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Safety Travel Safety: Americas: Canada

Canada: Canada
Capital: Ottawa
Population: 31,902,268
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
Languages: English 59.3% (official), French 23.2% (official), other 17.5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 46%, Protestant 36%, other 18%
Borders: US 8,893 km (includes 2,477 km with Alaska)

Canada is a highly developed stable democracy. Tourist facilities are widely available except in northern and wilderness areas, where they are less developed and can be vast distances apart.

Although criminal activity is more common in urban areas, violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery, and rape are infrequent throughout the country. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any possessions unattended in a vehicle, even in the trunk. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Canada 's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Canada are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Good medical care is widely available. The Canadian health care system is run on a provincial basis (e.g. the province of Ontario has its own hospital insurance plan as does each of the other provinces and territories) and is funded by Canadian taxpayer money. Tourists and temporary visitors do not qualify for this health care plan and should have their own insurance to cover any medical expenses. Health care professionals in the province of Quebec might only speak French.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Canada is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Transport Canada is the Canadian federal government agency responsible for road safety, although each province or territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws. For detailed information on road conditions throughout Canada, as well as links to provincial government web sites, please see the Transport Canada website at or the Canadian Automobile Association web site at There are typically 3,000 vehicle-related fatalities in Canada each year. All forms of public transportation in Canada are generally excellent.

Driving in Canada is similar to driving in parts of the United States. Most distances and speeds, however, are posted in kilometers per hour, and some signs, particularly in Quebec, may be in French. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Canada. Proof of auto insurance is required. U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr in cities and 80km/hr on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100km/hr (approximately 60 miles/hr). Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers, and child car seats must be used for children under 40 pounds. Some provinces require drivers to keep their headlights on during the day. Motorcycles cannot share a lane, and safety helmets for drivers and passengers are mandatory. On the Island of Montreal, it is prohibited to turn right on red. At intersections, directional signs will indicate only which turn is allowed; any other turn is prohibited. Many highways do not have merge lanes for entering traffic. Rapid lane-changes without signaling, and tailgating are common. Emergency vehicles frequently enter the oncoming traffic lane to avoid congestion. As in the United States, all emergency assistance in Canada can be reached by dialing 911.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada. A waiver of exclusion may be obtained from Canadian consulates in the United States, but it requires several weeks to process. It is illegal to take automobile radar detectors into Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, regardless of whether they are used or not. Police may confiscate radar detectors, operational or not, and may impose substantial fines.

Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and ice that make road conditions hazardous. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic closings during winter. The Canadian Automobile Association ( has tips for winter driving in Canada. Drivers should be aware that the frequency with which motorists run red lights is a serious concern throughout Canada, and motorists are advised to pause before proceeding when a light turns green. Travelers should also be cautious of deer, elk, and moose while driving at night in rural areas. Holiday periods can be dangerous because of increased traffic.

Travel along Highway 401 between London and Windsor, Ontario has been the scene of several traffic accidents due to sudden and unpredictable fog, and heavy truck traffic. This was the site of a 70-car collision in 1999 that claimed the lives of several individuals, including three American citizens.

For specific information concerning Canadian driving permits, mandatory insurance and entry regulations, please contact the Canadian National Tourist Organization at

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Canada civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Canada 's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

July 23, 2004

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