A “signatory” is a resident of Canada or a citizen of Canada living either in Canada or abroad, who indicates agreement with the ideas and proposals set out in a petition. In the case of a paper petition, this requires a physical signature; in the case of electronic petitions, the “signature” consists of providing and confirming some basic contact information. If you wish to sign an electronic petition, or you are considering it and would like more information, please read on.
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.
An electronic petition (“e-petition”) consists of a text of no more than 250 words addressed to the House of Commons (sometimes addressed as “the House of Commons in Parliament assembled”), the Government of Canada, a Minister of the Crown, or a Member of the House of Commons.
It contains a clear request (not a demand), also called a “prayer”, for some concrete action (either to do something or to refrain from doing something) in order to remedy a grievance. A petition must concern a subject that is within the authority of the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons, or the Government of Canada.
This guide focuses on what is involved in signing an e-petition. To learn more about creating an e-petition, or about supporting an e-petition before it is published, see the guides entitled Electronic Petitions – Guide to Creating and Submitting a Petition and Electronic Petitions – Guide for Supporters. For paper petitions, see the guide entitled Paper Petitions – Guide for the Public.
Once an e-petition has been drafted by a petitioner and has received the electronic support of at least five initial signatories, called supporters, it must be sponsored by a Member of Parliament (MP). The e-petition is then examined by the Clerk of Petitions (a non-partisan House of Commons employee) for conformity to the rules and practices of the House of Commons and is made available to the public to be signed on the House of Commons e-petitions website.
An e-petition will remain open for signatures for 120 days. To receive final certification and be presented in the House of Commons, 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 valid signatures by then, it will proceed no further, but will remain visible online. A general breakdown of signatures by province or territory appears on the e-petitions website along with each petition.
You will receive an e-mail advising you if and when the e-petition is presented in the House of Commons, and once the government’s official response to it has been presented, if applicable.
Under no circumstances is the personal information of signatories made available to the petitioner, to the MP who acts as sponsor, or to the general public. Signatories’ contact information is made available to the Clerk of Petitions and to his or her delegates, in order to validate signatories’ identities and protect the integrity of the petition process. Data may also be used by the Clerk of Petitions for statistical purposes. Personal information gathered from signatories through the e-petition website is destroyed at regular intervals.