A Notary Public is a person designated by the Provincial Government or the pertinent regulatory body who is in charge of administering oaths, authenticating legal documents, contracts, and copies, and taking affidavits and declarations on legal matters. In Canada, with the exception of British Columbia and Quebec, it is not necessary for Notaries Public to be Lawyers, as any person that has completed the necessary training may be appointed. They are limited to the aforementioned tasks and are not generally allowed to practice law.
In British Columbia, Notaries Public are Lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the position is held for life. As such, they possess the qualifications and preparations necessary to practice law and offer legal advice as well as writing and preparing legal documentation. Notaries from Quebec are also Lawyers, but they work in the civil law system, meaning that all laws exist in a codex that can be referred to when necessary. Quebec Notaries may represent their clients out of court, serve as Mediators, and provide testimony on behalf of one party before a court of law. The term Notary Public is rarely used in Quebec; instead, they have Commissioners of Oaths (Commissaires à l'assermentation) in charge of authenticating legal documents.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Notaries Public are required to complete.
- Preparing wills, mortgages, and other legal documents.
- Administering oaths and taking declarations to be used in legal matters:
- Explaining the legal processes and procedures to be followed depending on their requests; and
- legalizing and authenticating affidavits, testimonies, and other legal declarations.
- Witnessing and certifying or authenticating the validity of signatures on documents as an impartial observer in order to prevent fraud and theft within public or private matters:
- Authenticating all notarized documents by signing them and using an embossed seal or stamp that verifies their presence at the signing of a particular document;
- making sure they thoroughly assess each client before actually putting their seal of approval on the corresponding documents;
- verifying the document and identity of each signer by checking identification documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, passports, driver’s licences and other IDs;
- ensuring that no coercion to sign was exercised in either of the parties involved in a legal contract or document;
- reporting any issues (e.g. potential frauds) as soon as they arise; and
- being present when cases require provincial approvals (e.g. lawsuits and property matters).
- Certifying any legal document as a true copy of the original.
- Keeping records of notarized documents and ensuring that they are in correct order for public reference.
- Maintaining the necessary stock of legal stamps, seals, and materials:
- Keeping their stamps, seals, and other materials safely locked.
- Staying up-to-date with the latest changes involving the legislation and regulatory bodies.
- Performing wedding ceremonies where allowed.
- Witnessing and authenticating the signatures on any legal document.
- Signing and stamping legal documents once their authenticity is verified.
- Administering oaths and taking affidavits.
- Ensuring that all personal information of the involved parties is correct.
- Maintaining a record of all activities performed.
The average salary for Notary Public related jobs is $37,050 per year or $19 per hour. This is around 1.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $26,000 while most experienced workers make up to $52,000. These results are based on 1 salary extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent communication skills:
- Being able to communicate clearly with others, both verbally and in writing;
- being precise and specific when drafting legal documents (e.g. wills and mortgages); and
- having excellent interviewing skills.
- Outstanding analytical skills:
- Possessing good analytic and people skills in order to identify potential fraud or identity theft;
- thoroughly analyzing every document in order to prevent fraud; and
- report any suspicious activities or issues that may arise with a legal document or during a signing.
- Good computer skills:
- Writing legal documents using word processors and other computerized applications.
- High levels of integrity, morality, honesty, and responsibility:
- Handling sensitive or confidential information.
Apart from British Columbia and Quebec, Notaries Public in Canada are required to possess a college or university degree in areas such as Business, Administration, Finance, or Law. In British Columbia and Quebec, all applicants are required to be fully licensed Lawyers in order to apply for the position. The process can vary greatly from one province to another. In most cases, each jurisdiction has a set number of Notaries Public. Some of these positions may be held for life, whereas others are appointed for a specific amount of time with the possibility of renewal, depending on regulations.
Most provinces will require candidates to submit the necessary forms to be appointed as Notaries Public. There are no established years of previous experience before candidates are able to apply for a position. Once their submission has been accepted, applicants must go through a traineeship program which may last one (1) to two (2) years depending on the province. A final examination is often part of the program. Once appointed, they may act as Notaries Public only within their respective province or territory.
Being a Notary Public can become very stressful due to all the moral and legal responsibilities they have to abide to and the fact that any mistake in determining the validity of a document or a client can potentially lead to legal repercussions.