Words of Wisdom


Why do Canadians sometimes behave more recklessly abroad than they do at home?

As a Management and Consular Officer, I've heard many stories of foreigners who have gotten carried away while on holiday and have paid the price. Today I learned the story of Daniel and Michelle, two Canadians who were recently arrested for drug possession.

Daniel and Michelle were so excited to take a gap year before starting university. They decided to go backpacking through Southeast Asia, and ended up in Bali, Indonesia, to attend a beachfront music festival. Although Indonesia is often praised for its golden beaches and beautiful scenery, it is a risky destination. In fact, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has declared a Travel Warning for Indonesia that recommends Canadians avoid non-essential travel to that country. Check out the Travel Report. There have been a number of terrorist attacks in Indonesia over the past few years, with some specifically targeting foreigners.

While at the music festival, Daniel and Michelle met many other foreigners and locals who were enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and joyful, vibrant music. As they wandered through the crowd looking for a good place to put down their things, they were approached by a man who offered to sell them ecstasy pills. Although Daniel and Michelle had never tried drugs in Canada, they looked around the huge party and thought about how far away they were from home. They had decided to travel to experience new things, and while away from their daily routine, they felt a bit more comfortable doing things they wouldn't normally do. Daniel and Michelle bought four tablets and decided to find a spot to sit down before taking the pills. Before they could reach the clearing, a plainclothes officer intercepted them and placed them under arrest. They looked around anxiously for the man who had sold them the drugs, but he had disappeared into the crowd... and was nowhere to be found. When the local police station called the Embassy to let us know about the Canadian citizens who had been arrested, I wondered... why do Canadians sometimes behave more recklessly abroad than they do at home? Just last year, nearly 400 Canadians were arrested or detained abroad for drug offences.

If Daniel and Michelle had read the Travel Report for Indonesia, they would have seen that Indonesian laws regarding illegal drugs are vry strict, and include the death penalty for serious offences. The possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs can result in serious fines, or even prison sentences. Suspects can be detained indefinitely while police conduct investigations. By doing just a little research, Daniel and Michelle might have been able to avoid this horrible situation. Instead of experiencing new things and living life to the fullest, Daniel and Michelle may be trading in their freedom for a jail cell.

I think it's alright to have a sense of adventure, but it's also important to know the laws of the country you are visiting, and to follow them. My colleagues at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada publish Travel Reports for over 200 destinations around the world. Read up on the country that interests you. You'll find these Travel Reports - and our publication Drugs and Travel: Why They Don't Mix - on the Consular Services website. If you're planning to travel abroad, make www.travel.gc.ca the first stop on your trip.