What is a Notary Public?
The tradition of Notaries goes back over 2000 years — to the dawn of recorded history. Notaries laid down the Codex Hammurabi, the oldest evidence of recorded law. Notaries were also employed by the Catholic Church to guide the light of civilization through the Dark Ages. The Notary’s reputation for trustworthiness meant that documents retained a stable reliability throughout centuries of upheaval.
Who are BC Notaries?
BC Notaries are proud members of a group of legal professionals commissioned for life by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and are governed by the Notaries Act of BC and the Principles for Ethical & Professional Conduct Guideline of their professional society. Today, the position of Notary as a member of one of the branches of the legal profession is sanctioned and safeguarded by law. BC Notaries are unique in North America, providing non-contentious legal services to the public.
Today’s BC Notaries require a specialized master’s degree and several years of business experience; often in real estate, insurance, accounting, or the legal field. The combination of integrity, business experience, and specialized legal education means that your Notary Public stands proudly among other legal professionals. Training for a career as a Notary Public involves an intensive multi-phased programme. After being screened for character, reputation, and integrity, candidates are admitted to Simon Fraser University’s Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies. Once the Master’s degree is obtained, candidates undertake an intensive practical training and mentoring programme administered by the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia. This Combination of programmes ensures new notaries receive comprehensive knowledge of the academic and procedural aspects of notarial practice. For more information on the Education requirements and programme, visit the Education section on the Society of Notaries of BC’s website.
Finally, Notaries in BC put a high priority on service to their local communities. Over one third are involved in fundraising and social service, over one third in business associations, and more than 30 percent are active in youth sports and recreation.
What Can a Notary Public Do?
BC Notaries are trained in non-contentious legal matters, specializing in preparing documents that define and protect your interests. Notaries do not argue cases before a judge. Their role is not as an antagonist, but rather of a facilitator committed to properly preparing and registering your legal documents and giving you proper legal advice.
In spite of some opinions that Notaries are not allowed to provide legal advice, British Columbia Courts have confirmed that Notaries can and are obliged to give accurate legal advice in areas in which they are authorized to practice and to the same standard as solicitors who are members of the Law Society of British Columbia. Moreover, the Legal Profession Act does not give a complete monopoly on the giving of legal advice and there is an explicit exemption for BC Notaries: “(1)(1)(j) the lawful practice of a notary public”.
The four main areas in which Notaries normally practice are Real Estate, Wills & Estates, Notarizations, and Contracts. However, on the Society of Notaries of BC’s website you can find a list of over 30 services that BC Notaries can practice. The important part for our clients is that all the professional work performed by a Notary Public is covered by our insurance plan that protects them.