As you probably know if you are interested in a Federal corporation (non-profit or otherwise) you can easily search the Corporations Canada website. This gives you lots of information on Federal non-profit corporations including the name, Corporation Number, Status, which corporate legislation governs, their registered office address, names and addresses of directors, the minimum and maximum number of directors, the last filing date of a corporation, whether filings are overdue, the history of the corporate names, as well as what corporate documents have been filed like Articles, By-laws, Financial Statements etc. You could always request copies of documents and Corporations Canada was quite efficient in returning them within a day or two. However, now Corporations Canada has made it even easier for you by making many of the listed documents available instantly.
On the Corporate Profile Page for any corporation there is a label "Buy copies of corporate documents" which you can click and within minutes you will have the Federal documents in PDF format. The charge is $1 per page - not bad when the typical article of continuance or incorporation is only 3 - 4 pages and therefore only costs $3-$4. If there is a long by-law it may cost $30. Ouch. Nevertheless the Corporations Canada system shows you the name of the available documents, the date they were filed (something which is not visible for all documents on the corporate profile report) and the cost of purchasing them.
The whole process to obtain the documents is only a few minutes. Very helpful.
My only suggestion to Corporations Canada - the model of charging by the page made a lot of sense in the old days when you used a photocopier etc and you have to recoup your costs. In this case you might want to cap the amount for any particular documents at say $10. Expecting someone to pay $30-50 for a by-law is a bit excessive.
Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?
Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.