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New Requirements for Electronic Signatures

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General issued a Notice to the Public and Legal Profession on February 24, 2022 in regards to electronic signatures.

Electronic signatures on court documents have to be in one of the following formats:

  • a certificate-based digital signature on a digital document (i.e., a mark applied using software such as Adobe or DocuSign that bears the signatory’s name, a serial number, and a date, and is verifiable within the electronic document)
  • a scan of a wet handwritten signature on a digital document (i.e., scan of a document that was signed by hand using a pen – in PDF, JPEG or similar format)
  • a non-wet handwritten signature on a digital document (i.e., signature generated by hand directly into an electronic document using an electronic stylus, trackpad, touchscreen, etc.)

A “signature” that is simply a typed name, with or without a font change, will not be accepted, subject to judicial direction.

An electronic signature cannot be used on the following documents:

  • a Will, codicil, testamentary trust, power of attorney
  • a negotiable instrument (cheque, promissory note, etc.)
  • a payment bond or a letter of credit
  • a document that is prescribed or belongs to a prescribed class under the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 (currently none)
  • a document of title, except a contract of carriage of goods (see s. 31 of the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000) (e.g., bill of sale, deed)