A signing agent, more commonly known as a notary public in Canada, is a government-appointed public officer, who is tasked with the responsibility of witnessing and overseeing the signing of documents, and checking whether or not they are authentic, in order to prevent frauds and scams. The process of becoming a notary public in Canada varies from province to province, as each region has its own rules, regulations, and requirements.
The only scenario in which a non-lawyer notary public is appointed in Alberta is if a lawyer is not available to offer his/her services in a particular area. Complete and submit the required forms to the Official Documents & Appointments Office, along with a recent criminal record check, and a formal letter of support from the organization, which explains why a notary public is needed on site.
In Newfoundland, an applicant looking to become a notary public needs to write a letter which details his place of employment (if he is not a lawyer) and the reason why he wants to become a notary public. This letter, along with the required fee, needs to be submitted to the Deputy Minister of Justice, with a statutory affidavit which mentions the applicant’s name, place of birth, citizenship, and current address. A notary public needs to witness and sign the affidavit.
In this province, applicants need to have a university degree, and those who have around 5 or more years of experience in law, banking, real estate, accounting, or insurance are all given preference. The entire process takes about 2 and a half years, and interested potential notaries are required to undertake a course at the University of British Columbia.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan
In Manitoba it is mandatory for an aspiring notary public to be a reputable lawyer with the Manitoba bar – interested candidates need to fill out and submit an application form available on Manitoba’s Companies Office website. In Saskatchewan, however, any Canadian citizen or British subject who is 18 years of age or more can apply by filling out the form available on the Ministry of Justice website, and submitting it along with the required fee.
Both lawyers and non-lawyers are eligible to become notary publics in Ontario. A lawyer who is established with the Law Society of Upper Canada can apply simply by filling out an application form available on the Ministry of Government Services website, while an aspiring non-lawyer notary public needs to apply through the attorney general’s office, and is then appointed a three-year term.
In Quebec, only licensed lawyers are allowed to become notary publics – it is mandatory for the applicant to have a LL.L, LL.B or a B.C.L. law degree. Once they are appointed, they can choose to specialize in areas like real estate.
In the Yukon, any Canadian citizen can apply to become a notary public – all s/he needs to do is submit a completed form with the required fee, and if her/his character is found to be good, s/he may sit an examination and then take the oath of office. In Nunavut, notary publics are only appointed by the minister of justice, and all those who are interested need to get in touch with the program administrator at the Department of Justice.