There are still many questions around the obligations of a commissioner for oaths in these times of social distancing. In general, the requirements for administering an oath continue to apply. The Law Society has reached out to the Department of Justice and Public Safety on this issue; however, we have not been provided with any indication that there will be any legislative changes enacted regarding the commissioning of documents during the Public Health State of Emergency.
The Law Society cannot provide legal advice with respect to the commissioning of documents. The commissioning of documents is not regulated by the Law Society. You may wish to conduct legal research to determine whether and/or in what circumstances virtual commissioning of documents might be permitted.
It should be noted, however, that both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have relaxed their rules. Here is the guidance provided by the Supreme Court on March 20, 2020:
“Where it is not possible to obtain a signature from a person authorized to administer oaths, parties may file unsworn/unaffirmed affidavits or documents without that signature. The Court may require that a party/affiant participate in a telephone or videoconference hearing to swear/affirm to facts contained in an affidavit or other document. The Court may require original documents to be filed before granting any order.”
The Court of Appeal stated the following on March 18, 2020:
“Documents requiring a signature from a commissioner for oaths may be submitted electronically without that signature where a party does not have access to a person who is a commissioner for oaths. As soon as practicable, parties must file with the Court the original document signed by a commissioner for oaths.”
If any of the courts provide further guidance, the Law Society will forward it to you. You may also wish to check the courts’ websites from time to time for other updates:
Provincial Court: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/
Supreme Court: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/
Court of Appeal: https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/
Some of you have also been wondering whether you are permitted to keep your office open. The provincial government has indicated that all “non-retail businesses can stay open, as long as workers can maintain physical distancing. Workers cannot be within six feet of each other or the clients they serve.” For more information on exemptions or how this statement may be interpreted, email COVID19info@gov.nl.ca
If you have questions about any of this information, please contact Brenda B. Grimes, QC, Executive Director of the Law Society, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (709) 722-4795.