Written by Owen Thompson on June 14, 2018
There may come a time when you need a document commissioned or notarized, whether it is for use in court or something as simple as a travel consent letter for one of your children.
There is a distinction between a “commissioner of oaths” and a Notary Public. All lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are commissioners by virtue of their position as a licensed lawyer or paralegal. People other than lawyers can be appointed as commissioners as well; it is common for assistants and law students in law firms to have their appointment as well. Court staff are also often commissioners.
Commissioners can commission documents like affidavits, travel consent letters, and other court documents. A document will often indicate that it can be signed by a “Commissioner, etc” for the Province of Ontario. That means a document can be signed by a Commissioner OR Notary Public, and be validly executed.
A Notary Public, on the other hand, must be appointed by Official Document Services (if they are a lawyer) or the Ministry of the Attorney General (if they are a non-lawyer). All licensed lawyers in Ontario are eligible to become Notaries, but not all lawyers obtain their appointment. It is rare to find a Notary Public in Ontario who is not a lawyer, and they are usually government officials who do not provide notary services to the general public.
A Notary Public, in addition to placing their signature on a document, also seals that document with an official seal. Both a copy of the seal and the signature of the Notary Public remains on file with Official Document Services. The seal is distinct and unique for each Notary. This allows for verification of the Notary’s signature if necessary. Occasionally, if a document is being used outside of Canada, the government or official of that specific country may request that the document be authenticated through Official Document Services. This requires the notarized document to be submitted to Official Document Services, where they will compare the signature and seal of the Notary to their records and issue a Certificate of Authentication if the signature and seal match.
This authentication procedure is not something that a local lawyer and Notary can do for you, but rather an extra step you may have to take after a document has been notarized. If the document is being used outside of Canada, it can be a good idea to advise the Notary at the time of signing that that is it’s intended purpose. The Notary can then be prepared to receive communication from Official Document Services, as sometimes the office will call the Notary to confirm that they met with the specific client.
For more information about authenticating a notarized document, click here.
If you have a document that you need notarized or commissioned, please contact us.