Obligations of Notaries and Commissioners

October 9, 2018

On September 7, 2018, the Court of Queen’s Bench issued a reminder that Alberta lawyers should not notarize or commission documents presented by Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) litigants.

In Potvin (Re), 2018 ABQB 652, Associate Chief Justice Rooke issued a vexatious litigant order against Mr. Potvin, who had been trying to thwart a foreclosure using OPCA strategies. These litigants engage in arguments which Associate Chief Justice Rooke described as ideas that “sound like law and use legal terminology and references, but which are universally rejected by Canadian courts”. Vexatious litigant orders prevent parties from filing further materials with the Alberta courts, unless they obtain the Court’s permission. The Court’s decision may be found here.

The court expressed its disapproval with two Alberta notaries who had notarized two different documents that had been included with Mr. Potvin’s written arguments. One of those notaries was a lawyer. The court found it disturbing that any notary would authenticate OPCA documents and stated it was a breach of a notary’s and a lawyer’s professional obligations to do so. Even if the notary or lawyer gives no legal advice, notarizing OPCA documents gives a false appearance of authenticity or authority.

The regulations issued under Alberta’s Notaries and Commissioners Act contain Codes of Conduct which apply to lay notaries, articling students and lawyers. The Codes prohibit notaries and commissioners from notarizing, commissioning or participating in the preparation of any document that:

  • is false, incomplete, misleading, deceptive or fraudulent;
  • has the appearance of being validly issued by a court or other legitimate authority but is not;
  • is intended to or has the effect of deceiving any person; or
  • is otherwise lacking valid legal effect.

Lawyers or articling students must not notarize or commission documents prepared by OPCA litigants. For further information, read the Potvin case or call the Practice Advisors.