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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 Parliament 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 therefore 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. In addition to the summary below, rules governing petitions can be found in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons (Standing Order 36). Additional information can also be found in House of Commons Procedure and Practice (Chapter 22).

Petitions can be prepared and processed as printed documents or in electronic format. This guide contains information in relation to paper petitions.

Creating a Paper Petition – Form and Content

A 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 Parliament.

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 or concern. It must be clear, direct, respectful, and be phrased as a request, not as a demand.

The petition may include a detailed description of the grievance or concern, 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.

Language

A petition must use respectful and moderate language, and not contain improper or unparliamentary language. It should not contain disrespectful or offensive language with respect to the Crown, Parliament and its members, or the courts. It may not include accusations 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.

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.

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 inadmissible.

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 inadmissible.

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 inadmissible.

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 asking whether it is correctly worded and whether the member 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 and addresses 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.

At least three signatures with addresses must appear on the very first sheet with the text of the petition. The remaining signatures and addresses may appear on subsequent sheets, including 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 member of Parliament who intends to present it, the member must send it to the Clerk of Petitions to certify that it is admissible 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 Paper Petition

You may ask a member of Parliament to present your petition even if the member does not represent your electoral district. In accepting to present a petition, a member does not necessarily endorse the views or information set out in the petition.

A member 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 names and contact information of the petitioner and the signatories will not be made public.

Government Responses to Petitions

The Standing Orders of the House of Commons require the government to respond to every petition presented to the House within 45 calendar days. If the House is not sitting on that day, the response must be presented at the next sitting of the House. 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, at the dissolution of Parliament (the period between the end of a Parliament and the start of a new Parliament after a general election), the obligation for the government to respond to all petitions lapses. A paper petition that was certified but not presented in one Parliament can be sent to a member in 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 does not necessarily endorse the views or information it contains. A petition shall not be promoted by using the member's name without their 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 to the Clerk of Petitions for certification.

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

Email PMB-AED@parl.gc.ca

Last revised: March 2022

Appendix A — Template of an Acceptable Petition

First page of the petition

Petition to the (select: House of Commons, House of Commons in Parliament assembled, Government of Canada, Prime Minister/Minister of [name of ministry], or member of Parliament for [name of constituency])

WHEREAS (Optional)

  • (Here, you may include bullet points to state briefly the reasons underlying your request by summarizing the facts or opinions (known as grievances) 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 the (select an adressee, usually the same as above: House of Commons, House of Commons in Parliament assembled, Government of Canada, Prime Minister/Minister of [name of ministry], or member of Parliament for [name of constituency]) 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 at least three signatures must appear on the first page.)

Signatures (Canadian citizens or residents only)
(Please sign your name, do not print)
Addresses *
1.
2.
3.

* Please note that the use of any address format that clearly establishes the place where a signatory resides is acceptable.

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 or the subject matter 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
4.
etc.
Disclaimer regarding petitions