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News & Articles Archive 2014

New Regulations for Families Travelling to South Africa

October 2014

Families travelling to South Africa this fall may find themselves stranded due to strict new regulations designed to stop child trafficking.

The new rules, which come into force on October 1, require children to carry a high level of extra documentation to enter or exit the country. Under the regulations, children travelling with both parents will need to produce a full birth certificate showing the names of both parents.

For children travelling without both parents, requirements are even stricter:

  • Parents travelling solo will require a certified copy of the birth certificate, an affidavit from the absent parent giving permission for the child to travel, and a court order granting full parental responsibility for the child or the death certificate of the absent parent.
  • Children travelling with someone other than their parents need a birth certificate, affidavits from both parents and copies of the passports or identity documents of both parents.
  • Unaccompanied minors need their birth certificate and proof of consent from both parents.

For more information, visit:

Canada Says Do Not Travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

October 2014

Due to an Ebola outbreak, the Government of Canada has issued advisories against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

All three countries have declared a state of public emergency, which has led to a strict enforcement of quarantine measures and rigid restrictions on movement:

  • Most border-crossings are closed until further notice
  • Strict screening procedures are in place at the few entry points that remain open
  • Nationwide curfew is in effect for Liberia between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Outgoing and incoming flights have been suspended by some airlines
  • Individuals arriving from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone may be denied entry into many countries

The government recommends that all Canadians travelling in these countries exit immediately by any commercial means possible, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. There is no consulate office in Sierra Leone or Liberia and Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in Guinea is extremely limited. If necessary, visitors can make a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 or obtain consular assistance from the High Commission of Canada in Accra, Ghana.

For travelers stuck in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, the most important thing is to try and stay away from people who are ill. Says Dr. Jay Keystone, who works in the tropical diseases unit of Toronto General Hospital, "You won't get Ebola unless the individual you're in contact with is sick. So if someone is well, you're not going to get it. You just need to have a heightened awareness that this is going on and wash your hands frequently, certainly before meals. [Ebola is spread through] direct contact, it's not someone walking into a room with someone with Ebola and getting the infection. Ebola generally is not aerosolized, meaning it doesn't go well into the air."

At this time, there is no known vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola. For more information, visit:

Travelling Abroad? Register First!

October 2014

Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service offered by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada that keeps citizens connected to Canada during an emergency, giving them access to consular services. It is recommended that all Canadians travelling or living abroad sign up for this service before leaving home; however, travellers can also register while abroad.

Registration is quick, confidential and simple. You only need to provide travel information and personal details, such as your passport number, residency information in the destination country and emergency contact information in Canada.

Once registered, should an emergency occur while you're abroad (such as a natural disaster or civil unrest), Canadian government officials will contact you to provide assistance.

Common Travel Scams

October 2014

A few scams seem to pop up all over the world. Repeat the mantra: if it looks too good to be true, it must be too good to be true...

  • Gem and Carpet Deals

    Upon entry into a store, often prompted by an enthusiastic taxi or rickshaw driver, you might be offered a deal so good that refusing it seems unthinkable. Think again - those gems are going to be worthless and the carpet you buy may not make it home at all. There are legitimate traders selling both jewels and rugs, and they don't act like this.

  • It's Closed

    In some countries, everyone from street vendors to taxi drivers will try to tell you that your chosen hotel, restaurant or shop is closed but there's another, even better one you should visit, where they can pick up a commission. This is more annoying than harmful, but always insist on having a look for yourself.

  • Motorbike Scam

    The motorbike you have hired comes with a lock and two keys: you have one, and your rental company has the other. When you park the scooter and wander off, an enterprising person from the rental company arrives and "steals" your scooter, thus later requesting you pay a large sum of money to replace the "stolen" scooter. As you handed them your passport and you signed a contract, you're obligated to pay for it. Carry your own lock and key and an old passport to avoid getting sucked into this scam.

  • Cleaning Distraction

    The surprising splat of bird poop landing on you from a great height is followed by the swift appearance of a stranger who towels you down. In the confusion, valuables are removed from your person, never to be seen again. Another variation on the same scam has someone "accidentally" spilling mustard or other condiments on you.

  • Money Changing "Errors"

    Many crooks like to take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the currency of the country you"re visiting. Some cab drivers or cashiers will insist that you mistakenly gave them one dollar when you've actually handed them much more. Other cashiers will count out your change very slowly, in the hopes you'll just take what they're holding out to you (much less) and leave. Others might try to sneak in old currency that has no value. In Italy, for example, the old 500-lira coins look a lot like their 2-euro coins. The difference? The 500-lira coins are worthless. To avoid falling victim to these types of scam, learn what the currency in the city you're visiting looks like, count your change carefully, and only pay with small bills.

The best way to avoid falling victim to a crime is to use your head. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut, take appropriate precautions and keep your wits about you. Traveling is supposed to be fun. Going on vacation doesn't have to be a scary or a paranoia-inducing experience. The idea is to travel smart and know what (or who) to avoid.


Taking the SAD Out of Seasonal Affective Disorder

January 16, 2014

With an average temperature of only -20.9 C, Winnipeggers endured the second-coldest December the city has experienced in 120 years. While long, cold winter days are hard on everyone, they can be especially difficult for the 2 to 3 percent of Canadians suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a clinical depression that tends to strike individuals when the days begin to shorten in late autumn, and can last until spring. Research into the causes of SAD is ongoing, but many experts believe that a lack of sunshine during the winter months plays a very significant role in the development of it.

When it's dark, the brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes us sleep. When it becomes light again, it stops producing melatonin and we wake up. SAD sufferers tend to have higher daytime melatonin levels, which results in sleepiness, decreased energy and difficulty concentrating. They also tend to have lower levels of serotonin, known as the feel good hormone, which impacts mood and may lead to feelings of despair, remorse and anxiety.

While SAD can make it a struggle to cope with day-to-day life, there are a number of actions that individuals can take to help them get through the winter blues. For starters, anyone who is depressed for long periods during autumn and winter should seek professional help. When diagnosed with SAD, a health care professional can develop a treatment plan that may consist of counselling, light therapy, and in some cases, antidepressant medications.

The Canadian Mental Health Association also suggests that individuals with SAD can benefit from spending more time outdoors during the day. Those who can brave the windchill are encouraged to bundle up and go for a walk, or enjoy an activity like skating or cross-country skiing. In addition to benefiting from the exposure to natural light, exercise can help relieve stress, build energy and improve mental and physical well-being. When the weather is limiting outdoor time, then sunlight exposure can be maximized by sitting or working near a window, and keeping the curtains or blinds open during the day.

A proper diet can also help reduce the sleep cravings and low energy that come with SAD. It's best to choose foods high in protein like low fat milk and cheese, eggs, poultry, fish, red meat and tofu. When craving carbohydrates, avoid simple carbs like chocolate, packaged cereal, and any breads, pastas or baked goods made with white flour. Instead, choose complex carbs like whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables and legumes. Complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbs, and they don't raise the sugar levels in the blood as quickly. They act as the body's fuel, and contribute significantly to energy production.

For those fortunate enough to plan a winter getaway, a vacation to a sunny destination can also temporarily relieve SAD. The symptoms will likely return once home, but even a temporary uplifting of spirit can help make the remaining winter months more bearable.

If you are a Manitoba Blue Cross plan member with Employee Assistance Program benefits and you are feeling the winter blues, we can help. To arrange a meeting with one of our counsellors, please contact the EA Centre at 204.786.8880 (toll free 1.800.590.5553) or visit the Manitoba Blue Cross website to speak with a professional online.

5 Environmentally Friendly Ways to Travel

January 16, 2014

It's wonderful to get away on vacation, but it's important to still be mindful of the effect our choices have on the environment. Here are five simple eco-friendly travel tips:

  • Choose Friendly Skies

    Find an airline that takes measures to reduce its impact on the environment. This might include planting trees per every pound of CO2 emitted, or actively recycling the cans, bottles or newspapers used each flight.

  • Pass on Plastic

    Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade so rather than collecting a number of plastic bags while shopping, use re-useable cloth bags for your purchases.

  • Make Yourself at Home

    Act like your hotel is home by reusing your towels, avoiding long showers, and remembering to turn off the TV and lights when you leave the room.

  • Don't Wander

    When exploring the great outdoors, always stay on marked trails so you don't accidently trample on protected or endangered plants.

  • Strength in Numbers

    Join a tour group, when possible, as the shared transportation will help reduce your carbon footprint. A walking tour is even better!

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