As of the second half of 2017, the vast majority of trips to Canada (population 35.4 million) can be expected to be carried out under excellent conditions.
Due to the fact that Canada is vulnerable to an array of natural risks, travelers should take certain precautions depending on the season in which they plan to visit.
From the end of autumn until the arrival of spring, major snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures can cause disruptions to transportation and daily life throughout the country. However, local governments and populations are well equipped and experienced in dealing with winter weather. Local forecasts are available at the Weather Network website.
From May until September, tornadoes can strike central regions, particularly in southern Ontario (25 per year on average), Alberta (ten), southeastern Quebec (six), and Saskatchewan (14), with a peak of storms in June and July. Further information is available on the Canadian government's Environment and Climate Change website.
Tropical storms and their remnants can hit the northeast of the country (e.g. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland). The North Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 to November 30. See the US National Hurricane Center website for information regarding tropical storms.
Canada experiences annual summer wildfires that can disrupt travel, communication, and electricity infrastructure. A major forest fire Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces in May-June 2016, forcing the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and leading to the suspension of flights at the city's airport (YMM) for several days. The fire destroyed more than 2000 buildings in Fort McMurray and in total affected 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) of land.
The province of British Colombia and the Yukon Territory (west) are situated in an active seismic zone. There is also the risk of a tsunami hitting coastal British Colombia in the event of an offshore earthquake.
As is the case in many Western countries, Canada is subject to the threat of international Islamist terrorism as well as home-grown terrorism.
In October 2014, the country experienced two deadly attacks perpetrated by Canadian citizens with connections to radical Islamist ideology; an October 20 suicide attack against soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec (one death); and an October 22 shooting in and around the parliament building in Ottawa (one death).
Police in the Ontario town of Strathroy carried out an anti-terrorist operation on August 10, 2016, that resulted in the death of one suspect. The deceased, who had previously expressed support for the terrorist group Islamic State (IS), was allegedly planning to carry out an imminent suicide bombing in the area.
In late January 2017, a lone gunman opened fire in a mosque in Québec City, killed six people and wounding dozens others during prayers. The attack was carried out by a Canadian citizen who had expressed far-right nationalist and xenophobic views.
The national security threat level is currently at "medium." According to the Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS), a number of international terrorist organizations active in Canada.
Crime rates are low throughout the country and a declining trend has been observed in recent years. That said, some cities (Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg) are more dangerous than others (Toronto, Quebec, Saguenay). Most crime is non-violent (items stolen from parked cars, shoplifting, pickpocketing, etc.). In any case, take basic precautionary measures to protect yourself, such as keeping all valuable-looking items concealed, both on your person and in vehicles.
The police as well as the fire department and ambulance services can be reached by dialing 911 nationwide.
Cybercrime could also represent a threat to companies doing business in Canada (corporate espionage, financially-motivated crime, etc.).
Legislative elections were held on October 19, 2015, toppling the Conservative Party and bringing Justin Trudeau of the center-left Liberal Party into power as the new prime minister. The next legislative elections will take place by 2019.
Finally, visitors should be aware that large-scale student, union, and citizen demonstrations protesting a variety of issues (in particular protests against increases in tuition fees) are not rare, particularly in Québec. Demonstrations tend to be peaceful and, due to weather constraints, are most common in the spring and summer (particularly in Montreal).
Health conditions are very good throughout the country. Nevertheless, all travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure. Foreigners may be asked to pay medical bills in full prior to leaving the hospital or doctor's office.
Cases of the mosquito-borne disease West Nile virus, are occasionally reported, mainly in the summer and early fall.
Epizootic rabies is present. An increase of cases was reported in July 2016 in the province of Ontario (particularly the city of Hamilton) as well as in the province of Saskatchewan. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals (bites, scratches, licks). If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Reported cases of Lyme disease in the province of Quebec have increased noticeably in recent years, prompting health officials to warn the general public about the danger of tick bites as the 2016 summer begins. In 2015, 159 Lyme disease cases were reported, up noticeably from the 32 cases reported in 2011. Lyme is a tick-borne disease present in wooded areas. Symptoms include a characteristic rash, fever, and arthritis; the disease can also cause neurological issues such as facial palsy.
Canada experiences a seasonal outbreak of influenza during the winter months. Influenza is a contagious virus that can spread from human to human. Symptoms include high fever, aching muscles, headache, and respiratory issues. Particularly vulnerable individuals include young children, the elderly, pregnant women, the obese, and individuals suffering from chronic diseases. To reduce the risk of contracting the flu, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly before meals. A vaccine is available.
While primary and secondary roads are generally in good condition, winter snows can make driving difficult, particularly for individuals not used to such conditions. Make sure cars are equipped with snow tires if traveling in the country in the winter months. Roads, including major highways, may be closed in the event of snow storms or avalanches.
Public transportation and taxis are safe nationwide.
Snow storms also regularly result in flight delays and cancelations, as well as other transportation disruptions.
Canadian implemented a new law that took effect in mid-November 2016, requiring individuals traveling to Canada by air to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in order to lawfully enter the country. The majority of foreign nationals wishing to enter Canada who had not previously needed an entry visa are now required to apply for and obtain an eTA prior to departure. Those affected include citizens of European Union member states, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, among other countries. United States citizens and permanent residents will be exempted, as will all travelers in possession of a valid Canadian visa. Canadian dual nationals are not eligible for this visa and should enter Canada with their Canadian passport. The process costs CAD 7 and the eTA will remain valid for a period of five years, or until the traveler's passport expires, whichever comes first.
Canada's climate varies by region.
In the south, summers are hot and dry and winters cold but often sunny between snow storms. Milder temperatures return in March-April. During the months of May, June, and September days are hot but nights are cool. Colder weather returns in November.
In the west, along the Pacific coast, the climate is mild and wet; winters are very rainy and temperatures are pleasant in the summer.
In the Rocky Mountains, conditions are cool, dry, and sunny in the summer months.
The east experiences hot summers and cold winters.
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