A notary public is one who can witness oaths, solemn affirmations, statutory declarations or the signing of affidavits. A notary public may also certify documents to be true copies of the original.In some jurisdictions, a notary public can also draft contracts, promissory notes, wills, mortgages and other legal documents. Almost always, the powers of a notary public in each province are derived from provincial legislation.
For instance, in Ontario a notary public derives his or her authority from the Notaries Act which states: “[a] notary public has and may use and exercise the power of drawing, passing, keeping and issuing all deeds and contracts, charter-parties and other mercantile transactions in Ontario. It also involves attesting to all commercial instruments that may be brought before him or her for public protestation, and otherwise acting as is usual in the office of a notary public and having all the rights, profits and emoluments rightfully appertaining and belonging to the calling of notary public”.
In some jurisdictions, such as a number of provinces, the requirements for becoming a notary public are much more stringent than the above and effectively result in only lawyers being able to provide notary public services.
Just as commissioners of oaths, a notary public may also witness oaths, solemn affirmations and declarations. However, it is not necessary that a notary’s seal be affixed to the document.
Affirmation of an Oath
Where an oath is being witnessed by a notary public or a commissioner of oaths, the deponent is required to confirm the following inquiry: “Do you swear that the contents of this affidavit as subscribed by you are true? So help you God”.
If this type of oath is not preferred, deponents may instead affirm by responding ‘yes’ to: “Do you solemnly affirm and declare that the contents of this affidavit as subscribed by you are true?”
Where a solemn declaration is required instead, the deponent must declare in the positive to the following question: “Do you make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing it to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath?”
In every case, the deponent must be physically present before the notary public or commissioner of oaths.