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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Canada

Canada - Consular Information Sheet
January 22, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 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.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: When entering from the United States, U.S. citizens must show either a U.S. passport or proof of U.S. citizenship and photo ID. U.S. citizens entering Canada from a third country must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for a stay up to 180 days. Anyone with a criminal record (including a DWI charge) should contact the Canadian Embassy or nearest Canadian consulate before travel. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Canada at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, telephone (202) 682-1740, Internet address: http://www.cdnemb-washdc.org; or the Canadian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Juan or Seattle.

CRIME: 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 Vancouver should be aware that vehicles with U.S. license plates and rental vehicles have been regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and are cautioned to avoid leaving any possessions unattended in such vehicles. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: 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. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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 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/Ambulance 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 web site at http://www.tc.gc.ca or the Canadian Automobile Association web site at http://www.caa.ca. 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. Quebec prohibits turning right at a red light. 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. Police may confiscate radar detectors, whether in use 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 (http://www.caa.ca) 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 at a green light. 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 additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Canadian driving permits, mandatory insurance and entry regulations, please contact the Canadian National Tourist Organization at http://www.travelcanada.ca.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Canada's 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 U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. 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. 1-618-229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 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.

IMPORTATION OF FIREARMS: Firearms are strictly controlled. As of January 1, 2001, visitors bringing firearms into Canada, or planning to borrow and use firearms while in Canada, are required to declare the firearms in writing using a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form. Multiple firearms can be declared on the same form. At the border, three copies of the unsigned declaration must be presented to a Canadian Customs officer. The declaration will serve as a temporary license and registration certificate for up to 60 days. The Non-Resident Firearm Declaration costs $50 (Canadian). Visitors planning to borrow a firearm in Canada must obtain in advance a Temporary Firearms Borrowing License, which costs $30 (Canadian). The form must be signed before a Canadian Customs officer and the fee paid at the border. In order to save time at the border, Canadian authorities recommend that visitors complete the declaration form, but not sign it, and make two copies of the completed form before arriving at the port-of-entry. Requests made at the border for photocopies of the form may be denied. Full details on this new policy are available at the Canadian Firearms Centre web site, http://www.cfc-ccaf.gc.ca, under the heading "Visitors to Canada." The Non-Resident Firearm Declaration and the Temporary Firearms Borrowing License applications may also be obtained from this web site.

Canada has three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Non-restricted firearms include most ordinary hunting rifles and shotguns. These may be brought temporarily into Canada for sporting or hunting use during hunting season, for use in competitions, for in-transit movement through Canada, or for personal protection against wildlife in remote areas of Canada. Anyone wishing to bring hunting rifles into Canada must be at least 18 years old, and the firearm must be properly stored for transport. Restricted firearms are primarily handguns; however, pepper spray and mace are also included in this category. A restricted firearm may be brought into Canada, but an Authorization to Transport permit must be obtained in advance from a Provincial or Territorial Chief Firearms Officer. Prohibited firearms include fully automatic, converted automatics, and assault-type weapons. Prohibited firearms are not allowed into Canada.

In advance of any travel, please contact a Canadian embassy or consulate, or the Canadian Firearms Centre (http://www.cfc.ccaf.gc.ca) for detailed information and instructions on temporarily importing firearms. In all cases, travelers must declare to Canadian Customs authorities any firearms and weapons in their possession when entering Canada. If a traveler is denied permission to bring in the firearm, there are often facilities near border crossings where firearms may be stored, pending the traveler's return to the United States. Canadian law requires that officials confiscate firearms and weapons from those crossing the border who deny having them in their possession. Confiscated firearms and weapons are never returned.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: Many governments, including Canada's, have initiated procedures at entry and exit points to prevent international child abduction, including requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission of the parent(s) or legal guardian not present for the child's travel. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.

For further information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
(202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Canada may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or at a U.S. Consulate General in Canada, and may obtain updated information on travel and security within Canada.

The U.S. Embassy is in Ottawa, Ontario, at 490 Sussex Drive, K1N 1G8, telephone (613) 238-5335, fax (613) 688-3082. The Embassy web site is http://www.usembassycanada.gov. The Embassy's consular district includes Baffin Island, the following counties in eastern Ontario: Lanark, Leeds, Prescott, Renfrew, Russell and Stormont; and the following counties in western Quebec: Gatineau, Hull, Labelle, Papineau, Pontiac and Tamiscamingue.

U.S. Consulates General are located at:

Calgary, Alberta, at Suite 1050, 615 Macleod Trail SE, telephone (403) 266-8962; emergency-after hours (403) 228-8900; fax (403) 264-6630. The consular district includes Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories, excluding Nunavut.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, at Suite 910, Cogswell Tower, Scotia Square, telephone (902) 429-2480; emergency-after hours (902) 429-2485; fax (902) 423-6861. The consular district includes New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Montreal, Quebec, at 1155 St. Alexander Street, telephone (514) 398-9695; emergency-after hours (514) 981-5059; fax (514) 398-0702. The consular district includes southwestern Quebec with the exception of the six counties served by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Quebec City, Quebec, at 2 Place Terrasse Dufferin, telephone (418) 692-2095; emergency-after hours (418) 692-2096; fax (418) 692-4640. The consular district includes the counties of Abitibi-West, Abitibi-East, St. Maurice, Trois-Rivieres, Nicolet, Wolfe, Frontenac and all other counties to the north or east within the province of Quebec. The new arctic territory of Nunavut is also in this district.

Toronto, Ontario, at 360 University Avenue, telephone (416) 595-1700; emergency-after hours (416) 201-4100; fax (416) 595-5466. The consular district includes the province of Ontario except the six counties served by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Vancouver, British Columbia, at 1095 West Pender Street, telephone (604) 685-4311; fax (604) 685-7175. The consular district includes British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 23, 2000 to update the sections on Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Importation of Firearms, Children's Issues, and Embassy and Consulate Locations.


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