A commissioner of oaths is a person who is authorized to verify written legal documents, such as affidavits, on oath. A commissioner of oaths can take affidavit, affirmations and declarations where permitted or required by law. Most commonly, a commissioner of oaths is a solicitor. Every lawyer who has a current practicing certificate can be a commissioner for taking oaths and may continue to do so as long as they remain a lawyer.
In Ontario, Commissioner of oaths services are regulated by the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act.
When a commissioner is a solicitor, they cannot use their power to act in any proceedings where they are counsel for any of the parties or have any personal involvement. For a commissioner that is not a solicitor, they cannot practice outside an area of practice for which they have been appointed. Finally, where a commissioner of oaths is a Peace Commissioner, they cannot charge for their services of administering oaths.
Steps in Taking Written Declarations and Affidavits
1. Verify the Signature
The services of a commissioner require that they verify the genuineness of the signature. Therefore, the document must be signed in the commissioner’s presence and the person’s identity must be verified with government issued I.D.
2. Administer the Declaration, Oath or Affirmation
- To ensure the evidence in question is in written form – ie. a draft affidavit.
- Establish the person wishing to have the affidavit commissioned has read the affidavit and understands the contents.
- Verify the identity of the person swearing the affidavit with a valid I.D., such as a valid driver’s license or passport.
- Require the person to swearing the affidavit to repeat the words of the oath “do you affirm that this is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
- Verify the affidavit was sworn but signing the “jurat” on the affidavit.
3. Complete the Jurat
The jurat is the last step in the commissioning of an affidavit. The jurat certifies where and when you took the affidavit or declaration. It typically appears at the end of the document. Signing the jurat is the final step in the process. Once complete, the affidavit or declaration is complete!
Commissioner of Oaths vs. Notary Public
In Ontario, notary services are regulated by the Notaries Act. A notary public london ontario has all of the powers of a commissioner of affidavits. However, they can also verify that copies of documents, signatures and marks are true or genuine.
Unlike a commissioner of oaths, lawyers do not automatically become notaries by virtue of having a practicing certificate. For a lawyer to become a notary public they must fill out an application, pay the application fee and then be appointed as a notary public.