Commissioners of Oaths in Alberta Have New Rules

Waaaay back in 2013 there was an Alberta Bill passed that consolidated the Notaries Public Act and the Commissioners for Oaths Act. These two pieces of legislation are in place to make the rules for notarizing and commissioning documents clear and to provide a way to deal with any problems that crop up, among other things. The Notaries and Commissioners Act SA 2013, N-5.5 will come into force on April 30, 2015.

All notaries in Alberta are also commissioners, so combining the legislation makes sense.

The new legislation does contain some changes for commissioners:

Old legislation: commissioners appointments (if appointed after June 1991) expired on the third birthday after appointment unless cancelled by the Minister in writing.
New legislation: commissioners terms of office are (the same) defined in a regulation [this means that they are much easier to change].

Old legislation: commissioners by virtue of their office who could administer oaths and take and receive affidavits made outside Alberta for use in Alberta, declarations and affirmations included members of a Metis settlement council, a school trustee.
New legislation: For documents and oaths made outside Alberta for use in Alberta, only Saskatchewan side commissioners who live or provide services in Lloydminster, political representatives and active full time officers in the Canadian Forces are listed in the legislation (section 16(3)).

Old legislation: commissioners legibly inserted their name, and if they were appointed by the Minister (rather than by virtue of office) their commission termination date; liable for a fine of $100 if non-compliant.
New legislation: commissioners legibly insert their name, “A Commissioner for Oaths in and for Alberta”, appointment expiry or if by virtue of office, their office status (i,.e Student-at-Law); liable for a fine of $1000 if non-compliant.

Old legislation: penalty for not following the rules or representing yourself as a commissioner when you are not one – $500
New legislation: penalty for not following the rules or representing yourself as a commissioner when you are not one – $5000

New legislation: you can only apply to be a commissioner if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
New legislation: the Minister may establish directives governing the duties of commissioners as well as a code of conduct
New legislation: the Minister may issue written directions to the Judicial Council, Law Society, employers of commissioners and anyone else the Minister considers it to be necessary to administer the act
New legislation: contains consequential amendments to the Alberta Evidence Act regarding oaths made outside Alberta, changing the definition of lawyer and restricting effective guarantees to lawyers (as opposed to Notaries) in the Guarantees Acknowledgment Act, as well as tidying up references in other acts.

Like most legislative amendments these are small changes that have big implications.

(edited to highlight the GAA change – Thanks Mike!)

Comments

  1. The final paragraph should be in bold, 32 point font.

    Starting on April 30, only lawyers (not notaries, not articling students) can do GAA certificates.

    This is something every Alberta lawyer that comes within 50 feet of a personal guarantee needs to know about, particularly as the Alberta courts have a history of strictly enforcing the rules.

  2. Mike, you are right that the GAA change should be highlighted and I have done so.
    Thanks!

  3. Thanks Shaunna. I was being metaphorical but it helps.

    Its one of those things where we’re telling all the students (repeatedly in case the message is missed) not to do them anymore, and telling all the lawyers not to ask the students to do them anymore.

  4. The Law Society of Alberta (Nancy Carruthers, Practice Advisor) posted a comprehensive article about the changes at http://lawsociety.ab.ca/law-society-today/articles/articles-list/2015/04/21/new-notaries-and-commissioners-act-in-force-april-30-2015

  5. I take it there is nothing in the new notaries legislation about electronic notarization, which would need an electronic seal. Do you know if there was any discussion of venturing into this area, or did it not even come up?

    Some time ago I asked on Slaw how one could do a notarial copy of a document that existed only in electronic form. Does the new statute in Alberta help answer that question? One possible answer, canvassed in my note, was to notarize a printout.

    Some US states now allow for electronic notarization, and electronic apostilles, which are the equivalent of notarial seals for some purposes, are becoming used more broadly. Is there any Canadian action of a similar kind? Has Quebec got there yet, through the Chamber of Notaries?

  6. I’m trying to find a Commissioner for Oaths in Spruce Grove or Stony Plain and open on Saturday morning. I will be in the area on September 26 to get various probate forms signed and witnessed and hope to locate someone who is available to help.
    thanks

  7. Hi Fern. I would recommend one of the Registry offices as they often have Commissioners on staff and some are open on the weekend.
    Best of luck

  8. Thank you for taking the time to post Shauna, this was a really informative article for those looking into the rules for a commissioner of oath. It is nice to know that they do have a fine if non-compliant with important standards and certifications, as you mentioned. Would you suggest any specific commissioners to deal with around Calgary?

  9. The only commissioners I personally know if in Calgary are at my firm. I am not comfortable making a recommendations. All Alberta Registries are likely to have Commissioners