Canada

Safety Travel Tips For Travelling In Canada

Safety Travel Tips For Travelling In Canada

Urban Areas:

Statistically Canadian cities are some of the safest in the Americas.  Violent crime is relatively rare and generally involves familial, domestic, gang, organized crime, and drug-related violence, or drunken confrontations in bars or nightclubs.  There is very little random violent crime against strangers.  For the most part, Canadian cities have good infrastructures, including potable water, and relatively good roads.

The biggest danger in Canadian urban centers is not violent crime, it is motor vehicle accidents.  In 2009, 610 people were murdered in Canada (total population over 30 million).  In the same year more than 2,000 people in Canada died in motor vehicle accidents, and more than 170,000 were injured, 11,000 of them seriously.  Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists need to exercise caution when walking, riding, or driving in high traffic areas of Canadian cities, towns, and suburbs).  The same applies to motorists travelling on the major, high-traffic highways that connect major cities, such as highway 401 between Montreal and Detroit.  Winter driving conditions can make roads more dangerous for both pedestrians and drivers (1).

Although random violent crime is relatively rare in Canadian cities, there are some steps visitors can take to further reduce their risk of being victimized.  Many Canadian cities and towns have areas where street-level crime is more prevalent.  Opportunist property crime and sometimes even muggings and robberies may occur in these areas.  Because many of these crimes are opportunistic in nature, they are relatively easy to avoid.  The general safety advice that applies elsewhere applies in Canadian cities as well- don’t become overly intoxicated in public, do not show off too much expensive items or jewellery, and so on.

Outside of Cities:

The majority of Canadians live in and around a few urban centers that are relatively close to the American border.  But Canada is a vast country- the world’s second biggest.  Much of the country is too cold, or has soil that is unsuitable for agriculture, so it remains largely uninhabited.  In rural and wilderness areas there are dangers that are not present in cities.  These vary from region to region.

One concern in some wilderness areas, especially in some western and northern parts of the country, are big predators.  The most dangerous wild animals in Canada are probably the grizzly bear and the polar bear.  Grizzlies are largely confined to wilderness areas west of the Rockies, while polar bears are found in the Arctic, ranging as far south as northern Ontario.  Polar bears are very dangerous because they are one of the few species of animal that will actively prey on human beings. 

Grizzlies can also kill people but they less likely to actively seek out confrontations with people unless they are annoyed or feel threatened.  For the most part people hiking or camping in grizzly areas should try to avoid the bears, and the bears will generally do the same.  Attacks by other wild animals, such as cougars and coyotes or wolves, have been reported, but these are relatively rare.

One danger on rural and wilderness-area roads outside of Canada are collisions between large animals and motor vehicles.  A collision between a car and a moose will not only kill the animal, it can also seriously damage the vehicle and injure or kill its occupants.  Moose are common in many parts of Canada, outside of the bigger urban centers.  Another problem in mountainous areas during the winter may be avalanches.

Summary:

In general Canada is a safe country.  Violent crime rates are lower than the United States and most other countries in the Western Hemisphere.  Rates of most infectious diseases are comparable to other developed countries, and Canada has a good public health care system.  The biggest dangers for visitors in Canada is probably motor vehicle accidents.  Accidents involving pedestrians or other motor vehicles are most common in urban areas and along major highways.  In less populated areas motorists need to watch out for collisions with large animals, especially moose.

Reference and Notes:

(1) Motor Vehicle Accident Statistics, 1990-2009 (Statscan):
http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/tp-tp3322-2009-1173.htm

Canadian Homicide Statistics, 2006-2010 (Statscan):
http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/legal12a-eng.htm

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