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The closed Canadian embassy in Tehran after Ambassador Ken Taylor helped six Americans escape Iran in 1980.Peter Bregg/The Canadian Press

It has been 65 years since Canada and Iran first established diplomatic ties. Those have frayed and been mended many times before the deadly crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight near Tehran killed all on board, including 63 Canadians and dozens more passengers bound for Canada.

Here is a brief timeline of events in the relationship between Iran and Canada:

1955: Formal diplomatic relations established.

1956: The first Iranian mission opens in Ottawa.

1959: Canada dispatches its first head-of-mission to Tehran.

1979: During the Islamic Revolution, Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor helps shelter six staff of the U.S. embassy over 79 days. Taylor, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency, plans to have the six leave Iran using a cover story that they were in Iran to film a movie.

1980: The six Americans leave Iran using fake Canadian passports. Taylor leaves the country as well, and the Canadian embassy closes.

1988: Canada sends a large team of military observers as part of a United Nations mission to oversee a ceasefire between Iran and neighbouring Iraq following a war between those two nations. The Canadian embassy reopens.

1990: Canada names an ambassador to Iran, the first since the embassy reopened two years previously.

2012: Canada closes its embassy in Iran and expels Iranian diplomats in Canada. It severs diplomatic ties over Iran’s being found to not be in compliance with a UN Security Council resolution about its nuclear program. Italy assumes the role of Canada’s voice in Iran.

The Harper Conservatives list Iran as a state supporter of terrorism and list the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force, led by General Qassem Soleimani, as terrorist entities.

2015: Canada is the lead sponsor of a UN resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran.

2016: The Trudeau Liberals announce their willingness to re-engage directly with Iran and possibly restore diplomatic ties.


Jan. 3: An American drone strike kills Soleimani, sparking retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on two American military bases in Iraq, one near the city of Irbil that had Canadian soldiers five days later.

Canada has long used Irbil as its main base for special-forces troops working with Iraqi forces in northern Iraq. In addition to the special-forces soldiers, Canada has a helicopter unit and dozens of support staff on the base.

Jan. 8: On the same day of the missile strikes, a Ukraine International Airlines plane, a Boeing 737-800, crashes five minutes after take-off from Tehran’s airport. The nine crew members and 167 passengers are all killed.

During an afternoon news conference in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says 138 of the passengers were on their way to Canada, including 63 Canadians.

Jan. 9: Trudeau says intelligence from multiple sources indicates that an Iranian surface-to-air missile downed the airplane and that the strike might have been unintentional. He calls again for a thorough and transparent investigation into the cause.