanic eruption. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)
The mountain has been rumbling since September, spewing clouds of ash and causing mudslides, but this weekend the seismic activity picked up considerably. The ash puffs are now coupled with explosive booms and visible lava flows, stoking fears that a major eruption is near at hand.

The last time Agung went off in 1963, more than 1,000 people were killed. This time, authorities are concerned the death toll could be much higher, as the south sea island's population and number of visitors have boomed.

The ash plume is now more than 6 kilometres high, and winds have carried the volcanic particles to the south and southeast. As a result, the island's airport has been shut down, with close to 500 flights cancelled and almost 60,000 tourists temporarily stranded.

It all adds up to big trouble in paradise.

A boy in the Kubu sub-district of Bali takes pictures during Mount Agung's eruption on Nov. 26. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada's fight against sex trafficking

It's one of the most lucrative, and quietest, crimes in the world.

Human trafficking — broadly defined as the recruitment, confinement or transportation of a person for exploitation —nets criminal organizations across the globe some $190 billion a year. And more than 65 per cent of that money, $125 billion, comes from the forced sex trade.

Canada is not immune. Since human trafficking became a specific criminal code offence in 2005, the RCMP has tracked 401 cases. And contrary to what the public might believe, almost all of the victims in those cases — in excess of 90 per cent — are Canadians.

The profits from this form of modern slavery are large. Back in 2013, the Mounties estimated that one victim was worth between $168,000 and $336,000 a year to their bosses. And a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, estimates that the return on "investment" for traffickers is between 100 and 1,000 per cent.

Four years ago, while buying drugs, Karly came into contact with a group of Canadian sex traffickers who took her in, she told CBC's Ioanna Roumeliotis. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
The National's Ioanna Roumeliotis went behind the scenes with the Toronto Police Service's Human Trafficking Unit for a report airing tonight called Canada's Silent Shame, and found officers who are consumed by the fight to free young girls and women.

"I think everything about it makes us angry … the level of violence, the level of exploitation makes us angry," says 'Dave,' an undercover detective. "It's hard. It impacts us all the time."

"Once upon a time I used to like music a lot … but now when I drive to work I don't turn the music on anymore, because I'm constantly thinking of the work and constantly thinking about what needs to be done, how is this person doing, etc."

Dave adds that it's those sorts of changes to personal routines that show how the job, "really changes you."

As of the beginning of 2017, there had been 115 convictions registered for human trafficking in Canada. And the courts take the offence seriously. Amanda McGee, a Calgary woman convicted of drugging, confining, and sexually assaulting two young women and forcing them to work in the sex trade, was handed eight years in federal prison in early 2016.

The longest sentence handed down so far, according to the RCMP, is 23 years.

The RCMP and Crime Stoppers are running a campaign to fight human trafficking, encouraging people to speak up if they know of someone being victimized. (RCMP)
The problem is gargantuan. The International Labour Organization, part of the United Nations, estimates that there were 40 million people in some form of forced servitude in 2016, 4.8 million of them — including 1 million children — in the sex trade. And 99 per cent of the victims are women and girls.

The U.S. State Department, which follows human trafficking cases around the globe, recorded just under 15,000 prosecutions in 2016, which resulted in 9,000 convictions, involving 65,000 victims.

Which means that 99.8 per cent of human trafficking goes unpunished.

Quote of the moment

"Canada cannot now be trusted with second chances."

What The National is reading

  • Sales soar for marijuana advent calendars. (Calgary Herald)
  • 'Treacherous shenanigans': The inside story of Mugabe's downfall. (Reuters)
  • The FBI failed to tell 80 prominent Americans that Russia was trying to hack their email. (CBC)
  • Alex Ovechkin is one of Putin's biggest fans. Why? (Washington Post)
  • 75 years later, the deadly Cocoanut Grove fire still haunts survivors. (Boston Globe)
  • How a baby hippo became a global social media star. (New York Times)

Today in history

Nov. 27, 1967: Chief Dan George's Lament for Confederation.

"When you celebrate your 100 years of Canada, I am sad," said the actor and former Chief of the Burrard Inlet Squamish. "For I knew you when your forests were mine, when they gave me my meat and my clothes."

The Indigenous actor makes a powerful statement during Canada's Centennial. 7:17

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.