Notary Services

What Is A Notary Public?

There is a good chance that at some point in their lives, most people were given an important piece of legal paper and told that they had to have it “notarized” by a “notary public”. The name and designation of a notary public is often confusing since certain professions contain this authority, yet it is also open to any member of the public to apply for it.

In Ontario, a notary public is a person appointed by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, to fulfill certain important functions such notarizing a document or certifying a true copy of a document. Notarizing a document means that the Notary Public confirms its authenticity, the fact that the signature is genuine, and that the signed acted without any duress or intimidation. A Notary Public also has all the powers of a commissioner for taking affidavits, administering oats, affirmation, or declarations inside or outside of Ontario. The certification of a true copy of a document is a process whereby the notary public reviews a document and confirms the authenticity of the copy. A notary has a stamp and seal when they sign off on documents which are recognized in Ontario, within Canada and internationally.

Are All Lawyers Notary Publics?

Most lawyers and paralegals licensed by the Law Society of Ontario are generally able to serve as a Notary Public for as long as their license to practice is valid. Once they apply for the Notary Public certificate it does not expire. However, there are many other officials who may apply to act as a Notary Public for limited time periods. It should be noted however that Notary Publics are not assigned or allowed to provide legal advice. Even lawyers and paralegals, when exercising their authority as a Notary Public, are required to refrain from providing legal advice unless specifically retained to do so and it is appropriate in the circumstances.

What Does A Notary Public Do?

A Notary Public generally performs three activities to confirm that a document is legitimate. They are as follows:

  • A Notary Public in their authority as a commissioner for taking affidavits, can administer an oath, affirmation, or declaration. The Notary Public does not confirm the authenticity of the contents of the document. Rather the Notary Public, by signing the document as witness, confirms that the person who signed it has confirmed the truth or authenticity of the document. If, at some later point the contents of the document are found to be untrue, the person who swore it in front of a Notary Public may face legal consequences depending on the situation. This process previously had to be done with both the Notary Public and the affiant in the same room, but new, post-COVID 19 provisions have made virtual witnessing a possibility;
  • A Notary Public can certify and attest that they made a true copy of a document. A person would bring proper personal identification and an original document to the Notary Public. They will compare the original and the copy or make the copy themselves and certify that the copy is a true copy by attaching a Notarial Certificate to it. However, this act will not verify the legality, accuracy, or contents of the original document; and
  • A Notary Public can witness or certify a signature on a document. The Notary Public will first identify the person signing the document and then sign and stamp the said document, certifying that the person who signed the document is one and the same as the one stated in the signature line.

To be clear, when you notarize a document, by law, the Notary Public cannot tell you which of these options is required. You will need to check with the institution making the request for a notarized document to confirm what they are looking for. Further, it should be noted that only an original document can be notarized or commissioned. If you sign the document prior to meeting with the Notary Public, it cannot be notarized retroactively.

What Sorts Of Documents Reqire A Notary Public?

Some of the more common types of documents that require notarizations are:

  • Affidavits;
  • Statutory Declaration;
  • Consent to travel letters;
  • Marriage or divorce certificates;
  • Separation agreements;
  • Powers of attorney; and
  • Permit letters.

What If You Require An International Document Notarized?

As mentioned above, a Notary Public is able to notarize documents for used outside of Canada. The documents typically require a “legalization” process. This means that after visiting the Notary Public, the document needs to be taken to a place of legalization for a certificate confirming the authenticity of the stamp. Certain countries, recently including Canada, are bound by the so called Hauge Apostille Convention. All countries bound by this convention have agreed to allow the document to be legalized in the country of origin. In the Greater Toronto Area for example, after a document is notarized, it is now enough to visit the Official Document Services building for a legalization certificate prior to sending the document out to the destination country, providing that the said country has also signed the convention. If the destination country has not entered into the Hague Apostille Convention, a trip to the consulate or embassy of the said country will usually be required.

A common example of an international document is the Power of Attorney. Many residents of Ontario are immigrants who have real estate, bank accounts and other assets in their country of origin that from time to time may need to be managed. A Power of Attorney, drafted in accordance with the laws of the said country, or in certain situations, drafted according to Canadian law and properly translated, may be used by a trusted individual in that country to administer the assets.

Who Should I Call?

At Empel Law Professional Corporation, our lawyers are well versed and experienced in notarizations, including drafting and legalizing documents for use in Poland and India. We can assist you in these languages to ensure that your documents are prepared correctly for whatever purpose you require. If you wish to have a document notarized.

EMPEL LAW PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION IS NOT RETAINED AS YOUR COUNSEL IF YOU FILL OUT AND RETURN THIS FORM. UNTIL ONE OF OUR LAWYERS REACHES OUT TO YOU AND A RETAINER CONTRACT IS SIGNED THERE IS NO SOLICITOR/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
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