Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Ottawa does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HALIFAX AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Canada-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
The downtown/waterfront entertainment and business district of Halifax is an enjoyable area of daytime businesses and offices, universities, markets, boutiques and restaurants. This area serves as the hub for most business, shopping, entertainment, and tourism and includes the busy summer-season cruise ship terminal. The downtown area does report some low-level criminal activity (petty theft, vehicle break-ins). Occasional incidents of violence (muggings, drug-related violence, infrequent homicides) have been reported as well. Be wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices. There is no evidence that Americans or U.S. government employees are being directly targeted for any criminal activity in Halifax.
E-mail scams for money, utilizing U.S. military information and bogus U.S. Federal Law Enforcement agencies (grandparent scams) have been identified and reported to the U.S. Embassy for verification.
In May 2010, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) released a public memo indicating that cyber threats against both government and private sector industry entities in Canada were the fastest-growing and most complex problems facing the agency. While cyber espionage targeting sensitive economic and national security information from nation-state actors remains a large-scale threat, the threat by politically or financially motivated independent cyber actors also remains a security concern. The security firm Websense reported in 2016 that Canada ranked second in the world in terms of the number of malicious web pages designed to harvest personal and financial credentials.
In 2014, Cisco Systems commissioned International Data Corporation Canada with surveying approximately 500 Canadian businesses and 2,000 employees spanning a number of sectors to determine the overall cyber security posture of the Canadian private sector. The survey determined about 60% of Canadian businesses either have no cyber security plan in place or possess one that does not account for increased data consumption and the evolving information technology landscape.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Normal road conditions in Halifax and in Atlantic Canada’s other population centers are similar to those found in large, northern U.S. cities. Travelers should not experience any security related issues driving around Halifax or the Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador).
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common safety threat reported by U.S. citizens traveling outside of urban or metropolitan areas. Obey all traffic regulations and be familiar with road conditions prior to traveling. Road conditions may change drastically and suddenly due to weather, construction, or accessibility. When traveling in remote areas or by boat, be mindful of limited mobile phone reception and limited first responder access.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation throughout Halifax and in Atlantic Canada’s other population centers is considered safe and reliable. Public transportation options become more limited outside the urban population centers or in the more remote areas of Atlantic Canada and can be disrupted due inclement winter weather, but overall public transportation is considered safe.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport (HIAA) is located 25 miles (40 km) north of the city center, and a drive between the two locations takes about 30 minutes. It is relatively small by U.S. standards, yet very efficient. HIAA maintains a Customs and Border Protection Pre-Clearance operation for flights destined directly to the U.S. Canada Border Services Agency operates customs and immigration procedures for all inbound international flights, including flights directly from the U.S to Halifax. The airport adheres to international air safety standards, as does management of flight operations. Security measures are on par with U.S. airports, and the security personnel are well-trained and effective in the performance of their duties.
Among the other airports in Atlantic Canada handling international air traffic are:
New Brunswick: Greater Moncton International Airport, Greater Fredericton Airport, Saint John Airport
Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown Airport
Newfoundland and Labrador: St. John’s International Airport,Gander International Airport
These airports do not maintain Customs and Border Protection Pre-Clearance operations for outbound flights to the U.S. Other security protocols are in-line with HIAA.
Other Travel Conditions
Visitors driving in the winter months should expect to encounter adverse driving conditions. Snow plowing, snow removal, and treating of major and secondary roadways is very efficient.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HALIFAX AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
In October 2014, Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center (ITAC) elevated its domestic terrorism threat level from LOW to MEDIUM in dictating that “an individual or group within Canada or abroad has the intent and capability to commit an act of terrorism in Canada.” The next week, a series of shootings took place at the Canadian National War Memorial, across the street from Parliament in Ottawa.
The 2014 Moncton shootings took place on June 4, 2014, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Justin Bourque (24) from Moncton, shot five officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), killing three and severely injuring two. A manhunt was launched. On June 6, Bourque was found and taken into custody. The shooting was the deadliest attack on the RCMP since the Mayerthorpe tragedy in 2005 that left four RCMP officers dead. It was also Moncton's first homicide since 2010. Although this event has not been officially called an act of “terrorism” in the sense that the perpetrator was not linked to ISIL or any other larger group, the event itself rose to that level, having been driven more by an anti-authority, anti-law enforcement and pro-militia sentiment.
Halifax is generally free from anti-U.S. sentiment. Unlike in many countries, it is common for people, both Canadians and Americans, to wear shirts, hats, and jackets of U.S. universities, sports teams, and companies without concern of any backlash from the general population.
Halifax has a sizable military community, as it is home to the Royal Canadian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet as well as Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army installations and nearby bases. Halifax has not experienced violence against Canadian service members like those experienced in Quebec in 2014. However, because of these attacks, Canadian and locally-present U.S. military have remained vigilant. A 2014 restriction has been lifted, and both Canadian and U.S. military personnel have resumed wearing uniforms publicly and at official events.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HALIFAX AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Demonstrations and protests in Halifax occur infrequently, are non-violent and orderly, and are usually led by workers unions, specific ethnic groups, or student associations. Permits are required for demonstrations, and municipal and federal authorities monitor and are usually present at these events to ensure public order. Law enforcement officers often monitor these protests.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change produces an hourly air Quality Index report that forecasts ranges from good to moderate air quality similar to moderately sized U.S. cities.
Public Safety Canada identifies 10 sectors of critical infrastructure (Health, Food, Finance, Water, Information/Communication Technology, Safety, Energy/Utilities, Manufacturing, Government, and Transportation). Canada’s critical infrastructure is massive, geographically dispersed, and owned by many different players mostly within the private sector. Public Safety works with its partners to manage risks and reduce vulnerabilities across these sectors. The National Strategy supports the principle that critical infrastructure roles and activities should be carried out in a responsible manner at all levels of society. Responsibilities for critical infrastructure are shared by federal, provincial, and territorial governments and critical infrastructure owners and operators. Individual Canadians also have a responsibility to be prepared for disruption and ready to cope for at least the first 72 hours of an emergency. Canada and the U.S. share cross border critical infrastructure with movement of people and goods between Canada and the U.S.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and other Canadian law enforcement agencies are committed to undertaking coordinated action to counter the threats posed by intellectual property crime. According to the RCMP: "Twenty years ago, most members of the public, as well as most police officers, had never heard of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Crime in Canada. Today, the situation is dramatically different both domestically and internationally. Organized crime has discovered that the manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit goods are easy ways of generating huge profits rivalling those in the drug trade but with very little risk of getting caught. Even if apprehended and convicted, there is only a slight chance of incarceration." In addition to the tremendous losses to government tax revenues and the legitimate economy, recent seizures of counterfeit goods (pharmaceuticals, electrical products, brake parts, contaminated shampoo, food products) show that these unscrupulous counterfeiters care nothing about the health and safety of consumers. Intellectual property is an important part of the economy and, as the country shifts toward an information-based economy, intellectual property rights are increasingly more important. As such, the priority of criminal intellectual property investigations has increased when dealing with counterfeit products, which represent a health and safety concern to the consumer, and discussions continue between U.S. and Canadian officials to address the threat of counterfeit products transiting Canada that are intended for entrance into the U.S. economy.
There is a relatively low risk to privacy concerns in Canada. The Privacy Commissioner handles several complaints each year about violations of privacy rights. According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: "Canada has two federal privacy laws, the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The Privacy Act took effect on July 1, 1983. This act imposes obligations on some 250 federal government departments and agencies to respect privacy rights by limiting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. The Privacy Act gives individuals the right to access and request correction of personal information about themselves held by these federal government organizations. Individuals are also protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) that sets out ground rules for how private sector organizations may collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. The law gives individuals the right to access and request correction of the personal information these organizations may have collected about them. Initially, PIPEDA applied only to personal information about customers or employees that was collected, used or disclosed in the course of commercial activities by the federally regulated private sector, organizations such as banks, airlines, and telecommunications companies. The Act now applies to personal information collected, used or disclosed by the retail sector, publishing companies, the service industry, manufacturers and other provincially regulated organizations. The Act does not apply to the personal information of employees of these provincially regulated organizations. The federal government may exempt organizations or activities in provinces that have their own privacy laws if they are substantially similar to the federal law. PIPEDA will continue to apply in those provinces to the federally regulated private sector and to personal information in inter-provincial and international transactions by all organizations engaged in commercial activities. Oversight of both federal Acts rests with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada who is authorized to receive and investigate complaints."
Personal Identity Concerns
The Canadian constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. When there are reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practices prominent societal leaders often take positive steps to promote religious freedom and condemn intolerance.
Dozens of international parental child abductions occur each year between the U.S. and Canada, with courts in both countries applying the Hague Abduction Convention. In Canada, each province has its own central authority. These central authorities have strong relationships with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Children’s Issues (CA/OCS/CI). They generally coordinate directly with CA/OCS/CI on international child abduction cases. The Embassy and Consulates rarely become involved.
In 2012, the RCMP created a new unit, The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains. The new unit will maintain a national database for finding missing people and identifying human remains that will link investigators from across the country when their cases match. The database will provide support to police, coroners, and medical examiners and let them compare their findings to cases from across the country.
The capabilities of both city and federal law enforcement agencies are on par with their U.S. counterparts. Police can be relied upon to respond to the scene of crimes in a timely manner.
The Halifax Regional Police Department (HRPD) is very proactive and responsive when dealing with all types of criminal activity in the Halifax Regional Municipality area. The HRPD is typically the primary law enforcement responder in the case of any emergency.
Police agencies and emergency medical services in the Halifax area, also known as the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), have the same capabilities as U.S. emergency services. Additionally, HRM has a very effective and well-coordinated Emergency Management Organization (EMO) with representation at the local, provincial, and federal level. The EMO meets regularly and has experience responding to natural disasters, emergencies, and large-scale crises.
Atlantic Canada is served by local, regional, and federal law enforcement agencies. All urban centers and municipalities have robust, professional law enforcement, first responder, and emergency management capabilities on par with those found in the U.S. More remote areas are generally serviced by provincial or federal law enforcement and emergency services organizations.
Like Halifax, most other municipalities also have very professional and responsive police forces, sheriffs and first responders, but the availability of these services can be impacted by the remoteness of many parts of the Consular District that are popular among visitors for camping, hiking, backpacking, etc. so people should take the proper precautions when traveling in remote areas. Cell phone reception in very remote areas can be limited/non-existent. Extra precautions are recommended (registering travel via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) or providing a friend or family member with itinerary details).
While many laws and ordinances in Atlantic Canada are similar to those in the U.S., some are not. Knowledge of local laws and ordinances is recommended, particularly Canadian federal and provincial laws pertaining to possession of weapons, drugs, and sexually-explicit or -related material, specifically child pornography.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Reports of police detention of U.S. citizens can be directed toward American Citizens Services (ACS) (tel # 902-429-2480). The Canadian legal and judicial system differs from the U.S. system, so representation by a Canadian lawyer is recommended. A list of lawyers in Atlantic Canada is available on the Consulate website. U.S. Consulate Halifax has not received reports of mistreatment of American citizens by Canadian law enforcement officials. Prison and jail facilities in Atlantic Canada are on par with those found in the U.S.
Crime Victim Assistance
Dial 911 for emergencies and life-threatening situations. The HRP responds to emergency 911 calls. Emergency services throughout Atlantic Canada can also be accessed by dialing 911.
Reports of crimes against U.S. citizens should be reported to local law enforcement officials and can also be reported to ACS.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the Canadian national police service and an agency of the Ministry of Public Safety Canada. The RCMP is unique; it is a national, federal, provincial, and municipal policing body. The RCMP provide a total federal policing service to all Canadians, and policing services the three territories, eight provinces (except Ontario and Quebec), more than 190 municipalities, 184 Aboriginal communities, and three international airports.
The Halifax Regional Police is responsible for policing the urban core of the Halifax Regional Municipality and is divided into three police divisions: Central (Peninsular Halifax), Eastern (Dartmouth) and Western (Bedford).
Dial 911 to access all emergency services.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Peninsular Halifax – QEII Health Sciences Centre is a full-service hospital including an emergency and trauma center and air-lift unit. The hospital is located near the downtown core and is easily accessible. QEII Health Sciences contact information is: 902-473-2700.
For assistance with locating hospitals and clinics in other parts of Atlantic Canada, dial 911 or contact ACS.
Available Air Ambulance Services
The recommended air ambulance service to Halifax is the QEII Health Sciences Centre 902-473-2700.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Canada.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in Halifax. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Halifax or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Halifax
1969 Upper Water St. #904, Halifax, NS B3J 3R7, Canada
Hours of Operation: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Consulate Contact Numbers
American Citizens Services: (902) 429-2480
Non-Emergency Issues for American citizens: 902-429-2480 ext. 2991.
Embassy Ottawa: http://canada.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Calgary: https://ca.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/calgary/
Consulate Montreal: http://montreal.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Quebec: http://quebec.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Toronto: http://toronto.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Vancouver: http://vancouver.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Winnipeg: http://winnipeg.usconsulate.gov/
Before traveling to remote areas or by boat, it is recommended that you provide a travel itinerary to a friend or family member, or register your travel with the U.S. Consulate via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Canada Country Information Sheet