Every petition begins as an idea and progresses through several stages on its way to being signed and presented in the House of Commons for response from the government. If you have an idea for a petition on a matter that is important to you, this guide will help you to get started and to navigate the process for submitting an electronic petition.
A petition is used to draw attention to an issue of public interest or concern and to request that the House of Commons, the Government of Canada, a Minister of the Crown, or a Member of the House of Commons take some action. A person preparing and submitting such a request is known as a petitioner.
Petitioners cannot directly present a petition to the House of Commons; only a Member of Parliament is able to do so. In order to have a petition posted on the House of Commons e-petition website and eventually presented in the House, it must be sponsored by a Member.
A petition must also meet certain requirements established by the rules and practices of the House. The Clerk of Petitions, a non-partisan House of Commons employee, holds the authority to certify that these requirements have been met.
This guide focuses on the process for creating and submitting electronic petitions (“e-petitions”) by members of the public. For paper petitions, see the guide entitled Paper Petitions – Guide for the Public.
Note: A petitioner may only have one e-petition open for signature in his or her name at any one time.
The first step towards creating an e-petition is to create an account on the e-petitions website.
In addition to providing a valid e-mail address and choosing a password, a petitioner must provide the following contact information:
You may not use an e-mail address or a device with an IP address associated with the Government of Canada or the Parliament of Canada to create an account.
Once your contact information has been submitted, a message with an embedded hyperlink will automatically be sent to your e-mail address, prompting you to confirm the creation of your account.
Now that you have created an account, you may begin to draft a petition. A standardized template to assist you in your drafting is provided on the website; see also Appendix A “Sample Format for an Electronic Petition” below. Please note the following guidelines for composing the text of a petition:
The petition must be addressed to one of the following:
When creating a new petition, you will need to compose a text of no more than 250 words that identifies whom it is that you are addressing, and the specific request you are making of them, also called a “prayer,” to take or to avoid some concrete action in order to remedy a grievance.
The petition may also include a more detailed description of the grievance or a statement of opinion, but these alone cannot be received as a petition; a concrete, specific request must be included. The request must be clear and to the point, and phrased as a request and not as a demand.
The text of your e-petition may not include a URL, any other link or web-based reference. Any petition that includes such links will be rejected.
The petition must be respectful, use temperate language, and not contain improper or unparliamentary language. In particular, it should not contain disrespectful or offensive language with respect to the Crown, Parliament, or the courts. It may not include charges made against the character or conduct of Parliament, the courts, or any other duly-constituted authority. The e-petition must be written in either English or French.
The petition must concern a subject that is within the authority of the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons, or the Government of Canada. A petition must not concern a purely provincial or municipal matter.
The petition may not concern a matter that is sub judice, i.e. a matter that is the subject of legal proceedings or currently before the courts.
Two e-petitions that are substantially the same may not be open for signature at the same time. An e-petitioner whose e-petition is substantially the same as another may wait for the first e-petition to close, or may amend his or her e-petition so as to make it distinctive. A search function is available on the website in order to identify exisiting e-petitions.
Before you begin collecting signatures from the general public, the three steps listed below must be completed. You will receive an e-mail advising you when the petition progresses through each step.
Once the petition has been published on the e-petitions website, it is available to be signed by the public. The “signature” consists of providing one’s name and some basic contact information. The Clerk of Petitions has the right to reject any signatures of which the validity is in doubt. Please note the following with regard to signatures:
An e-petition will remain open for signatures for 120 days. To receive final certification, an e-petition must receive a minimum of 500 valid signatures during this period. If an e-petition has not garnered the minimum number of signatures by then, it will proceed no further, but will remain visible online.
In the event a petition is published and open for signature and the sponsor ceases to be a Member, you will be invited to select a new sponsor, but this is not a requirement.
Once the deadline for signing a petition has closed, the Clerk of Petitions will proceed with a final validation of signatures and will issue a certificate that includes the text of the petition and the total number of signatures, provided that at least 500 valid signatures are present. This certificate will be forwarded to the sponsoring MP and it can then be presented either by the sponsor or by another MP in the House. A record of this presentation will appear in the Journals for that day and you, the supporters and the signatories of the petition will be advised by e-mail.
The Standing Orders (the rules governing the House of Commons) require the government to respond within 45 calendar days to every petition presented in the House of Commons.
You, the supporters, the signatories, and the sponsor will be notified by e-mail when the response is tabled in the House. A copy will also be found on the e petition website along with the original petition.
In the event that the government fails to respond to a petition within 45 calendar days, the matter of the government’s failure to respond is automatically referred to the standing committee designated by the MP who presented the petition. Within five sitting days of such a referral, the Chair of the committee must convene a meeting to consider the matter.
At prorogation (the period of time between two sessions of a Parliament), the e-petitions website remains active and petitioners may continue to submit petitions and gather signatures. However, certified petitions may not be presented in the House until the opening of the new session, and any outstanding government responses to petitions presented in the previous session must be tabled in the new session.
The dissolution of Parliament (the end of a Parliament triggering a general election), on the other hand, terminates the e-petitioning process. New petitions cannot be submitted until the date set for the return of the writs. Any e-petition that has not been presented to the House before dissolution, including those that have been certified but not yet presented, must be started anew in the next Parliament. Any signatures gathered up to that point may not be reused; signatories who wish to support the new petition will have to sign again. The government’s obligation to respond to a petition likewise ends at dissolution.
Basic information collected from petitioners (name, city, province or territory, and country) is permanently published along with the text of each e-petition on the website. Other contact information (e-mail address and phone number) is shared with potential MP sponsors identified by petitioners when they create and submit an e-petition and with the Clerk of Petitions for the purpose of validating the petitioner’s identity. In the event that a petition becomes the subject of a committee proceeding, the Clerk of Petitions may share the petitioner’s contact information with the clerk of the relevant committee, should the committee wish to invite the petitioner to appear before it.
“PETITION TO THE
[A petition must be addressed to one of the following - select one:]
[This section is optional: you may here state facts or opinions (known as grievances) supporting your request. A petition may include many grievances, but keep in mind that it may not contain more than 250 words.]
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED,
[Here you may identify, in general terms, who the petitioners are. For example: “We the undersigned citizens (or residents) of Canada”; “electors of (name of electoral district)”; “residents of the Province of (name)”; “residents of the City (or Village, etc.) of (name)”.]
CALL UPON THE
[Indicate whom you would like to take action on your request. It is usually the same addressee as above, but it may be different – select one:]
[Set out the request by stating succintly what action the petitioners wish the addressee to take or what action it should refrain from taking.] ”