Memorable Manitobans: Maxwell Abraham Cohen (1910-1998)
Born in Winnipeg on 24 March 1910, son of Moses Cohen and Sarah Wasserman, he studied for undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Manitoba from 1930 to 1937, after which he attended Harvard University. In 1938, he worked with the original Combines Investigation Commission in Ottawa. He also worked as a journalist, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Saturday Night, Toronto Star and McLean’s. During the Second World War, he served in the army and navy, where he recommended the unification of the Canadian armed forces and rose to the rank of Major.
In 1946, he was offered a position teaching international law at McGill University and, in 1947, became the first Jewish member of the faculty, serving as the Dean of Law from 1960 to 1961 and as the Dean of the University from 1964 to 1969. He was later Emeritus Professor at McGill and Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Cohen served with several committees and organizations, becoming the Chairman of the Zionist Federation Public Relations Committee in 1952, Chairman of the Quebec Advisory Council on the Administration of Justice from 1964 to 1972 and was invited in October 1973 to become Chairman of the International Joint Commission. He was a Judge Ad Hoc for the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
In 1963, he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1976. He received the John Read Medal (Canadian Council on International Law), Archambault-Fauteux Gold Medal (Quebec Society of Criminology), President’s Award (Canadian Bar Association), Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession (Manitoba Bar Association), Annual Award (Canadian Council of Christians and Jews), and the Samuel Bronfman Medal for Service to the Jewish Community.
He died at Ottawa on 30 March 1998.
Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
The Jews in Manitoba by Arthur Chiel. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961, p. 101-107.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 31 March 1998, page 30.
We thank David Kimmel for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Kris Keen and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 29 July 2017