Safety and Emergencies for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2014

Safety – Natural Hazards

Canada has its fair share of potentially dangerous natural phenomena, so it is important to minimise their effects as much as possible by taking the necessary precautions.

Canada has the second highest frequency of tornadoes in the world. Tornadoes are most common in the Prairie Provinces and in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec. The tornado season is from May to September, with the most active period being June to July. You can find more information on tornadoes on this Environment Canada page:

Hurricanes affect the four Atlantic Provinces and southern Quebec on the south-east coast. By the time they hit Canada, hurricanes have lost some of their original force, though they can still be formidable. For more information on hurricanes, see this page:

Earthquakes are most likely to happen in British Columbia; many occur off the west coast, leading to tsunamis. The three Territories (especially the Yukon) and southern Quebec are also affected by earthquakes, though most of them minor ones. You can find out more about earthquakes on this page:

Most parts of Canada experience a markedly continental climate, which means there is a sharp contrast in temperature between summer and winter. Summer in the western provinces can be hot and dry; this can lead to forest fires, especially in heavily forested southern British Columbia. The forest fire season is from May to September.

In central parts of Canada, winter temperatures drop well below freezing. For example, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the January average is -15°C, though temperatures can drop to -40°C or lower. There is an acute risk of hypothermia and frostbite, so it is essential that you pay attention to forecasts and wear adequate layers of clothing whenever you go outside. The winter weather itself can also present dangers. Snowstorms and ice storms are particularly vicious in the east of the country, and avalanches can also be a problem in Alberta and British Columbia. More information on how to deal with winter weather can be found here:  

There are many wild animals throughout Canada. There are specific ways to deal with creatures such as bears, coyotes and moose as is detailed here:

Safety – Man-made Hazards

In terms of danger coming from other people, Canada is a very safe country. Incidences of crime in Canada tend to be low, though the crime rate is somewhat higher in the four western provinces. In most areas, violent crime rates are much lower than the United States.

Petty crime can be a problem, particularly in the touristic areas of the larger cities. Types of petty theft that can be a problem include bag snatching, pick-pocketing and theft from cars. Theft prevention is about being aware of what is going on around you and keeping your belongings safe at all times. You can help reduce the chances of theft by keeping items such as mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible.

Canada is generally safe for women, as the incidence of sexual assaults is very low. Nevertheless it is important to avoid situations where you are vulnerable. For example, if you are out in a public place at night, make sure you know where your friends are at all times. Also, make sure at all times that there is someone in your group who has an eye on your drinks, and do not accept unattended drinks from strangers.

There is an ongoing threat from terrorism in Canada. It is prudent to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. The chances of experiencing unrest or any other political disturbance in Canada are very low indeed.


The emergency number that can be used in Canada is 911. This is the number you should dial for the police, a medical emergency and the fire brigade. This number works from a landline, payphone or mobile phone – even one without a SIM card. The emergency operator will answer in English, or French in Quebec.

Emergency Service



All Emergencies


Everywhere in Canada



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