Written by Gil Zvulony a Toronto Notary Public and Lawyer.

What is a Notary Public?

A notary public is an individual appointed under the Notaries Act who may do such things as: certify documents, witness signings, and administer oaths. According to the Notaries Act (Ontario) R.S.O. 1990, CH N.6, a notary public that is a lawyer: “has and may use and exercise the power of drawing, passing, keeping and issuing all deeds and contracts, charter-parties and other mercantile transactions in Ontario, and also of attesting all commercial instruments that may be brought before him or her for public protestation, and otherwise of acting as is usual in the office of notary public, and may demand, receive and have all the rights, profits and emoluments rightfully appertaining and belonging to the calling of notary public.”  According to the Notaries Act (Ontario) R.S.O. 1990, CH N.6, a notary public that is a lawyer may also exercise the powers of a commissioner for taking affidavits in Ontario.”

How Do I Become a Notary Public or Commissioner of Oaths?

Non-lawyers or licensed paralegals seeking information about applications for notaries public and commissioners of oaths may contact the (Ontario) Ministry of the Attorney General at (416) 326-4064.

What is the difference between a Notary Public and a Commissioner of Oaths?

A commissioner for taking affidavits (also called a commissioner of oaths) only has authority to administer oaths and take affidavits.  The authority is given under the Commissioner for Taking Affidavits Act.  A notary public has much broader authority. A notary public can “notarize” copies of documents (verify as a true copy). Under section 3 of the Notaries Act, they can also: “…exercise the power of drawing, passing, keeping and issuing all deeds and contracts, charter-parties and other mercantile transactions in Ontario, and also attesting of all commercial instruments…”.  Barristers and solicitors in Ontario are automatically commissioners for taking affidavits. They also have the automatic right to be notaries public; however, in order to exercise the notary public function they must apply for and obtain a notary public seal.

How do you Apostille documents in Canada?

You cannot Apostille documents in Canada. Canada is not a member to the international treaty that allows for the apostilling of documents.  The alternative to apostilling documents in Canada is a three step process. 1. Getting the document notarized with a Notary Public. 2. Getting the Notary Public’s seal authenticated. 3. Taking the document to the consulate general for the country that you need it for and getting it legalized.

Do I need to be present for the Notary Public to make a certified copy?

No. When making and certifying copies of an original document, the Notary Public only needs to see the original of the document to be certified. You can make arrangements with us to have your documents sent to us.

What is a certified or notarized copy?

A notarized copy is a photocopy of an original document that has been certified by a notary public to be a true and accurate copy of the original document. A notarized copy is sometimes referred to as a certified copy.

What is an oath or solemn declaration?

An oath is when a person swears that the contents of a document are true and correct. A solemn declaration is when a person solemnly declares that the contents of a document are true and correct. An oath and a solemn declaration have essentially the same legal effect.

The person making the oath or solemn declaration is called a deponent. The act of administering an oath or solemn declaration is called commissioning an oath.

It is not necessary that the deponent hold a religious book, or raise his/her hand to undertake an oath or solemn declaration.

A person may be prosecuted criminally for knowingly making a false oath or solemn declaration.

How Does a Notary Public Commission an Oath or Solemn Declaration?

A notary public should verify the identity of the deponent (usually by examining photographic identification), satisfy himself or herself that the deponent has read and understands the document being commissioned. The deponent will then affirm or swear that the contents of the document are true and correct. The deponent will then sign the document in front of the notary public. The notary public will then sign the document, seal the document, and certify on the document that an oath or solemn declaration has been duly commissioned.

A notary public does not certify that the statement being made is true. Rather, a notary public only certifies that an oath or solemn declaration has been administered (commissioned). No legal advice is given during a commissioning of an oath. In most cases, a notary public will not need to read the document being commissioned.
When attending the notary public’s office the document being commissioned should be complete. The document should be read and understood by the deponent. The deponent should not sign the document being commissioned until the commissioning.

Does the Oath or Solemn Declaration Have to Be Commissioned In Person?

Not always. Usually a deponent must take an oath or solemn declaration in front of a person, such as a notary public, who is qualified to take oaths. Certain jurisdictions, including Ontario have allowed for notarizations to be performed via video conference. Notarizations over the telephone is not permitted.

Can a Notary Public Witness an agreement?

Yes.