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Courtesy of Patricia Taylor.

Kenneth “Ken” Taylor


“There was never any hesitation on Taylor’s part to offer us sanctuary.”

Mark Lijek
Consular Officer, United States Embassy in Tehran.


Ken Taylor’s actions as Ambassador in Tehran made him a hero to many. On November 4th, 1979, Iranian students stormed the American embassy and held its staff hostage. Six Americans escaped and turned to the Canadian embassy for help. In the volatile climate following the Iranian Revolution, Taylor recognized that harbouring these fugitives put him and his staff at great risk. He nevertheless welcomed four into his home, while John Sheardown, Chief Immigration Officer, took in the other two. Taylor coordinated with Ottawa and Washington to arrange the exfiltration of the six Americans. CIA officer Antonio Mendez concocted a plan to fly the six Americans out of Tehran, disguised as a Canadian film crew. Taylor prepared contingencies and maintained appearances while readying the Canadian embassy for evacuation. After three tense months, the six Americans flew out of Tehran carrying Canadian passports. Taylor and the remaining embassy staff left the following day.

Ken Taylor briefs members of the press on the situation in Tehran, one week before evacuating the embassy. Peter Bregg/Canadian Press.

Before his arrival in Tehran, Taylor enjoyed a successful career with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. He worked as a commercial counsellor in postings such as Guatemala, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom, before taking charge as head of the Trade Commissioner Service. As a top negotiator for Canadian trade, Taylor eagerly accepted his posting to Iran in 1977 because of the country’s growing importance as an oil-exporting nation. After the Iranian Revolution of January 1979, Taylor found himself doing a very different kind of work. Within a month of the revolution, he successfully arranged for the evacuation of 850 Canadians living in Iran. He followed his posting to Iran with a very successful appointment as Consul General in New York.

Taylor was born in Calgary in 1934. He attended the University of Toronto for his undergraduate studies and completed a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley. Taylor received numerous accolades for his actions in Tehran. He received keys to several major American cities, the United States Congress awarded him their Gold Medal, and was inducted into the Order of Canada.

Further reading:

Wright, Robert A. Our Man in Tehran: Ken Taylor and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Toronto: Harper Collins, 2010.

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