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COVID-19: What About Sworn Statements?

  • Elise Moras
By Elise Moras Lawyer
Several measures have been announced in order to reduce court attendance and to halt the spread of COVID-19.

As a matter of fact, only urgent requests continue to proceed, and technological methods are favoured. However, many of these requests require a sworn statement, formerly known as an affidavit, so it could be presented. Such statements are also required for files that will proceed by way of paper only.

In this era of social distancing, the best way to complete such statements remained a source of questioning until the publication of information by the Department of Justice on March 20.

Thus, sworn statements may be made by technological methods, if the following conditions are met:

  • The signature may be affixed by various technological methods as long as it makes it possible to identify the signatories and the manifestation of their consent;
  • The declarant and the commissioner of oaths must be able to see and hear each other simultaneously;
  • The declarant and the commissioner of oaths must be able to look at the document that is the subject of the oath;
  • The integrity and, where appropriate, confidentiality of the shared documents and the swearing process must be assured.

Obviously, the usual indications (date, place, signature, etc.) must also appear in the statement.

Thus, we can imagine several methods to carry out an oath by technological methods. Since mostly all smartphones have a function that allows video conversations, this function could be used to allow the declarant and the commissioner of oaths to see each other. The declarant could then sign the statement, scan it and send it to the commissioner, who will do the same.

For those whom this is possible will also be able to affix an electronic signature to the document. At the same time, certain software programs could be used to display the document simultaneously on two screens.

It will also be necessary to ensure that the technological methods selected will adequately protect the information exchanged and its confidentiality as well as the integrity of the documents.

To consult the Department of Justice publication: https://www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/user_upload/contenu/documents/Fr__francais_/centredoc/publications/systeme-judiciaire/Assermentation_distance.pdf