Kenneth D. Taylor

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Kenneth D. Taylor
OC
Kenneth D. Taylor.jpg
Her Majesty's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Iran
In office
September 1977 – January 1980
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1977–79)
Joe Clark (1979–80)
Personal details
Born Kenneth Douglas Taylor
(1934-10-05)October 5, 1934
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Died October 15, 2015(2015-10-15) (aged 81)
New York City, New York, United States
Spouse(s) Pat Taylor
Alma mater University of Toronto
University of California, Berkeley

Kenneth Douglas "Ken" Taylor OC (October 5, 1934 – October 15, 2015) was a Canadian diplomat, educator and businessman, best known for his role in the 1979 covert operation called the "Canadian Caper" when he was the Canadian ambassador to Iran. With the cooperation of the American Central Intelligence Agency, Taylor helped six Americans escape from Iran during the Iran hostage crisis by procuring Canadian passports for the Americans to deceive the Iranian Revolutionary guard, posing as a Canadian film crew scouting locations. Before the escape, the six Americans spent several weeks hiding in the homes of Taylor and another Canadian diplomat, John Sheardown.[1]

Taylor is portrayed by Gordon Pinsent in the Canadian 1981 television film, Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper which dramatizes the cover story for the operation. The later 2012 American film, Argo, focuses more on the CIA and Hollywood's role, with Taylor played by Canadian actor Victor Garber.

Early life and education[edit]

Taylor was born in Calgary, Alberta.[2] He completed his BA at Victoria College of the University of Toronto[3] and his MBA at the University of California, Berkeley.[4] He is a brother of the Sigma Chi fraternity and was later honoured with its highest award, Significant Sigma Chi.[5]

Iran hostage crisis[edit]

Further information: Iran hostage crisis and Canadian Caper

Iranian students invaded the United States embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. During the riot, six Americans managed to escape. They hid for four days before reaching the Canadian embassy, where they met Taylor, who devised the plan to get them out of Iran safely. On January 20, 1981, the 52 American hostages were released by Iran into US custody, having spent 444 days in captivity.

Taylor would play a crucial role in providing intelligence on the hostage crisis to Canadian and American intelligence agencies.[6][7] Reportedly, he helped scout out landing sites for the abortive Delta Force rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw.[8] Taylor did not confirm[9] that the CIA organized the rescue of the diplomats who were hiding in the Canadian embassy, a statement which echoes what former US President Jimmy Carter said about the operation in 1986. However, Canada's historical reluctance to admit to collaboration with US foreign-intelligence agencies makes it difficult to gauge the extent of Canadian intelligence involvement, and whether Taylor acted on his own initiative or was following a planned last-resort alternative.[10]

A made-for-TV movie of the events, Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper, was produced in 1981.[11] In 2012, Ben Affleck produced and starred in a movie titled Argo, which is based on the book The Master of Disguise by Tony Mendez, a CIA agent involved in the incident. After the film was previewed at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, criticism arose that the film unfairly minimized the participation of the Canadian government, and Taylor in particular, in the extraction operation. This included the addition to the film of several fictional events for dramatic reasons, as well as a postscript text indicating that the CIA let Taylor take the credit for political purposes, implying that he did not deserve the accolades he received.[12] Affleck noted, "Because we say it's based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we're allowed to take some dramatic license. There's a spirit of truth."[13] However, Affleck did respond by changing the postscript text to read, “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”[14] Historical news footage discussing Canada's role in the rescue was also added near the end of the film. Taylor himself said that the film was "fun, it's thrilling, it's pertinent, it's timely," but noted that "Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner."[15]

Later life and death[edit]

After returning from Iran, Taylor was appointed Canadian Consul-General to New York City. In 1980, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada along with his wife Pat and other Canadian personnel involved in the escape,[1] and was also awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal that same year.[16]

He returned to the University of Toronto for several years as the Chancellor of Victoria College.[17]

Taylor left the foreign service in 1984 and served as Senior Vice-President of Nabisco (RJR Nabisco after 1986) from 1984 to 1989.[18]

He was the founder and chairman of public consulting firm Taylor and Ryan.[19]

Taylor moved to the United States and lived in New York City until his death at the age of 81 on October 15, 2015.[20] Taylor died at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been treated over the past several months for Stage 4 colon cancer.[21] Taylor's funeral service was held at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto on October 27. 2015.

Notes and references[edit]

^ a. Taylor did not present credentials because of the Canadian government's decision to change residency and accreditation from Iran to Kuwait, with the opening of a Canadian Embassy in Kuwait.

  1. ^ a b "Ken Taylor and the Canadian Caper". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. October 30, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ "'Canadian hero' Ken Taylor, the Calgarian at centre of Iran hostage crisis, has died". Calgary Herald. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  3. ^ "In memoriam: Chancellor Emeritus Ken Taylor, O.C., VIC 5T7". Victoria College. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Ken Taylor, Canadian diplomat who helped American in Iran crisis, dies". The Washington Post. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Distinguished Sigma Chi brothers". Sigma Chi. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Former Canadian Ambassador Admits To Spying For CIA". Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Former ambassador passed information to C.I.A.". Archived from the original on January 26, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ Marty Gervais (March 28, 1981). "Iran rescue: Our bashful heroes". Windsor Star Saturday. p. C8. 
  9. ^ "CTV News – News Video – Top National News Headlines – News Videos". ctvnews.ca. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Report says "Canadian Caper' a CIA affair". CBC News. November 13, 1998. Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981)". 
  12. ^ Knelman, Martin (September 13, 2012). "TIFF 2012: How Canadian hero Ken Taylor was snubbed by Argo". The Toronto Star. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  13. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (September 12, 2012). "Ben Affleck rewrites history". Macleans. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  14. ^ Knelman, Martin (September 19, 2012). "Ken Taylor's Hollywood ending: Affleck alters postscript to 'Argo'". The Toronto Star. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  15. ^ Coyle, Jim (October 7, 2012). "'Argo': Former ambassador Ken Taylor sets the record straight". The Toronto Star. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients". Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Speakers' Spotlight – Ken Taylor | Former Canadian Ambassador". www.speakers.ca. Speakers' Spotlight. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  18. ^ "List of Public Companies Worldwide, Letter – Businessweek – Businessweek". Businessweek.com. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Ken Taylor - Norvista Resources Corporation - ZoomInfo.com". ZoomInfo. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Ken Taylor, Canada's former ambassador to Iran, dead at 81". thestar.com. October 15, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Former Canadian diplomat to Iran Ken Taylor dies at 81". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jim Sutcliffe Nutt
Commissioner to Bermuda
1980–1981
Succeeded by
Robert Johnstone
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Bahrain[a]
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Harry Stewart Hay
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Arab Emirates
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Harry Stewart Hay
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Qatar
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Harry Stewart Hay
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Oman
1977–1979
Succeeded by
William John Jenkins
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Kuwait
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Michael William Murison
Preceded by
James George
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Iran
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Paul Dingledine
Preceded by
TBD
Consul General in New York
1980–1984
Succeeded by
TBD