Arrest and detention
If you are arrested or detained in another country, you should clearly inform the arresting authorities that you want them to notify the nearest Canadian government office abroad of your arrest immediately.
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 help by:
- asking the appropriate authorities for immediate and regular access to you
- at your request, notifying your family or friends of the situation and telling them if and how they can help
- helping you communicate with a representative, family or friends if direct communication is not possible or the need is urgent
- recommending that you hire a lawyer and approach family, friends or a local legal aid society if you can’t afford to pay
- providing an up-to-date and accurate list of local lawyers and legal translation services
- advocating for your fair and equal treatment under local laws
- obtaining information about the status of your case and encouraging authorities to process it without delay
- providing you, your lawyer or your family with general information on the local legal and prison system, approximate times for court actions, typical sentences for the alleged offence and bail provisions
- providing you with information on possible clemency interventions by the Government of Canada if you have been charged with or convicted of a crime punishable by death
- informing 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 providing you with the documents to apply for a transfer if you are eligible
- working to ensure that your health and well-being are protected, including basic nutrition, medical and dental care.
- transmitting concerns about any treatment that could affect your health and well-being to local officials, prison representatives and relevant non-governmental organizations
- arranging 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
- delivering letters and permitted reading material if normal postal services are unavailable
- contacting your relatives or friends on your behalf to request funds
- facilitating the transfer of funds to you if other means aren’t available
Canadian officials abroad cannot:
- investigate a crime or death or intervene in a local police investigation
- interfere in legal matters, criminal defence cases or judicial affairs in another country
- try to obtain preferential treatment for you or exempt you from the due process of local law
- get you out of jail
- post bail, pay lawyers’ fees, or pay fines
- issue a loan of public funds to pay your legal expenses
- provide legal advice or interpret local laws
- recommend lawyers or guarantee their reliability or competence in the matter at hand
- become involved in matters between you and your lawyer
- 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 facility
- make travel or accommodation arrangements for your family or friends
- forward medical supplies prescribed or recommended by a doctor or take steps to clear them through detention facilities
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.
Contact the appropriate foreign government office in Canada to address these issues before you go abroad.
Contact us if you need help.
- A Guide for Canadians Imprisoned Abroad
- Clemency Intervention—Statement of Procedures
- Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know