Paper Petitions

The paper petition process starts when a petitioner prepares a document containing the petition in accordance with the rules mentioned above and in this section. Once the signatures have been collected, the petition is sent to a Member who sends it to the Clerk of Petitions for certification. The Clerk of Petitions examines the petition, including the signatures, to ensure that the form and content meet the requirements. If the petition is in order, a certificate signed by the Clerk of Petitions is attached and the petition is returned to the Member for presentation to the House. If the petition cannot be certified, it is returned to the Member with an explanatory note.

A petition with several sheets of signatures may still be certified if the exclusion of unacceptable sheets does not affect its admissibility.

Written, Typewritten or Printed on Paper of Usual Size

To be certified, paper petitions must be written, typewritten or printed on paper of usual size.45 Petitions with photocopied text are acceptable; only the signatures must be written and not copied. Paper of “usual size” is generally interpreted nowadays to mean 21.5 cm × 28 cm (8.5 × 11 inches) or 21.5 cm × 35.5 cm (8.5 × 14 inches) sheets. Petitions produced on materials other than paper do not meet this requirement; likewise, petitions of a non-standard size will not be certified.46

Alterations or Interlineations

To be certified, a petition must be free of alterations or interlineations in its text,47 that is, the text of a petition may not be altered by erasing words, crossing out words, or adding words or commentary.

Attachments, Appendices or Lengthy Extracts

In accordance with a practice established in 1876, a petition is not in order if it has letters, affidavits, or other documents appended or attached to it.48 Material such as maps, pictures, news articles, explanatory or supporting statements attached or appended to petitions will render them unacceptable for certification and presentation to the House.49 The proscription on attachments and appendices includes extraneous matter written, photocopied or affixed on the petition itself.50 Petitions incorporating lengthy extracts from other documents or publications have also been deemed irregular.51 A return address, however, may appear on the petition without constituting an obstacle to its certification. A petition printed on the back of any other document (such as on the back of a Member’s householder or ten percenter) cannot be certified.52

Subject Matter Indicated on Every Sheet

When a petition consists of more than one sheet of signatures and addresses, each succeeding sheet is to contain an indication of the subject matter of the petition53 so that petitioners are made fully aware of the nature of the document they are supporting. This is generally achieved by including the text of the prayer or a summary of the prayer at the top of each additional page, as shown in Figure 22.3, “Form of a Petition”.

Signatures and Addresses

From 1867 until 1986, a petition signed by a lone individual could be presented to the House. The amendments to the Standing Orders adopted in 1986 established that a petition must contain at least 25 signatures to be certified.54 In 1987, a further amendment added the requirement for addresses as well as signatures.55 Since 2003, signatures must be accompanied by the petitioners’ addresses, when they have a fixed place of residence.56 Written addresses may be in the form of complete home addresses, or simply the names of the signatories’ municipality and province of residence, or province and postal code.

Petitioners must not sign for anyone else. If a petitioner cannot sign because of illness or a disability, this must be noted on the petition and the note signed by a witness.

Paper petitions must contain original signatures written directly on the document and not pasted on or otherwise transferred to it.57 In 1872, a petition received by telegraph was ruled out of order because it contained no original signatures;58 in 1986, the Speaker ruled that for the same reason, photocopied signatures were unacceptable.59 Some signatures and addresses must appear on the first sheet, which contains the full text.60 Signatures and addresses may appear on the back of the petition.