You can be sexually assaulted anywhere in the world
While you are planning your trip, find the information you need on the security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture of your destination in the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories. This information will give you the knowledge and awareness you need to protect yourself and travel safe. In some countries, foreigners are targeted, so always be careful. Follow the same safety rules while you are travelling that you would at home, only more so:
Sexual assault can happen anywhere. While you are at your destination, be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Study a street map in advance or use a map app on your phone. Avoid opening a map while out on the street – or do so as discreetly as possible – to avoid appearing lost or vulnerable. If you need to ask for directions, find a police officer or the concierge of a nearby hotel.
Try to learn some emergency words or phrases in the local language before you travel and keep the emergency phone numbers (police, ambulance) of the country you are visiting with you.
If you are being followed in city or town, cross to the opposite side of the street and go to the nearest open business or occupied house. If you are uncomfortable about walking back to your hotel, ask them to call a reputable transportation service.
If you are in danger, do anything you can to draw attention to the situation. Shout for help or activate a personal security alarm that emits a piercing sound.
Never open your door to anyone without confirming the person’s identity.
Never accept car rides or hitchhike. Ask local hotels to recommend reputable transportation services and, whenever possible, try to share rides with someone you know. Write down information on the transportation service (name of driver, permit or taxi number, licence plate) and, if possible, text this information to family or friends.
Don’t find yourself alone with someone you don’t know or trust.
Remain alert and discreet while in entertainment areas. Go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other, and leave together.
Never leave your food or drinks alone and never accept snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Watch your drinks as they are being prepared and served. They may be spiked with drugs that could put you at risk of robbery or sexual assault.
Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have been drugged.
You can be sexually assaulted at a resort
Foreigners have allegedly been sexually assaulted by resort staff, taxi drivers, other guests and security personnel at resorts at popular tourist destinations. Stay alert at all times and ensure that your accommodations have adequate security features, such as cameras and security guards with radios. Not all resorts have the same level of security, so do your own research before you choose a resort.
While you are at the resort, do not tell anyone that you do not know or trust your departure date, because sexual assaults may be more likely to take place on a traveller’s last night at the resort.
Don’t allow non-official authorities such as the hotel management or tour operator to manage the issue internally.
After you have spoken with consular officials, contact the local police and file a report.
If you are unable to go to the police right away, record all the details you can recall about the attack and the attacker.
See a doctor. It is important to determine the risks of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. See Sickness or injury for further advice.
If possible, have photographs taken of your injuries.
Preserve evidence of the attack. Don’t wash or brush your teeth until the local police or health officials tell you to do so.
The police in some countries may be legally obligated to ask you if you want your attacker to be prosecuted.
If you leave some countries without filing an official complaint, you may unable to do so from Canada.
Contact family and friends back home to reassure them that you are okay, especially if you have been unable to contact them due to the assault.
Help cope with the trauma by talking about the incident with family, friends or a professional.
Canadian consular officials abroad can:
provide you with contact information for local police and medical services
help you find professionals who can help you to deal with the emotional, medical, and legal consequences of the assault
help you to contact relatives or friends
provide you with information on how to apply for emergency financial assistance through the Department of Justice Victims Fund.
If the offender is arrested
Depending on the local judicial system, legal proceedings may take much longer than in Canada and you may need a local lawyer. The Canadian government office abroad can give you a list of local lawyers.
Before you leave Canada, photocopy the identification page of your passport and other travel documents. Write down the numbers of your credit and debit cards. Carry this information separately from the originals and leave copies at home.
Lost or stolen credit or debit cards and money
Cancel all cards as soon as possible to prevent further loss. Notify the company that issued any lost or stolen traveller’s cheques. If a joint transaction card is missing, inform the second cardholder at once. Obtain a police report, as it may be needed if a card is used before you can cancel it.
If necessary, arrange for a transfer from your bank or other private source using a commercial agency such as Western Union. See Financial assistance for more information.
Lost or stolen passports
If your passport or travel document is lost or stolen, Canadian government offices abroad can issue you an emergency travel document or a temporary passport if you are in urgent, proven need and are stranded in a foreign country. Please see Lost, stolen, inaccessible, damaged or found passports.
If you require urgent financial assistance while you are abroad, you should transfer funds from your own bank account or another private source in Canada through one of many companies such as Western Union or CanadianForex. They will charge you for this service.
Assistance from the Government of Canada
If you are unable to transfer funds from your own bank account or another private source, Canadian government offices abroad can give you a list of local funds transfer services and can help you contact family, friends, employers, co-workers, credit card companies or banks to ask them to transfer money to you.
To transfer the funds you must contact the nearest Canadian government office abroad and tell them where the funds are located and where you can be reached. You must also notify the source of funds in Canada that you have authorized the transfer. Consular officials in Ottawa can then make arrangements for a wire transfer from your bank or from another private source. These transactions take two or more working days to complete, and a consular service fee of C$75 may be deducted from the transferred funds.
Please note that Canadian government officials abroad cannot issue pension or social security benefits, lend personal funds, request funds on your behalf from family and friends without your permission or transfer funds through a local service on your behalf.
If you cannot arrange for a transfer of funds from a private source, a Canadian government office abroad may, in certain emergency and exceptional circumstances, provide you with a loan for a flight back to Canada. This financial assistance is not a right, depends on the circumstances of each case and is subject to strict rules. A consular service fee of C$75 may be applied to the loan.
If you request and are provided with a loan to return to Canada or with other consular financial assistance while you are abroad, you must repay the amount within 30 days.
When you are provided with financial assistance from the Government of Canada, you sign an application for the amount of the loan and an undertaking to repay it. The loan must be repaid in full within 30 days after you receive the invoice.
If you do not repay the debt within 30 days, interest may be applied at a rate of 3% calculated and compounded monthly using the current month’s average Bank of Canada rate. The interest cannot be waived and will be applied monthly until the debt is paid. If the debt is not repaid within 120 days, your file will be transferred to the Canada Revenue Agency and will continue to accrue interest.
After your return to Canada, you will receive an invoice from Global Affairs Canada detailing the amount of your debt. The invoice will include a customer number, which you should use as a reference. There are two payment options:
Canada’s Passport Program: You may pay in person at a Passport Program office by debit card, credit card, certified cheque or money order. Make sure you have your customer number available.
Global Affairs Canada: You may pay by money order, certified cheque or post-dated personal cheques payable to the “Receiver General for Canada” (allow 30 days for personal cheques to clear). Cheques should include your customer number and be mailed to the following address:
Global Affairs Canada 125 Sussex Drive Cashier’s Office (SMFM) Ottawa ON K1A 0G2
If you do not receive an invoice, please contact us toll-free at 1-800-267-6788 (or 613-996-8885) to ensure that we have your correct mailing address.
We understand how difficult it is for families and friends when a loved one dies abroad. It is hard to grieve while you have to find out what to do in a place with a different language, laws and culture.
Whether you are in Canada, or abroad with the deceased, here is what you should know.
What to do first:
Choose someone to make decisions for the family, either in Canada or where the death took place. If possible, this person should have the required documentation, such as the deceased’s will and any powers of attorney.
Notify the deceased person’s travel insurance provider and make sure that you follow their instructions to avoid unnecessary delays or complications.
Find a funeral home in the region where the death took place that is experienced in international funeral arrangements. The funeral home will guide you through the next steps and help you with arrangements in both countries if you decide to have the funeral in Canada.
Your family’s representative must decide quickly whether the remains of the deceased should be returned to Canada, or buried or cremated in the country where the death occurred. Funeral customs and costs may be very different there. Consular officers at the neared Canadian government office abroad can give you advice and guidance on the local procedures.
The local funeral home will tell you about available options for burial or cremation. Some countries do not allow cremation and many have strict time limits on the cremation and burial process. Some places may have few or no facilities for embalming and preparing remains for transportation.
Returning the remains of a loved one to Canada requires the help of qualified funeral homes in Canada and in the country where the death occurred.
If you decide to repatriate the remains of the deceased person to Canada, the date of the funeral service should not be confirmed before the remains or ashes have been returned and have cleared Canadian customs, because the repatriation can be delayed for many reasons. Airlines have their own regulations for the repatriation of remains. Family members should not expect to travel on the same plane as the body when it is being repatriated.
The time required to repatriate remains can vary greatly and depends on a number of factors, including the procedures in the country where the death occurred and the cause of death.
Bringing cremated remains into Canada
If you choose to carry cremated remains on board an aircraft, you must notify the airline in advance to ensure you have the proper documentation, which may include copies of the death and cremation certificates. Not all airlines will transport cremated remains and some may only transport them as cargo. The funeral director may be able to provide you with a temporary container for transportation purposes. Containers made of cardboard, wood or plastic are more likely to clear the x-ray machine at airport security and be permitted past the checkpoints. If the container is made of a dense material such as metal, stone or ceramic, screening officers may not be able to see its contents clearly and may reject it or request it be opened. In this case, you will have to make alternate arrangements to ship it.
If you are planning to carry cremated remains on board an aircraft, please consult the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s Cremated Remains page, or call 1 800 O-Canada from anywhere in the world.
It can be very expensive to repatriate remains back to Canada and, depending on the circumstances of the death it could take a long time. In many cases, the funeral home in the region will require a payment guarantee or payment upfront before it will start the process.
Funeral arrangements abroad usually cost less than in Canada, but local customs and the cost of interpretation or translation services for a ceremony overseas can add up. All costs related to a death abroad and the repatriation of remains or ashes are the family’s responsibility regardless of the cause of death. Your insurance company may cover the costs directly, or you may have to make the payments and be reimbursed later.
If you need help
You may, but do not have to, report the death abroad of a Canadian citizen to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or, from Canada, to The Canadian Emergency Watch and Response Centre. You do not have to travel to the country where the death occurred, and consular officials can help you understand the processes there and help you to complete the following steps, if needed:
Give you advice on how to get in touch with the relevant authorities to obtain the appropriate documentation, including death certificates, autopsy and police reports and documentation for insurance companies, if necessary.
If family members or friends are not able to do so, contact the appropriate authorities (police, hospital and morgue) to find the location of the remains and the circumstances surrounding the death.
Help to identify the remains of a Canadian citizen if local authorities, family members or friends are not able to do so.
Provide a list of laboratory facilities offering forensic identification services (DNA, dental records, fingerprints).
Give you information on local internment options, costs and a list of local funeral service providers.
Give you advice on how to bring embalmed or cremated remains to Canada.
Authenticate the local death certificate for insurance or repatriation purposes after it has been authenticated by the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Canadian government offices abroad will not:
Pay for the burial, cremation or repatriation of the remains of a deceased Canadian citizen.
Intervene in private legal matters.
Translate official documents.
Provide legal advice.
Investigate or intervene in a local investigation.
Canadian officials abroad work closely with local authorities to advocate for the safety, protection and well-being of Canadian children overseas. They also seek the cooperation of provincial and territorial child welfare authorities to ensure that children are protected from harm. If a Canadian child overseas is a victim of sexual assault, neglect, physical violence or abuse, you are encouraged to report it to the nearest Canadian government office abroad of from Canada to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Canadian officials abroad can also take emergency measures on behalf of Canadian children facing the threat of being, or forced into, marriage abroad, requesting protection from local social services, if required. For more information, please visit The Government of Canada’s Forced marriage web page.
Prevent parental abduction
International parental child abductions and custody cases involving Canadian children in foreign countries are on the rise. If you or your partner are planning to travel to another country with your child and there is a possibility that a custody dispute might develop:
Talk to a lawyer before the child leaves home. Confirm that your custody agreement permits the child to travel internationally.
Immigration authorities in a country other than Canada may ask to see a consent letter when a child enters or leaves that country with only one parent or without any parent. Ensure that the person with the legal right to travel with your children has a consent letter completed and signed by the parent(s) or legal guardian.
If you are concerned that an unauthorized passport application may be made on your child’s behalf, you may ask Passport Canada to add your child’s name to Passport Canada’s System Lookout List.
Be sure to carry proper identification for you and each child accompanying you to help prove your citizenship, residency and custodial rights when travelling abroad and returning to Canada.
Visit The Government of Canada’s Children and travel web page for more tips on how to travel safely with your child.
International recognition of Canadian custody orders
Your Canadian child custody order may not be automatically recognized in the country to which your child could be abducted. In extreme cases, you or your child may not be allowed to leave the country once you have arrived. Confirm your status and that of your child with the country’s embassy or consulate in Canada before you travel.
If you have child abduction or custody issues abroad, Canadian officials can:
provide information on a country’s legal system with respect to family law and local customs
advise a parent or guardian to seek private legal advice and provide a list of local lawyers
provide lists of other local professionals, such as family counsellors and social workers, as well as information on resources and avenues to help resolve cases involving children and family
request assistance from local authorities to conduct visits to assess a child’s health, safety, living conditions, schooling and general well-being, with the consent of a parent or guardian
respond to inquiries regarding the purpose, composition and certification of a consent letter for children travelling abroad
if there are concerns that an unauthorized passport application may be made on the child’s behalf, advise the parent or guardian on how to request the child’s information be entered in Passport Canada’sSystem Lookout List.
liaise with local and Canadian authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, social services, non-governmental organizations and Central authorities responsible for the Hague Convention.
Canadian government officials abroad cannot:
intervene in private legal matters
apply or violate foreign laws
provide legal advice or interfere in the legal process of another country
act as a custodian or legal guardian of a missing or abducted child
take procedural steps towards enforcement of a Canadian custody agreement overseas
compel another country to make a specific determination in a custody case
provide financial assistance to pay bills such as legal, travel, accommodation or other expenses
act as a law enforcement agency to locate a missing Canadian child
The RCMP’s Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children maintains a website, Canada’s Missing, that contains a database of missing and abducted children. Once a child has been located, the Travel/Reunification program is designed to assist a parent or legal guardian who cannot afford to return the abducted child to or within Canada.
The Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children is an income support grant delivered by Service Canada. PMMC is available to eligible applicants who have suffered a loss of income as a result of taking time away from work to cope with the death or disappearance of their child or children as the result of a probable Criminal Code offence which occurred in Canada.
Sexual exploitation of foreign children
Some Canadians travel abroad for the purpose of sexually exploiting foreign children. This practice is known as “child sex tourism”. Such travellers take advantage of the poverty and powerlessness of children in foreign countries, expecting to exploit weaknesses in law enforcement. For more information on the sexual exploitation of foreign children, see The Government of Canada’s publication Child Sex Tourism: It’s a Crime.
If you are arrested or detained in another country, you should clearly inform the arresting authorities that you want them to immediately notify the nearest Canadian government office abroad of your arrest.
In countries that are party to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (176 States Parties as of 2013), the arresting authorities are obliged to advise you of your right to access consular representation and to arrange for this access. They are not required to inform a Canadian government office of your detention or arrest unless you specifically ask them to do so.
Consular officials will not arrange your release from prison. You are subject to the criminal justice system of the country where you are arrested and imprisoned.
Arrested or detained abroad
If a Canadian citizen is arrested and detained abroad, Canadian officials abroad can:
ask the appropriate authorities for immediate and regular access to you
at your request, notify your family or friends of the situation and let them know how they can help
help you communicate with a representative, family or friends if direct communication is not possible or the need is urgent
contact your relatives or friends on your behalf to request funds
recommend that you hire a lawyer and approach family, friends or a local legal aid society if you can’t afford to pay
provide an up-to-date and accurate list of local lawyers and legal translation service providers
provide you and your family with general information on the local legal and prison system and approximate times for court actions
obtain information about the status of your case and encourage authorities to process it without undue delay
advocate for your fair and equal treatment under local laws
advocate to ensure that your health and well-being are protected, including basic nutrition, medical and dental care
transmit concerns through official channels about any treatment that could affect your health and well-being to local officials and prison representatives
arrange for the purchase, at your expense, and if permitted, of necessary food supplements, essential clothing and other basic items not available through the prison system
deliver letters and permitted reading material if normal postal services are unavailable
undertake clemency intervention if you are charged or convicted of a crime punishable by death
inform you of transfer of offender options – either by treaty or by administrative arrangement with the country where you are imprisoned – that may allow you to serve your sentence in a Canadian prison and provide you with the documents to apply for a transfer if you are eligible
Canadian officials abroad cannot:
get you out of jail
post bail, pay lawyers’ fees, or pay fines
try to obtain preferential treatment for you or exempt you from the due process of local law
provide legal advice, interpret local laws and interfere in legal matters, criminal defence cases or judicial affairs in another country
recommend lawyers or guarantee their reliability or competence in the matter at hand
become involved in matters between you and your lawyer
investigate a crime or death or intervene in a local police investigation
forward or deliver parcels entering or leaving the country, or clear them through customs
bypass prison rules on what can and cannot be brought into or taken out of the detention facility
make travel or accommodation arrangements for your family or friends
The Government of Canada cannot intervene in ongoing legal proceedings in other countries or regions unless it is requested to do so by local authorities. These requests are rare. The procedures required in legal proceedings or police investigations may be different from the procedures in the Canadian legal system. If you are involved in these proceedings, you may face long delays in the effort to resolve your case.
If your international human rights are known to have been violated, the Government of Canada may take steps to pressure the foreign authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations and provide basic minimum standards of protection.
While having dual citizenship is legal in Canada, it may not be legal or recognized in the country of your second nationality, which could limit the ability of the Government of Canada to assist you if you are arrested in that country. You should still request access to Canadian consular officials, who aim to assist all Canadian passport holders.