James Cowan is a veteran lawyer and retired senator from Nova Scotia.
A native and resident of Halifax, he studied at Dalhousie University where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts and a degree in law. He then attended the London School of Economics, receiving a Master of Laws degree. In 2009, Dalhousie University awarded him the degree Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).
Senator Cowan has practiced law in Halifax since 1967 and is a partner at Stewart McKelvey, the largest law firm in Atlantic Canada. In 1983, he was appointed as Queen’s Counsel.
For many years Senator Cowan was actively engaged in the life of Dalhousie University, serving as a member of the University’s Board of Governors and chairing a wide array of committees. From 2000 to 2008, he served as chair of the university’s board of governors.
Senator Cowan was appointed on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin on March 24, 2005.
While a senator, he sat as a member of Parliament's Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying and tabled legislation to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination by employers and insurers. In addition, he proposed legislation that would establish a Canadian Commission on Mental Health and Justice to address the criminal justice system’s approach to persons suffering from mental illness.