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Paper Petitions – Guide and Terms of Use

What is a Paper 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.

Creating a Paper Petition – Form and Content

A standardized template exists to assist you in your drafting and to ensure that the following guidelines for the text of a petition are respected:

Addressee

A petition must be addressed to at least 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 avoid some concrete action to remedy a grievance. It must be clear and direct and phrased as a request, not as a demand.

A petition may include a detailed description of the grievance or a statement of opinion but these alone cannot be received as a petition.

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., a matter that is the subject of legal proceedings or currently before the courts.

Language

A petition must be respectful, use temperate language, and not contain improper or unparliamentary language. 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 will not be accepted.

Draft Petitions

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

Signatures and Addresses

A paper petition must contain a minimum of 25 valid signatures with addresses of Canadian citizens or residents. There is no minimum age requirement to sign 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) their name directly on the petition and must not sign for anyone else. If a person cannot sign their 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 if 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.

Certification

Once a paper petition has been signed and sent to the MP who intends to present it, the MP 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 MP with an explanation.

Presentation of a Paper Petition

You may ask an MP to present your petition even if the MP does not represent your electoral district. In accepting to present a petition, an MP is not necessarily agreeing with the opinions or request set out in the petition.

An MP may present a certified petition to 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 and the text of the petition, along with the total number of signatures, is published on the petitions website. The contact information of the petitioner and the signatories will not be made public.

Government Responses to Petitions

The Standing Orders (the rules governing the House of Commons) require the government to respond within 45 calendar days to every petition presented to the House of Commons. A government response to each petition will be posted on the petitions website along with the petition as soon as possible after the tabling of the response.

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. A paper petition that was certified but not presented in one Parliament can be sent to a Member of the next Parliament for presentation when the House of Commons resumes sitting.

Terms of Use and Privacy of Personal Information

The Member of Parliament presenting a petition to the House is not necessarily supporting the content of the petition. A petition shall not be promoted by using the Member's name without his or her written consent.

The House of Commons is committed to follow best practices related to the protection of personal information collected, used, disclosed, transmitted and preserved as part of the paper petition process.

  • The purpose of personal information collected on paper petitions is to ensure the integrity of the petition process. Data may be used for statistical purposes.
  • The use and provision of false information is prohibited.
  • The House of Commons does not assume any liability for the petitioner's or signatories' personal information on paper petitions before they are sent for certification by the Clerk of Petitions.

Once a Member of Parliament has sent a paper petition to the Clerk of Petitions for certification, the personal information of the petitioner and signatories will be subject to the following:

  • Only House of Commons' authorized personnel will have access to  personal information as written on the paper petition, which will not be shared or publicly disclosed.
  • Once processed by the House of Commons' authorized personnel, paper petitions will be securely stored in the Private Members' Business Office for a duration of six months after they are received by that office or until dissolution of a Parliament, whichever is earlier, after which they will be destroyed by the House of Commons' authorized personnel.

For Further Information

Clerk of Petitions
Room 314-C, West Block
House of Commons
Tel: 613-992-9511
Fax: 613-947-7626
Email PMB-AED@parl.gc.ca

Last revised: September 2019

Appendix A — Sample Template of an Acceptable Petition

First page of the petition

Petition to (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)

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.)

We, the undersigned (Identify the petitioners in general terms, for example: citizens and residents of Canada, electors of (name of electoral district), residents of the Province of ..., residents of the City (or Village, or Township, etc.) of ...), 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
1.
2.

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
3.
4.
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