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Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

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Driving Practices and Traffic Infractions

Circular Note No. XDC-0821 of May 17, 2012

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Office of Protocol) presents its compliments to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and notified Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada, the Permanent Representatives to the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Heads of International Organizations and other offices established in Canada, and has the honour to provide Their Excellencies with a revised policy regarding traffic and vehicle related offences committed by accredited foreign representatives and their family members who enjoy diplomatic, consular, or other status in Canada1.

1. General:

The operation of a motor vehicle in by anyone in Canada, including persons with status under the Department, is not a right but a privilege. While the vast majority of foreign representatives and accredited family members observe traffic laws and regulations, those driving practices and violations of traffic laws which endanger public safety remain of serious concern to the Government of Canada. Guided by Article 41(1) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Article 55(1) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, this revised policy is intended to reinforce Canada’s expectations that all foreign representatives and their accredited family members will comply with local traffic laws and vehicle regulations, and that persons so accredited, whether entitled to full or functional immunity, will be responsible for any violations of these laws and regulations. It should be noted that the Government of Canada instructs its own representatives abroad to conduct themselves with the foregoing expectations in mind, and that they are explicitly advised that any immunities conferred on them will not prevent local authorities from issuing infractions where appropriate and supported by evidence.

It is important to note that the special licence plates issued to accredited foreign representatives do not prohibit a police officer from initiating a traffic stop in a manner consistent with normal police procedures. Accredited persons who have been signalled to stop their vehicle by a police officer should do so and be prepared to present identification to the attending officer, including a valid driver’s licence, proof of insurance, and the Office of Protocol Identity Card.

2. Major traffic offences:

Police forces are encouraged to lay charges where appropriate and inform the Department of instances of major traffic offences, including those covered by the Criminal Code of Canada, such as impaired driving, criminal negligence, and dangerous driving. For indictable offences where the alleged offender enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction, the Office of Protocol will request a waiver of immunity from the relevant authority (through the Head of Mission or Organization) to allow the accused individual to appear in a Canadian court of law and to be sentenced in the event that the individual is found guilty. For more information regarding the Department’s impaired driving policy, please refer to circular note XDC-0427 of March 14, 2001 (and any subsequent note on that subject). In the event that the requested waiver of immunity is declined, the Department will seek appropriate, alternative remedies to ensure public safety.

It should be noted that the Department will not intervene in cases where driving privileges have been suspended as a result of accumulated demerit points, for failing to pay a fine, or for other reasons where Canadian authorities have cause to temporarily or indefinitely revoke driving privileges. In keeping with the Department’s general expectations regarding respect for the laws of the receiving state, it is expected that accredited persons who are duly notified of such a suspension will abide by the terms of the notice.

Their Excellencies are asked to observe that none of the details in this note intend to limit or diminish the right of the Government of Canada to request the recall of the offender in the event of a grave offence, or to otherwise intervene in regard to the individual’s continued presence in Canada as an accredited foreign representative.

3. Minor traffic offences

Police and other officials are encouraged to issue fines for minor traffic and vehicle related offences where the officer has evidence to support such an action, including for moving violations and parking infractions.

As in the past, the Department will not normally intervene in matters of traffic or parking violations. Further, the Department will only review a request for intervention where it has been requested to do so by way of a diplomatic note, signed by the Head of Mission or Organization, which provides a full description of the incident and where there are clearly extenuating circumstances surrounding the infraction which compel the Department to intervene.

In cases where personal vehicles are registered to an official address, it is still important to respond appropriately to correspondence from the relevant Ministry of Transportation, as delays in responding to such notices may lead to the suspension of driving privileges or the invalidation of a licence plate. It should also be noted that the Department will not intervene in cases where such measures have been enacted due to outstanding or accumulated fines.

4. Treatment of Immunities:

The Department wishes to confirm that the Government of Canada distinguishes between the immunities conferred by diplomatic and consular status, as per the provisions of Article 43(1) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Therefore, persons enjoying a limited degree of immunity, such as consular officers and consular employees, may not be immune from prosecution where criminal charges are laid, or where administrative requirements compel the individual to appear before a court. Further, it is the judiciary in Canada which determines whether a specific act performed by a person with limited immunity and giving rise to legal action occurred in an official capacity.

In cases where an individual who is not subject to the local jurisdiction chooses to contest a ticket before a court or other tribunal, the Department must insist that the relevant mission provide the appropriate waiver of immunity from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Department in writing. The Department does not consider it appropriate for individuals to make claims of immunity for themselves in such a venue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Office of Protocol) avails itself of this opportunity to renew to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and notified Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada, the Permanent Representatives to the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Heads of International Organizations and other offices established in Canada, the assurances of its highest consideration.

OTTAWA, May 17, 2012


1 This note updates the Department’s previous circular note XDC-2803 of December 21, 2007, as well as other communications on this subject. Impaired driving allegations will continue to be dealt with in accordance with the policy established in XDC-0427 of March 14, 2001.

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Date Modified:
2012-10-15