Ottawa Journal (February 01 – February 05, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)
Now that we are heading into the middle of winter, you may be considering a warm escape. However, when planning a winter getaway or any trip abroad at any time of the year, there are many things we should all consider when making our preparations. Consular Services can help in this planning, to ensure you have the best and safest trip possible.
Consular Services is your safe-travel partner, which is provided through Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. It is devoted to assisting Canadians with difficulties they may experience abroad, but also in preventing problems before they occur. There are approximately 260 offices in 150 countries worldwide ready to serve Canadians traveling, working, studying, or living abroad.
There are many services offered by Consular Services, which include: assist in arranging an evacuation in the event of war, civil unrest, or a natural disaster; arrange help in a medical emergency by providing Canadians with a list of local doctors and hospitals; comfort and assist victims of robbery, sexual assault, or other violence; provide assistance in cases of the abduction of a child to another country; provide Canadians with a list of local lawyers if a legal issue should arise; notarize documents; replace a lost, stolen, damaged, or expired passport; provide an emergency loan (subject to strict rules and only as last resort); contact relatives or friends of Canadians to ask for money or airline tickets; contact next of kin (with the Canadian traveler’s authorization) if there has been an accident or the Canadian traveler has been detained by police; contact next of kin in case of death, as well as many other services.
Emergency consular assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outside of office hours, calls will be transferred to Consular Services’ Emergency Operations Centre, in Ottawa, where experienced officials will be on hand to respond. In some countries, you can use a toll-free number to reach Consular Services, in Ottawa, or call collect at: 613-996-8885.
It also a good idea to become informed about the political, cultural, and economic environment of your travel destination. In some countries, there may be ongoing conflict and it is important to be aware of this information. For more specific information on the country you’ll be traveling to, Foreign Affairs Canada provides detailed travel reports and warnings, which are available at: www.travel.gc.ca, to help you prepare.
Before you travel abroad, Consular Services also advises that you learn the location of Government of Canada offices in the countries you plan to visit and carry the contact information of those offices with you at all times. It also recommended that you provide family or friends with a travel itinerary and contact details, as well as the emergency number for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
In the weeks leading up to your travel, be sure to look at your passport, to ensure it is still valid, as it is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document for Canadians. If you find your passport has expired or you’ve never held one before, applications are available at any Passport Canada office, Service Canada centre, Canada Post outlet, from Passport Canada’s website (www.passportcanada.gc.ca) or at either of my constituency offices.
When traveling, be sure to keep your passport safe. Make photocopies of your passport’s identification page and of your identification cards. Keep the copies separate from the originals when traveling and leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.
You should also keep in mind that you may require a visa to enter certain countries. Your travel agent or the country’s embassy or consulate in Canada can advise you on the requirements.
These are just some of the many important things to consider when preparing to travel abroad. For a complete list, please visit Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s website at: www.voyage.gc.ca. Another helpful resource for travelers is the publication, Bon Voyage, But… which is also available on the Department’s website and is also available in paper format at my Orangeville and Bolton constituency offices. I wish you many safe and enjoyable travels!