What is a Notary Public?
The Mystery of BC Notaries: Who We Are and What We Do

The terms “notary public” or “notaries public” are very common. However, sometime even professionals like lawyers, realtors, mortgage brokers, bankers, etc. don’t fully understand what this profession entails and what we do.
Like any other Canadian resident, most likely you have an idea about when you need to seek out a notary for our services, but not many know that in North America there are three types of Notaries (and BC Notaries are just one of these types).

Let’s start with the most common question:

What are the 3 types of Notaries that we have in North America?

  1. First group of Notaries who practice in North America are “common-law notaries”, who are practicing in most of the States (USA) and Provinces (in Canada), except for the State of Louisiana and the Province of Quebec. These “common-law notaries” are normally just clerks who can notarize various documents and cannot give any legal advice.
  2. Second type of Notaries, who practice in Quebec and Louisiana are trained lawyers, who graduated with a Bachelor’s in Civil Law from an accredited law school and then – an additional 1-2 years of articling/master’s degree.
  3. The third and unique type of Notaries in North America are the BC Notaries, who are proud members of a group of legal professionals commissioned for life by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. BC Notaries require a bachelor’s degree followed by a specialized master’s degree from SFU and several years of business experience; often in real estate, insurance, accounting, or the legal field. Can provide non-contentious legal services in these main areas of law: Real Estate Transactions (Purchases, Sales, Mortgage Refinancing), Wills & Estates (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements), Various Notarizations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations, Certified True Copies, etc.) and Contracts. On the Society of Notaries of BC’s website you can find a list of over 30 services that BC Notaries can practice.

What can BC Notaries do?

BC Notaries can provide non-contentious legal services in these main areas of law: Real Estate Transactions (Purchases, Sales, Mortgage Refinancing), Wills & Estates (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements), Various Notarizations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations, Certified True Copies, etc.) and Contracts. On the Society of Notaries of BC’s website you can find a list of over 30 services that BC Notaries can practice.

Can BC Notaries give legal advice?

Despite some opinions (often being promoted even by some professionals) that Notaries are not allowed to provide legal advice, BC Courts have confirmed that BC Notaries can and are obliged to give appropriate 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 just to Lawyers and there is an explicit exemption for BC Notaries: “(1)(1)(j) the lawful practice of a notary public”.