Special Authorization for High Risk Travel

This requirement applies only to graduate students intending to travel to high risk (Global Affairs Canada travel advisory Level 3 or Level 4) countries. 

NOTE: THE UNIVERSITY SHALL NOT AUTHORIZE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES WITH A LEVEL 3 OR LEVEL 4 RISK RATING.

Special authorization

What is special authorization?

Special authorization is required for participation in international activities with a Level 3 or Level 4 risk rating. When applying for such authorization, the activity leader (in the case of a student-led international activity, the individual student) must demonstrate:

·         That the activity is academically necessary, which means that if the activity is not carried out at the proposed location and time, there will be serious consequences for the student’s academic program

·         That the circumstances are exceptional

·         That the prospective participant is fully aware of the risks associated with the activity

·         That a plan has been developed for mitigating those risks or, in cases where mitigation might not be possible, a plan for responding to the risks

All applications for special authorization are submitted to the department/unit head, the dean of the student’s faculty, the Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Chief Safety Officer, and are assessed jointly by them. The department/unit head, the dean of the student’s faculty, and the Dean of Graduate Studies determine the academic necessity of the proposed activity, while the Chief Safety Officer assesses the application from a safety and security perspective.

Requirements for application

·         The activity leader (in the case of a student-led international activity, the individual student) must write a letter to the approving authorities describing how he or she conducted research on hazards associated with the activity and explaining why the activity should proceed despite the risk rating.

·         The following documents must be attached to the letter:

o   Completed Safety Planning Record 

o   Completed consent and waiver forms 

o   Letter of support as to the academic necessity of the international activity from the faculty member with oversight of the student(s) and/or the activity

o   A letter from the host organization (if any), confirming that it will host the student(s), and detailed information on the organization’s approach to mitigating risk and enhancing safety

·         Those applying to travel for Level 4 activities must also meet with the Chief Safety Officer to discuss the Safety Planning Record completed for the activity, and obtain approval for the application.

NOTE: Applications for Special Authorization must be submitted at least 12 weeks before the intended date of travel.

Approval criteria

The Chief Safety Officer is ultimately responsible for determining whether to grant the authorization. Before doing so, he or she consults with the department/unit head, the dean of the student’s faculty, and the Dean of Graduate Studies, and must be satisfied that:

·         The trip is necessary for the student’s/group’s academic program in that serious negative consequences would arise if it is not carried out at the proposed location and time.

·         Risk mitigation and response measures are in place, and the student/group will receive adequate support and guidance while in the field. This assessment should be based on factors such as:

o   How much experience, if any, the student/group has in the area in question

o   Whether the student/group has an existing support system in the area

o   Whether the student/group will be hosted by an institution or organization that has the resources and capacity to assist in ensuring safety and to provide support in case of an emergency

Special authorizations of this nature will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The fact that the conditions listed above have been met does not create any entitlement to a special authorization.

Revocation of authorization prior to departure

A decision to grant special authorization may be revoked due to extreme unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters or violent political turmoil.     

If Global Affairs Canada raises an area’s risk rating while students are on site, Safety and Risk Services shall inform those registered in the university’s international travel registration database and their respective department/unit heads. Students would then be required to leave the area if the university so instructs them. Those who fail to abide by these instructions will be considered as being on unauthorized travel.Changes to risk ratings and their impact on authorization

In some cases, the Chief Safety Officer and the Associate Vice President, Students, may increase the risk rating of an area even if the Global Affairs Canada rating remains unchanged. Such a decision would be based on compelling information that the area presents a significantly increased risk to travellers. SRS shall inform the university community of such a change. Note, however, that the university is not obligated to independently assess risk levels in any particular case.

If authorization for a trip is refused or revoked due to safety issues, or if students fail to comply with the process and requirements for obtaining authorization, the trip must not proceed as planned. Students who do proceed with a trip under such circumstances will be considered to be travelling as private citizens. They must not claim that they have received the university’s endorsement or support for the trip. Unauthorized travel must not be supported in any way by university resources or sponsorship.

Unauthorized travel

If a department/unit head becomes aware of such unauthorized travel, he or she must inform the dean of the student’s faculty, the Dean of Graduate Studies, the Associate Vice President, Students, and the Chief Safety Officer accordingly. The department/unit head may recommend that one or more of the following steps be taken:

·         Suspension or cancellation of the activity or the student’s/group’s involvement in it

·         Suspension or cancellation of funding provided to the student/group by sources controlled by the university

·         Subject to applicable laws, and with the approval of the university’s Vice President, Legal Affairs, notification to third parties (e.g., parents, guardians, government entities) regarding the student’s/group’s situation and the fact that the student/group is on unauthorized travel

·         If the department/unit head is the head of an academic unit:

o   With the approval of the dean of the faculty, withdrawal of the student/group from any course or program related to the travel

o   With the approval of the dean of the faculty, refusal to award academic credit for activities undertaken while on unauthorized travel

o   A decision that research conducted while on unauthorized travel may not be used to meet degree requirements at the university

·         Imposition of additional restrictions that the department/unit head deems appropriate

The Associate Vice President, Students, and the Chief Safety Officer shall have overall authority to act on these matters.