Serving Canadian Legal Documents Abroad Pursuant to the Hague Convention on Service

Recently, I brought suit against a European company in an Ontario court. As such, it was necessary to serve the originating documents pursuant to the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judical and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters; (Concluded 15 November 1965), 658 UNTS 163; 20 UST 361, popularly known as the Hague Convention. The Convention, mercifully short, can be found on the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) here.

To ensure service abroad is effective, the following steps are generally required:

1.       Verify that the country in which you are attempting to effectuate service is a member of the Hague convention, which you can do by checking the HCCH Members section of the HCCH website here, and verifying that the country is a “Contracting Party” to the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judical and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters; (Concluded 15 November 1965), 658 UNTS 163; 20 UST 361.

2.       Locate the address of the ‘Central Authority’ in the country where the documents will be served, which can also be done via the HCCH website, by looking up (through the Navigation Menu) Instruments/Authorities(per Convention), then selecting the Hague Convention, and the country in which you intend to effectuate service. This will bring you to a page with a title like ‘France – Central Authority & Practical Information’ which lists a single central authority. Conversely, other countries such as Switzerland may have both Federal ‘Central Authorities’ and State/Canton ‘Central Authorities’, and the ‘Central Authority’ to which you mail your documents will change based on the type of document/claim and the location of the party to be served. You may need to use Google to determine which State/Region of the country the city is located in, so that the documents are sent to the correct ‘Central Authority.’ In certain countries (Switzerland) the language into which the documents must be translated will vary depending upon which ‘central authority’ it is submitted to, but this information can often be found by consulting the ‘Central Authority and Practical Information’ page for the country, again on the HCCH website.

3.      If required by the country in which service is to be effected, have the documents translated by a court certified translator into the official language. For certified translations of legal documents and accompanying Affidavits, expect to pay around $40.00 per page.

4.      Fill out the mandatory ‘Model Form annexed to the Convention (Request, Certificate, Summary with Warning)’ which can be found here. For safety, I try to complete it in both English and the language the legal documents are being translated to (if such form is available – Google translate is your friend for this). As the form is not the most straightforward, HCCH publishes ‘Guidelines for Completing the Model Form’ as well as ‘Instructions for filing out the notice established by the author of the Report on the Recommendation.’ You must complete parts 1 and 3 (Do not complete Part 2, the Certificate, which will be completed by the appropriate Central Authority). Briefly:

Model Form – Part 1:
  • The Applicant must be Lawyer (Notary in Quebec), Local Registrar, Clerk of Court or other designated ‘Forwarding Authority.’
  • Receiving Authority is the appropriate ‘Central Authority’ in the country where service is to be affected.
  • Service will generally be pursuant to Article 5a of the Convention. Though space is not provided for it on the form, you may want to write in O.R.C.P. 17.02.
Model Form – Warning Section:
  • At the top of the page, list again the defendant’s name and address for service.
  • In the box at the bottom of the page, list the address for the legal aid office.
Model Form – Part 3:
  • The ‘Requesting Authority’ must be a Lawyer (Notary in Quebec), Local Registrar, Clerk of Court or other designated ‘Forwarding Authority,’ and is most likely the same individual as the ‘Applicant’ from Part 1 above.
  • Particulars refers to the names and addresses of the parties.
  • Nature and purpose of the document means a brief description of the document, i.e. claim for damages, writ of summons, judgment, order, judgment for divorce, alimony, etc.
  • Nature and purpose of the proceedings requires you to list the remedy or relief sought along with a general description (i.e. $1,000,000.00 of damages arising out of a traffic accident).
  • Date and place for entering appearance requires you to enter the address of the court, along with the date by which an appearance is required, typically sixty (60) days (in Ontario) after service is made pursuant to the Hague Convention

In the US, the Model Form was given the official designation of USM-94, and I found a number of helpful sites the I used to create this post, specifically:

5.      Finally, send the original and a copy of the form and documents (i.e. 1 original and 1 copy of all documents, including the Official Certified Translation Affidavit if necessary) to the appropriate foreign Central Authority.

I hope the above information saves you some time in effecting international service, but while it is meant to be informative, is not warranted to be accurate, correct or appropriate for your particular legal proceeding. If you require legal assistance with effecting international service or handling your Ontario based litigation, call our lawyers at 1-647-495-8995 to determine whether we may be able to assist with your legal claim.

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