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Electronic Signatures and Electronic Documents

Electronic Signatures and Electronic Documents

By:

Mann Lawyers

Posted March 26, 2020

COVID-19 has resulted in some drastic changes to nearly every aspect of our lives. Social interactions have been drastically limited, and many people are for the time being working from home. But the work continues! One way businesses may opt to adapt their practices is by accepting electronic copies of original (hand) signed documents and/or by permitting the use of electronic signatures for executing documents that require signatures.

The Electronic Commerce Act

The legal basis for accepting electronic signatures or electronic copies of documents in lieu of requiring an original document is contained in the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 (the Act). Section 8 of the Act deals with the legal requirement of original documents and states that a potential legal requirement that an original document be provided, retained or examined is satisfied by the provision, retention or examination of an electronic document if:

  • There exists a reliable assurance regarding the integrity of the information contained in the electronic document in its final form; and
  • Where the document is provided to a person, the electronic document provided is accessible and usable for reference by that person.

Regarding electronic signatures, Section 11 of the Act outlines that the legal requirement that a document be signed is satisfied by an electronic signature if it meets certain reliability requirements. Most importantly, the electronic signature must be reliable for the purpose of identifying the person that signed it, and the association of the electronic signature with the relevant electronic document must also be reliable.

Exceptions

It is important to note that the requirements listed above are not a complete list and there are exceptions to these general rules. For instance, there are certain documents to which the Act does not apply and which therefore cannot be signed electronically, nor will an electronic version satisfy the requirement that an original signed document be provided. Wills, Codicils, Trusts created by Wills or Codicils, Powers of Attorney and Negotiable Instruments all are documents that are not captured by the Act. There are also a number of other restrictions that apply related to privacy, record destruction, documents of title etc.

Moving Forward

Despite these exceptions, there are a greater number of documents that are captured by the Act and therefore can be signed electronically or stored electronically as an original document. The point is, different documents may have different requirements under the Act. There are certainly ways in which contracts can be drafted to properly incorporate the relevant provisions of the Electronic Commerce Act, and if this is something you are considering, we would be more than happy to assist you in this regard.

This blog post was written by Mark Fortier-Brynaert, a member of the Business Law and Wills and Estates teams.  He can be reached at 613-566-0380 or at mark.fortier-brynaert@mannlawyers.com.

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Mark Fortier-Brynaert

Mark Fortier-Brynaert

I am a member of the business law, franchise law, estate litigation and wills and estates practice groups. On the business side, I assist clients with the acquisition or sale of a business, incorporation and reorganization, governance advice regarding for-profit corporations and not-for-profit corporations and the review of a wide variety of business contracts. With the wills and estates practice group, I assist clients with preparing wills and powers of attorney, estate planning and administration, and applications for guardianship. I obtained my Juris Doctor from the University of Western Ontario in 2018. Prior to attending law school, I obtained a Master’s degree in Political Studies from the University of Windsor and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Honours from Queen’s University. In the summer of 2016, I interned at the Paris office of a Canadian International firm only to return to France in the fall of 2017 to... Read More

Read More About Mark Fortier-Brynaert

Mark Fortier-Brynaert

I am a member of the business law, franchise law, estate litigation and wills and estates practice groups. On the business side, I assist clients with the acquisition or sale of a business, incorporation and reorganization, governance advice regarding for-profit corporations and not-for-profit corporations and the review of a wide variety of business contracts. With the wills and estates practice group, I assist clients with preparing wills and powers of attorney, estate planning and administration, and applications for guardianship. I obtained my Juris Doctor from the University of Western Ontario in 2018. Prior to attending law school, I obtained a Master’s degree in Political Studies from the University of Windsor and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Honours from Queen’s University. In the summer of 2016, I interned at the Paris office of a Canadian International firm only to return to France in the fall of 2017 to... Read More

Read More About Mark Fortier-Brynaert

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