What you should know about the legal system in Singapore

The choice of legal representations in the country of your arrest or detention is critically important and should be done with care and caution. Consular officials can provide a list of lawyers who have expertise in your particular type of case and who have represented Canadians in the past. While the Government of Canada has made all reasonable efforts to ensure that this list of lawyers is accurate, some of this information may have changed without our knowledge.

Consular officials cannot select or recommend specific lawyers. Moreover, you may prefer to engage a lawyer who is not on the attached list. The decision as to which lawyer you choose to engage remains your responsibility. Nevertheless, before engaging a lawyer you may wish to consider whether the lawyer is:

  • experienced in your type of case;
  • well regarded in the local legal community;
  • able to communicate in your language of choice; and
  • willing to agree on a fee structure for the duration of the case (including any appeals procedures).

Consular officials can facilitate communication between you, or someone you designate, and your lawyer. Although consular officials can provide you with information based on their experience, they cannot make decisions for you. Ultimately, all decisions affecting the conduct of your case must be made by you in consultation with your lawyer.

Canadians abroad are subject to local laws. The penalty for drug offences in Singapore is very strict and can include the death penalty. In addition, Singapore has strict laws and penalties against a variety of actions or activities that may not be illegal or may be considered minor offences in Canada, including jaywalking, littering, spitting, smoking in public places, and the importation or sale of chewing gum.

Vandalism offences carry a mandatory sentence of corporal punishment (rattan cane). Shoplifting is considered a serious offence. Lesser offences, according to Singaporian law, such as “outrages of modesty” (inappropriate behaviour by men toward women) carry a sentence of corporal punishment. Homosexual activity is illegal and common-law relationships are not recognized. Jail sentences are served in local prisons (as Singapore has no extradition treaty with Canada).

Just as Canadians would not accept a foreign government interfering in the Canadian judicial process, the Government of Canada cannot interfere in the judicial affairs of another country. As such, the Government of Canada cannot seek preferential treatment for you, or try to exempt you from the due process of local law. Nevertheless, it is important that you are not be penalized for being a foreigner. As such, the Government ofCanada will make every effort to ensure that you receive equitable treatment under the local criminal justice system and are not discriminated against or denied justice because you are Canadian.

We also recommend you read the following two consular pamphlets that have been prepared by the Government of Canada and are available on the Mission website:

You should also know that dual nationality is not legally recognized in Singapore, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. As such, Canadians should travel using their Canadian passport and present themselves as Canadians to foreign authorities at all times. The Government of Canada publishes a booklet entitled “Dual Citizenship: What Travellers Should Know”, which is also available on the Mission website and specifically targeted at Canadians with dual nationality.

Finally, you should know that state-sponsored legal aid, as offered in Canada, is not available in Singapore. It is also important that you understand that the Government of Canada cannot pay your lawyer’s fees or post your bail. However, it can assist you in notifying family or friends of your situation and letting them know how they can help.

If you have any questions or need additional assistance, you can reach the Consular Section of the High Commission of Canada at:

High Commission of Canada
One George Street #11-01
Singapore 049145
Tel: (65) 6854-5900
Fax: (65) 6854-5913
Email: spore-cs@international.gc.ca