The Apostille Convention (the “Convention”) was introduced in Canada this month. This development will have a significant impact on individuals or organizations who are required to authenticate documents for use in a foreign country. For Canadian charities and not-for-profits, the main benefit is that it is easier to have public documents accepted abroad.
On January 11th, 2024, the Convention came into effect in Canada and eliminated various authentication steps. Canada submitted documentation to accede to the Convention on May 12th, 2023. Now, all authenticated documents in countries who are a party to the Convention shall include a standard certificate called an apostille. Apostilles confirm the official status of a document for use. It confirms the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the person who signed the document acted, and the identity of the seal or stamp on the document. This change is significant for charities and not-for-profits as it eliminates the need for them to navigate complex procedures, making it easier for the documents to gain acceptance in over 120 countries that have signed the Convention, including but not limited to Poland, China, and Brazil.
Issuing apostilles in Canada
Apostilles are issued by Global Affairs Canada for (a) documents issued by the Government of Canada, and (b) documents issued or notarized in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon.
Apostilles are issued by competent local authorities for documents issued or notarized in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. The Government of Canada has designated the following offices as competent authorities that are authorized to issue apostilles:
- the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery of Ontario, through Official Documents Services;
- the Ministry of the Attorney General of British Columbia, through the Order in Council Administration Office;
- the Ministry of Justice of Alberta, through the Deputy Provincial Secretary’s Office;
- the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of Saskatchewan, through Authentication Services; and
- the Ministry of Justice of Quebec, through the Directorate General of Registers and Certification.
Some documents (such as adoption papers and bank documents) must be notarized before a competent authority can authenticate them. Linked is a list of documents requiring notarization. The document’s place of notarization will determine where they should be sent for authentication. You can find here a table summarizing where to send notarized documents for authentication.
It is worth noting that Canadian authorities do not authenticate foreign documents, even those that have been notarized by a Canadian notary or notary public. In these cases, the charity or not-for profit should look to the issuing country to authenticate it or obtain an apostille, if applicable.
Canadian charities and not-for-profits operating abroad may be asked to provide corporate documents and prove their authenticity to local authorities. Apostilling makes this process easier. Given this recent development, however, organizations may find themselves using documents already authenticated in Convention-signed countries. In these cases, Global Affairs Canada may not provide an apostille if these documents are re-submitted. Instead, the foreign representative office of the destination country may need to legalize such a document. If organizations want certainty on the correct process to follow, they should reach out to the consular office of their destination country.
Global Affairs Canada will also issue apostilles for documents that will be used in countries that are not part of the Convention. However, charities and not-for-profits should familiarize themselves with the legal requirements of non-signatory countries by contacting those countries’ foreign representatives in Canada. Organizations should verify whether their documents need authentication by a competent Canadian authority and have those documents legalized by the foreign representative office of the destination country.
While foreign pubic documents generally do not require authentication before being used in Canada, certain individuals or institutions may still require it. In these cases, organizations must apply for authentication. This process varies based on whether the document is from a country that is a Convention signatory or not. If the country is a Convention signatory, an application should be made for an apostille from the competent authority in that country. If the Convention is not in effect in that country, however, you should contact the country’s foreign affairs ministry or the respective consular office in Canada.
Apostilles issued by Canadian competent authorities are only offered in print form. However, Global Affairs Canada anticipates offering electric apostilles in the future.
This new streamlined authentication process is a positive development: it will save time and expenses for everyone, including charities and not-for-profits. Organizations should review Global Affairs Canada’s website for more information on current authentication requirements.
If you have any questions, please contact a member of Miller Thomson LLP’s Social Impact group.