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 some action.
Petitioners cannot directly present a petition to the House of Commons; only a Member of Parliament is able to do so. In order to have his or her own petition presented in the House, a petitioner must secure a Member’s assistance.
There are two different ways to create a petition – a traditional paper petition, and an online e-petition.
Writing a Petition
Members of the public who wish to create a petition should submit a draft copy to our office before gaining any signatures so that we can ensure it conforms to the rules and is structured correctly. A petition cannot be edited once it has signatures.
A petition starts with an addressee. This is the person or entity that you are petitioning. Your petition can be addressed to the House of Commons, the Government of Canada, a Minister of the Crown, or a Member of Parliament.
Once you know who you’re petitioning, you can move on to the text of the petition. The text of a petition is essentially a request that the addressee takes or to avoid some concrete action in order to remedy a grievance.
A petition must be respectful, use temperate language, and not contain improper or un-parliamentary language. In particular, 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 of French.
The typical format of a petition is as follows:
We, the undersigned [identify the petitioners in general terms], draw the attention of [addressee] to the following: Whereas, [briefly state the reasons underlying your request by summarizing the facts which you wish the addressee to consider.] Therefore, [identify the petitioners in general terms] call upon [addressee] to [request.]
A paper petition must have a minimum of 25 signatories. Signatories do not need to be from the same riding as the petitioner, but they must be residents of Canada. There is no minimum age to sign a petition, but each signatory needs to prove their address and original signature on the petition. Photocopies are not accepted.
Your paper petition can be mailed or delivered to our office in Maple Ridge or Ottawa. The petition will be sent to the Clerk of Petitions, who will verify the validity of the signatories and certify the petition. Once the petition is certified, the petition can be presented in the House of Commons.
An e-petition is very similar to a traditional paper petition. After writing a petition but before starting to circulate it, a petitioner must identify five supporters. These supporters need to be identified before your e-petition can be sponsored by an MP.
Once an MP has agreed to sponsor your petition, it will be examined by the Clerk of Petitions to ensure that its form and content respect the rules and practices of the House. This includes validating your signature and those of the supporters. If the petition meets the requirements, it will be translated and published on the e-petitions website for signature by the general public.
A petition remains open for “signatures” for 120 days, and must accrue a minimum of 500 valid signatures. Similar to paper petitions, signatories who are not residents of Canada are not valid.
After the deadline for signatures, the Clerk of Petitions who will verify the validity of the signatories and certify the petition.
To learn more about petitions, or to start an e-petition, visit the House of Commons petition website.