Kenneth D. Taylor

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Ken Taylor
OC
Her Majesty's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Iran
In office
September 1977 – January 1980
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau (1977–79)
Joe Clark (1979-80)
Personal details
BornKenneth Douglas Taylor
(1934-10-05) October 5, 1934 (age 79)
Calgary, Alberta
Spouse(s)Pat Taylor
 
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Ken Taylor
OC
Her Majesty's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Iran
In office
September 1977 – January 1980
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau (1977–79)
Joe Clark (1979-80)
Personal details
BornKenneth Douglas Taylor
(1934-10-05) October 5, 1934 (age 79)
Calgary, Alberta
Spouse(s)Pat Taylor

Kenneth Douglas "Ken" Taylor, OC (born October 5, 1934) is 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 Iranian hostage crisis by procuring Canadian passports for the Americans to get past the Iranian Revolutionary guard, posing as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a film. Before the escape, the six Americans spent several weeks hiding in sanctuary 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. He completed his BA at Victoria College of the University of Toronto and his MBA at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a brother of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and has since been honoured with its highest award, Significant Sigma Chi.

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 moment Reagan completed his 20‑minute inaugural address after being sworn in as president, 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.[2][3] Reportedly, he helped scout out landing sites for the abortive Delta Force rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw.[4] Taylor did not confirm [5] 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 reticence at admitting collaboration with US foreign intelligence agencies make 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.[6] Taylor's actions marked the beginning of a change in attitude towards a more proactive involvement in sensitive foreign affairs after decades of non-intervention policy beyond meeting strict minimal obligations required by its membership in NATO and NORAD[citation needed][dubious ].

A made-for-TV movie was produced in 1981.[7] 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 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.[8] 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."[9] 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.”[10] 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 notes that "Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”[11]

After the foreign service[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.[12]

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

Taylor left the foreign service in 1984 and served as Senior Vice-President of Nabisco (RJR Nabisco after 1986) from 1984 to 1989.[13]

He is the founder and chairman of public consulting firm Taylor and Ryan.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Ken Taylor remains a Canadian citizen. He currently resides in New York.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ken Taylor and the Canadian Caper". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. October 30, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Former Canadian Ambassador Admits To Spying For CIA". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  3. ^ "Former ambassador passed information to C.I.A.". Retrieved 2010-01-24. [dead link]
  4. ^ Marty Gervais (28 March 1981). "Iran rescue: Our bashful heroes". Windsor Star Saturday. p. C8. 
  5. ^ http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=764385
  6. ^ "Report says "Canadian Caper' a CIA affair". CBC News. 1998-11-13. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  7. ^ "Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981)". 
  8. ^ Knelman, Martin (13 September 2012). "TIFF 2012: How Canadian hero Ken Taylor was snubbed by Argo". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (12 September 2012). "Ben Affleck rewrites history". Macleans. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Knelman, Martin (19 September 2012). "Ken Taylor’s Hollywood ending: Affleck alters postscript to 'Argo'". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Coyle, Jim (October 7, 2012). "'Argo': Former ambassador Ken Taylor sets the record straight". The Toronto Star. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  13. ^ businessweek.com
  14. ^ Taylor, Kenneth

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

^ a. Mr. 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.