What is a Commissioner of Oaths and a Notary?

Do you need to have a document commissioned or notarized? Both of these are formal ways to sign and verify the truthfulness of a document. Whether you have a document commissioned or notarized depends on the type of document, its purpose and the jurisdiction. You should ask a lawyer if it is not clear whether a document needs to be commissioned or notarized. This post is for information only and is not legal advice.

Commissioner of Oaths or Notary

A Commissioner of Oaths is a person with the authority to administer an oath and witness your signature. The Commissioner of Oaths places their stamp on the signature page, which usually includes the expiry of their appointment as a Commissioner of Oaths. Lawyers are automatically Commissioners of Oaths as long as they are practicing law and therefore do not have an expiry date, but their stamp should say that they are a lawyer, barrister and/or solicitor. Typical documents that are commissioned are: affidavits, financial statements and statutory declarations.

A Notary signs and seals your document. They use a clamp seal to do this. A Notary’s seal and signature is registered in their jurisdiction so that it can be verified. Lawyers are automatically notaries, but there are also non-lawyer Notary Publics who have authority to notarize documents. You can notarize a document that needs to be commissioned; however, you cannot commission a document that needs to be notarized. Interprovincial documents often need to be notarized. For example, if you have an affidavit for court in Alberta, but you are in British Columbia, you need that document to be notarized rather than commissioned, whereas if you were signing the document in Alberta, it would only need to be commissioned. Types of documents that are notarized include Land Title registrations, international documents, travel authorizations and certified true copies.

The cost of notarizing is typically more than the cost of commissioning. If you are looking for a Commissioner of Oaths, I suggest contacting your municipal office (town/city hall) as they often offer this service or contact your local courthouse. If you need a document notarized, contact a law office or a Notary Public.

If you are swearing to the truth of a document, do NOT sign the document before you go see a Commissioner of Oaths or Notary. They need to watch you sign the document. And, don’t forget to bring your government issued photo ID.

This post is for informational purposes only. If you require legal advice, please contact a lawyer

Lawyer Jamie Fitzel facing camera and smiling

Written by Jamie Fitzel, family lawyer at Step By Step Law.

Last updated/reviewed on November 23, 2022.