Back to the past for remote signing of notarial acts

This letter is intended to be a manifestation of our opposition to the exceptional nature of remote signing introduced by the Law aimed at modernizing the notarial profession and promoting access to justice (the “Law”). As notaries, we express below our position to which many clients, colleagues and stakeholders subscribe.

For years, the Chambre des notaires du Québec (CNQ) has promoted the concept of “family notary”. During the pandemic and with the approval of the Ministry of Justice, the CNQ implemented a solution allowing the remote signing of notarial acts, thus facilitating the maintenance of the link between the population and their notary. This secure advancement, subject to strict standards, offered citizens the opportunity to better choose their notary, establishing a bond of trust, notwithstanding the distance, while offering effective advantages such as time savings and related environmental benefits. to the absence of travel.

Quebec citizens can now consult various professionals online, from the medical field to financial services, while lawyers carry out remote oaths and courts hold hearings in virtual rooms.

Unfortunately, since October 24, 2023, the use of remote electronic signature for notarial acts has been restricted to “exceptional” cases. Our clients will have to sign in person, unless they meet very specific criteria. Why should we have to face extreme situations, such as serious illness or an unserved location, to be able to sign our mortgage refinancing remotely?

The name of the Law is clear: promoting access to Justice. The “exceptional” character stipulated in the Law has the opposite effect. This is a major setback, which will force citizens to no longer choose their notary based on their own criteria, but based on the postal code, as before technological advances. The notarial deed will be dematerialized and on technological support, which is in line with the “modernity” aspect of the Law.

However, how does signing this same act in the physical presence of the notary relate to the “accessibility” aspect? Why go back in time, relegating Quebec notaries to a retrograde and archaic profession, when it was, during the pandemic, avant-garde?

Crucial flexibility

The Minister of Justice chose not to follow the recommendations presented by the Professional Association of Notaries of Quebec and the CNQ and retained the “exceptional” component in the Act. We fully share his vision to prevent the remote signing solution from being misused for inappropriate purposes, but we strongly believe that in the modern world, maintaining flexible tools such as remote signing is crucial. While we cherish in-person meetings, the ability to sign remotely provides invaluable convenience to everyone’s daily lives. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that notaries can always, in all professional conscience, require the physical presence of their clients when circumstances require it. It is in this balance between tradition and innovation that our approach lies.

On November 20, we launched a petition to express the wish that the remote signing of notarial acts be maintained when the circumstances are favorable, thus leaving the choice to clients and to the discretion of the notary’s judgment.

If the “exceptional” qualifier for signing notarial acts remotely is maintained in the Act, we fear that the perceived value of these acts will be considerably diminished in the eyes of the public. Alternative solutions, without travel, will become preferred, relegating the notarial act to a legal obligation rather than a preferred choice for its authenticity and its probative force.

To remain relevant and effective in this fast-paced, Internet-connected world, it is essential to maintain technological advances in our practices while preserving the rigor and integrity of our legal services. The notary has adapted to meet the demands of contemporary society, without sacrificing the reliability and quality of its services.

*Also co-signed this letter: Me Cynthia Gaudette, notary, LGML notaries (Boucherville); Laurent Carli-Trudeau, notary, Bourrassa notaries (Montreal); Me Magali Drouin, notary, CMVR notaries (Beloeil); Me Cassandra Vermette, notary (Mirabel); Me Joanie Mathieu, notary (Saint-Jérôme); Me Jessie Labrecque, notary, president of the Association of Young Notaries of Quebec.

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