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Canada’s embassy in Iran overwhelmed by visa applicants amid U.S. hostage crisis

The Story


Tehran is a tense place for western diplomats in December 1979 after the Iranian revolution and the storming of the U.S. embassy. The number of students applying for visas at the Canadian embassy has doubled since their access to the U.S. was cut off, prompting Immigration Minister Ron Atkey to issue new rules. Meanwhile, Ambassador Ken Taylor has other things on his mind. In this report, he tells CBC's The National about his weekly meetings with U.S. senior embassy official Bruce Laingen, trapped as a hostage in Iran's foreign ministry building. 

Medium: Television
Broadcast Date: Dec. 10, 1979
Program: The National
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Don McNeill
Guest: Ken Taylor
Duration: 2:26

Did You know?


• Seven weeks after this report aired, Taylor was lauded as the key figure in what became known as the Canadian Caper. At the time of this report, six U.S. embassy employees who fled before Iranian militants took over the building were living in his home and in that of fellow Canadian diplomat John Sheardown. They managed to leave the country on Jan. 28, 1980, but it was another 17 years before the true story of their escape, planned and carried out by the C.I.A., emerged.

• Diplomat Bruce Laingen and two colleagues were trapped in Iran's foreign ministry for the duration of the crisis, which lasted a total of 444 days. Another 63 Americans were taken hostage at the embassy.

• Visited by the Toronto Star in December 1979, Taylor said Canadian embassy officials were mostly carrying on as usual in light of the crisis. "We're all a bit concerned and hence generally careful, but there's been no panic," he said. "There is no special problem and no one has indicated any inclination to leave Tehran. But we are prudent where we go and what we do."

• Ken Taylor died on Oct. 15, 2015, in New York City, aged 81.


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