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Courtesy of James (Si) Taylor

James H. (Si) Taylor


“He was a model of outstanding leadership and commitment during his forty-year diplomatic career.”

Excerpt from James H. Taylor’s Order of Canada citation


“En Route to Presentation of Credentials in Tokyo, 1989”. Courtesy of James (Si) Taylor

One of the finest foreign-policy minds of his generation of Canadian diplomats, James H. (Si) Taylor had a sterling forty-year career, all of which was spent in the Department of External Affairs. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1930, Taylor attended McMaster University and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the department in 1953 and was soon sent to Hanoi, where he was among the earliest Canadian diplomats to serve on the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Vietnam, a challenging first posting for which he was later awarded the Peacekeeping Medal. Subsequent postings followed to India, France, and the Soviet Union, where he was stationed in August 1968 when Warsaw Pact forces brutally crushed the Prague Spring. Held in the highest regard by his colleagues, who believed early on that he was destined to become deputy minister, Taylor was one of the department’s top experts on the Soviet Union and East-West issues. Returning from three years as minister at the Canadian embassy in Paris, he served with distinction as assistant under-secretary (1977-80), deputy under-secretary (1980-82), and then as Canadian ambassador to NATO (1982-85), his tenure there coinciding with one of the most challenging periods in the Cold War. In 1985 Taylor was recalled to Ottawa and appointed under-secretary of state for external affairs. Skeptical of the recent emphasis on managerial reform of the department, he focused instead on the substance of policy, providing an activist Mulroney government with first-rate advice during what we now know was the twilight of the Cold War. In 1989 Taylor was named Canadian ambassador to Japan, retiring in 1993. He served as chancellor of McMaster University from 1992 to 1998. In recognition of his outstanding career in the public service (during which he refrained from exercising his right to vote), Taylor was made an officer of the Order of Canada and awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond and golden jubilee medals.

Further reading:

  • J.H. Taylor, “The Conservatives and Foreign Policy-Making: A Foreign Service View,” in Diplomatic Departures: The Conservative Era in Canadian Foreign Policy, 1984-93, ed. Nelson Michaud and Kim Nossal (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2001), 211-219.
  • J.H. Taylor, “Personalities, Policies and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,” in Architects and Innovators: Building the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 1909-2009 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009), 289-292.
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