A Couple of Things to Consider Before Getting a Quebec document notarized in Ontario

By: Rim Toutounji

We often get clients with a document they have been asked to notarize who are a little confused as to whether they should see a Quebec Notaire or if an Ontario Notary Public will do. Typically, we can tell it needs to be notarized by a Notaire in Quebec when the document is intended to be used in Quebec.

If you are wondering whether your document needs to be commissioned or notarized, and what a Notary Public does, please see our firm’s previous blog post about this topic.

In order to understand the difference between a Notary Public and a Notaire, we would have to understand the difference between Common Law and Civil Law systems. These are two legal systems that countries follow. Canada is unique in that both legal systems are practiced: Quebec follows a Civil Law system while Ontario (and all other provinces) follows a Common Law system. Under these different law systems, what it takes to be a Solicitor, Barrister, or Notary Public varies.

To be clear, Barristers and Solicitors are lawyers – the type of law and manner in which they practice may vary, but they are both considered legal representatives and can be authorized to act on your behalf in different capacities. A licensed lawyer in Ontario would be both a Barrister and Solicitor. In Quebec, Barristers and Solicitors undergo different training. By definition, Solicitors deal with matters that are not court related while Barristers deal mostly with the issues that might end up in court.

To further clarify, a Solicitor can draft your Wills and Powers of Attorney. Wills and Estates are typically taken care of outside of the court and deals more with the general public. A Barrister, however, can help represent the solicitor’s client if the will is contested. The Solicitor advises the Barrister to act on the client’s behalf in court.

In a Civil Law system, a Solicitor may be referred to as a , and is akin to an Ontario Solicitor. They are legal advisors who focus more on conflict resolution rather than litigation. In other words, they try to prevent conflict altogether or to prevent it from escalating so that people in conflict do not necessarily have to appear in court. They can do this by giving legal advice and by representing you in non-contested cases, or in certain uncomplicated cases before the court. An example of a non-contested case could be a straightforward commercial lease review.

In Ontario, under the Common Law legal system, a lawyer licensed by the Law Society is qualified to act as all three: 1) A Barrister; 2) A Solicitor; and 3) A Notary Public. However, acting as a Notary Public is not synonymous with acting as solicitor in Ontario as it is in Quebec.

In addition to non-contested cases and mediation, Quebec Notaire’s may assist with the verification and signing of important legal documents, such as affidavits for court proceedings. However, there are a variety of documents that a Notary Public can certify that a Quebec Notaire typically does not. In Ontario, a Notary Public can also act as a Commissioner of Oaths by administering oaths and certify Affidavits. A Quebec Notaire is separate from a Quebec Commissioner of Oaths and is not expected to take on that role.

Sometimes, clients will get a will, agreement, or contract, prepared outside of our office but will come in to get it notarized. This is perfectly fine to do in Ontario. However, a Quebec Notaire does not typically just notarize a pre-prepared will. They will likely have to be retained for the purpose of drafting and then notarizing the will. The will prepared by a Quebec Notaire is classified as a “Notarial document” which is considered to be highly reliable and will likely not be challenged.

A Quebec Notaire’s signature and seal carries a different meaning than an Ontario Notary Public’s signature and seal. In Quebec, having a Notaire’s seal on your document means that: 1) the Notaire was involved in the process of getting this document done by meeting with the parties; 2) ensured that all the relevant laws, rules, and regulations were adhered to; and 3) verified as an impartial party that there was no bias during the preparation of the document.

While in Ontario, a Notary Public’s seal on a document ensures that: 1) the identity of the signer was verified; and 2) the document was signed by the verified signer. A Notary Public may also apply their signature and seal on a copy of an original document to certify that it is a true and exact copy. Because typically there is no retainer in place before getting a document notarized, the Notary Public is not involved in the production of the document. This means that the validity of the document itself may still be questioned.

As such, Quebec Notaire’s go through a different educational path than Notary Publics do. To become a Notaire, you must go down a different path from the Notary Public in Ontario. You must have a Master of Laws in Notarial Law, undergo a professional training program and become admitted to the Chambre des notaires du Quebec, and you must speak fluent French. This is because a in Quebec is also qualified as a Solicitor. For example, section 10 of the Notaries Act of Quebec states:

“A notary is a public officer and takes part in the administration of justice. A notary is also a legal adviser. The mission of a notary, in his or her capacity as a public officer, is to execute acts which the parties wish or are required to endow with the authenticity attaching to acts of public authority, to provide such acts with a fixed date, and to keep all acts executed en minute in his or her notarial records and issue copies of or extracts from them.”

Notaries Act, RSC, 2020, C N-3, s10 (QL)

Depending on your needs and the requirements of the document, you may choose to go to a Notaire or a Notary Public. If you are unsure where to go, it is always a good idea to double check with whoever is requiring the document to be notarized.

In conclusion, it is always important to double check whether the document you need notarized is to be used in Quebec or elsewhere. If the document is going to be used in Quebec or another Civil Law jurisdiction, you may want to double-check whether an Ontario Notary Public can notarize it for you!

If you are looking to have a document notarized, call our office at 613-800-7571 to schedule an appointment. Our office is experienced to handle document notarization and authentication in accordance with Ontario’s legal requirements.