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Paper Petitions – Guide for the Public

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 a 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 before your petition can be signed.

What is a 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 or refrain from some action.

Petitioners cannot directly present a petition to the House of Commons; only a Member of Parliament is able to do so. A petitioner must ask a Member if he or she accepts to present the petition in the House.

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 responsibility to certify that these requirements have been met.

This guide focuses on the process for creating and submitting paper petitions. For electronic petitions, please refer to the guide entitled Electronic Petitions – Guide to Creating and Submitting a Petition.

Creating a Paper Petition – Form and Content

A suggested template for paper petitions to the House of Commons that satisfy the requirements below is set out at the end of this guide (see Appendix A – Sample template of an acceptable petition).

Addressee

A petition must be addressed to one of the following:

  • “the House of Commons” or “the House of Commons in Parliament assembled”;
  • “the Government of Canada”;
  • a Minister of the Crown; or
  • a Member of the House of Commons.

Text

The text of a petition is essentially a request, also called a “prayer”, that the addressee take or to avoid some concrete action in order to remedy a grievance.

A petition may include a detailed description of the grievance or a statement of opinion but these alone cannot be received as a petition; a concrete and specific prayer must be included, clear and to the point, and phrased as a request, not as a demand.

If a petition is composed of more than one sheet of signatures and addresses, the prayer or subject matter of the petition must be indicated on every sheet.

Subject of a Petition

Federal jurisdiction

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. A petition must not concern a purely provincial or municipal matter.

Sub judice

A petition may not concern a matter that is sub judice, i.e., currently before the courts.

Language

A 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. A petition must be written in either English or French.

Written, Typewritten or Printed on Paper

The text of a paper petition must be written, typewritten or printed on paper no smaller than 14 cm x 21.5 cm (5.5 x 8.5 inches) and no larger than 28 cm x 43.25 cm (11 x 17 inches). A petition submitted on paper of smaller or larger size, or on any other material, is not acceptable.

Erasures or Interlineations

The text of a petition must not be altered either by erasing or crossing out words or by adding words or commentary. Any alteration will make the petition unacceptable.

Attachments, Appendices, or Extraneous Material

A petition must be free of any other matter attached or appended to, or written or printed on, the petition, e.g. additional documents, maps, pictures, logos, news articles, explanatory or supporting statements, or requests for support. A petition printed on the reverse of another document is not acceptable.

Signatures and Addresses

A paper petition must contain a minimum of 25 valid signatures with addresses. The signatures of non citizens who do not reside in Canada and who therefore cannot petition the House of Commons are not counted. If you anticipate that your petition will circulate outside of Canada, please make sure that your signatories are aware that they may only sign if they are either Canadian citizens, residents of Canada or Canadian citizens residing abroad.

There is no minimum age requirement for anyone signing a petition.

A petition must contain original signatures written directly on the document and not pasted, taped, photocopied, or otherwise transferred to it.

Each signatory must sign (not print) his or her name directly on the petition and must not sign for anyone else. If a person cannot sign his or her own name because of illness or a disability, this must be noted on the petition and the note signed by a witness.

Some signatures with addresses must appear on the very first sheet with the text of the petition. Signatures and addresses may appear on the reverse sides of pages. The use of any address format on a paper petition is acceptable, as long as it clearly establishes the place where a signatory resides. Someone who does not have a fixed address must state it on the petition. Additional contact information, such as telephone numbers or email addresses, is not required.

Draft Petitions

Members of the public who wish to create a petition for its presentation to the House of Commons should first submit a draft of the petition (without signatures) to a Member of Parliament to see whether it is correctly worded and to determine whether the Member will agree to present it once all signatures have been garnered.

Certification

Once a paper petition has been signed and sent to the Member who intends to present it, the Member must send it to the Clerk of Petitions to certify that it is acceptable as to form and content. A petition submitted for certification which does not meet the requirements will be returned to the Member with an explanation.

Presentation of a Petition

You may ask a Member to present your petition even if he or she does not represent your electoral district. The Member who has been asked to present a petition in the House will normally do so, but is not obliged to and may ask another colleague to present it. In accepting to present a petition, a Member is not necessarily agreeing with the opinions or request set out in the petition.

A Member may present a certified petition in the House on any sitting day during Routine Proceedings or at any time during a sitting of the House by filing it with a Clerk at the Table in the Chamber. In both cases, a record of the petition appears in the Journals for that day.

Government Responses to Petitions

The Standing Orders require the government to respond within 45 calendar days to every petition submitted to it. Each petition receives a government response. Any Member who has presented a petition is provided with a copy of the response shortly after it is tabled.

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 Member presenting 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), any outstanding government responses to petitions presented in the previous session must be tabled in the subsequent session. On the other hand, the dissolution of Parliament (the end of a Parliament triggering a general election) ends any requirement for the government to respond to a petition.

For Further Information:

Clerk of Petitions
Room 131-N, Centre Block
House of Commons
Tel: 613-992-9511 
Fax: 613-947-7626
Email pmb-aed@parl.gc.ca

November 2018 

Appendix A — Sample template of an acceptable petition

First page of the petition

We, the undersigned (Identify the petitioners in general terms, for example: electors of (name of electoral district), residents of the Province of ..., residents of the City (or Village, or Township, etc.) of ...), draw the attention of (Select: the House of Commons, the House of Commons in Parliament assembled, the Government of Canada, name of a Minister, or name of a Member of Parliament) to the following:

THAT, WHEREAS (Optional)

  • (Here, you may include bullet points to state briefly the reasons underlying your request by summarizing the facts which you wish the addressee to consider.)

THEREFORE, your petitioners ... (Select: request or call upon) ... (Select: the House of Commons, the House of Commons in Parliament assembled, the Government of Canada, name of a Minister, or name of a Member of Parliament) to ... (Set out the prayer by stating succinctly what action you wish the addressee to take or refrain from taking).

(After the prayer, include a table with 2 columns (one for “Signatures” and one for “Addresses”) and several rows large enough to allow a person to sign. The table may look like this and some signatures must be on the first page.)

Signatures (Canadian citizens or residents only)
(Please sign your name, do not print)
Addresses

Subsequent pages of the petition

(Repeat the prayer from the first page at the top of each subsequent page or the subject matter of your petition. NOTE: The text of the prayer must be the same on each page. Add a table for signatures and addresses, as on the first page, with as many rows as can fit on the page.)

Signatures (Canadian citizens or residents only)
(Please sign your name, do not print)
Addresses

Disclaimer regarding e-petitions