International Standardization of Document Authentication Now in Effect in Canada

By Esther S. J. Oh

Feb 2024 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on February 29, 2024



The Apostille Convention, an international treaty intended to simplify the certification of foreign documents, came into effect in Canada on January 11, 2024, and introduced into Canada for the first time a standardized certificate known as an apostille for authenticated documents. An apostille demonstrates the authenticity of a public document, such as a birth certificate or other document issued by a government authority. The Apostille Convention has already been in effect in other countries for many years since the convention was first signed in 1965.

The introduction of the Convention in Canada will be of interest to charities and not-for-profit organizations which may need to have Canadian-issued documents for their volunteers or employees authenticated in other countries where the convention is in effect, as the process is now much simpler. Global Affairs Canada will issue apostilles for documents issued by the Government of Canada, as well as documents issued or notarized in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon. In this regard, if a document was notarized in the provinces and territories listed above, it will still need to be sent to Global Affairs Canada no matter where it was originally issued. Some documents (including some documents issued by the Government of Canada) may need to be notarized (by a lawyer or a notary public) before a “competent authority” can authenticate them. The province or territory where the document was notarized will determine the competent authority where the document must be sent for further authentication for an apostille.

In the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, competent authorities are responsible for issuing apostilles for documents issued or notarized in their respective provinces. In Ontario, the competent authority is the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery of Ontario. Global Affairs Canada will issue apostilles for documents from the Canadian government and all other provinces and territories. Canadian offices abroad now offer apostille services as well. As the responsible competent authorities for issuing apostilles vary by province, and specific guidelines apply based on where the document was issued or notarized, it is essential for charities and not-for-profits to verify requirements before submitting documents for authentication.

Documents that received authentication before the implementation of the Apostille Convention on January 11, 2024, might require legalization from the foreign representative office of the destination country for use in countries that are signatories to the Apostille Convention. To ascertain if a country necessitates legalization of documents, charities and not-for-profits should reach out to the country’s consular office. Refer to the directory “Foreign representatives in Canada: Consular offices’ addresses“ for contact details.

Regarding foreign documents used in Canada, Canadian law typically does not require authentication or legalization. However, some entities in Canada may prefer authenticated or apostilled foreign documents. Authentication procedures for foreign documents vary based on the issuing country’s status regarding the Apostille Convention. Charities and not-for-profits should note that neither the Federal nor provincial governments will authenticate foreign documents, even ones notarized in Canada.

Verification of apostilles can be done by contacting relevant authorities based on the certificate number. Future plans include offering electronic apostilles. For further inquiries, charities and not-for-profits can contact or visit the Global Affairs Canada website, though they have indicated that they are unable to answer questions about provincial authentication services.


Read the February 2024 Charity & NFP Law Update