Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Ottawa, Jan. 27, 1981: John Sheardown, who helped hide American diplomats in Tehran, was ready to turn in his Order of Canada unless his wife, Zena, and Ken Taylor’s wife, Patricia, also received official recognition for their part in the ‘Canadian Caper.’ (The Canadian Press)
Ottawa, Jan. 27, 1981: John Sheardown, who helped hide American diplomats in Tehran, was ready to turn in his Order of Canada unless his wife, Zena, and Ken Taylor’s wife, Patricia, also received official recognition for their part in the ‘Canadian Caper.’ (The Canadian Press)

What readers think

Jan. 2: John Sheardown, a true Canadian hero, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

A Canadian hero

John Sheardown was a true Canadian hero, and not only for his initiative in sheltering American diplomats during the “Canadian Caper” in Tehran in 1979 (Canadian Emissary, Whose Actions Inspired Hollywood Hit, Dies – Jan.1). Unfortunately, perhaps typically, his story has received little attention in his own country.

While piloting his Lancaster bomber over Germany during the Second World War, his aircraft was hit and seriously crippled, but John completed his bombing run. He managed to get back to the English coast, where he told his crew to bail out. John crash landed his bomber and, with both legs broken, still managed to crawl downhill to a small village, where he pounded on the pub door with a rock at 3 a.m. to rouse the owner. John asked for a drink of scotch. The pub owner complied, but then asked for payment while John waited for the ambulance.

He recovered and went back to flying Lancasters. When offered the Order of Canada for his bravery in Iran, he refused to accept it unless his wife, who he felt risked even more than he did, was also awarded the medal. After some delay, it was awarded to her.

John Sheardown is an unsung Canadian whose exploits are better recognized in Washington than in Ottawa.

James Bissett, Ottawa


I worked closely with John Sheardown in Tehran from September, 1978, to July, 1979, while I was head of chancery at the Canadian embassy in Iran. I remember a principled and friendly man, a hard worker.

When the U.S. embassy was overrun, he and his wife, Zena, sheltered four of the hostages in their home for the duration. With the media fixation on Ken Taylor then, and now with the depiction in the movie Argo, Canadians are basically unaware that there were many individuals, both in Tehran and Ottawa, like John, who contributed enormously to all elements of this tumultuous adventure. It’s too bad because this was a team effort over many months, beginning with the evacuation of Canadian and other nationals by the Canadian Forces in January, 1979, for which a number of federal departments deserve credit.

Let’s hope that the historians eventually set the record straight for all the people like John Sheardown.

Paul Thibault, Ottawa


Infants’ air safety

The government requires infants riding in cars to be strapped into specially designed safety seats and not held in a parent’s arms (Hard Landing The Culprit In Nunavut Plane Crash That Killed Baby, Report Suggests – Dec. 29). Yet no such regulation exists for babies travelling in airplanes. Adults are required to use safety belts during takeoff and landing because accidents do happen, and the use of a restraint increases the likelihood that a passenger will survive.

We need better practices and better regulations to keep our children as safe in the air as the grownups around them.

Martha Kurtz Hogan, Toronto


Zero-sum world view

Gordon Gibson’s glib characterization of environmentalism as a religion is a sleight of hand that can be applied to any belief system (Absolutism In The Church Of Green – Dec. 31). Market fundamentalism, for example, has a holy scripture that proclaims that the market is a rational, efficient, self-correcting entity that miraculously produces prosperity and happiness. Milton Friedman is its prophet. Its first commandment is that economic growth will last until the end of days. Its religious orders are the right-wing think tanks that propagate the creed of low taxes. Mr. Gibson’s declaration that we must either capitalize on fossil fuels or accept a lower standard of living reflects the zero-sum world view of market fundamentalism.

Contrast that with countries such as Germany, Denmark and Norway, which have converted to many of the tenets of the “Green Church,” and are not only prospering but have some of the highest levels of happiness, good health and social harmony in the world.

Phil Boychuk, Regina


Not good enough

Re Continuing To Next Station During Train Attack Was Safest Option, Officials Say (Jan. 1): The rationale provided by Edmonton transit’s security chief is unacceptable. Any transit authority should, as soon as an employee is aware of a passenger being threatened or in distress, immediately come to the assistance of that passenger.

Rick Munro, Kingston


The working poor?

By saying that the Canada Pension Plan does not need to be significantly strengthened (Let the Affluent Opt Themselves In – editorial, Dec. 31), you fail to take into account the large number of people at the lower end of the income scale.

People who work in the service industry, for example, frequently earn relatively low wages, with no benefits and no pension plans. Lower-income earners do not have the luxury of considering voluntary supplementary plans for retirement. Often, they are living from paycheque to paycheque. Even if they did manage to save, what percentage of their income would they have to set aside before a comfortable retirement might be feasible?

It is important that we acknowledge the community as a whole when considering new ideas.

M. Robinson Ramsay, Walkerton, Ont.


Being corked

The CEO of the B.C. Restaurant Association, Ian Tostenson, suggests the fact that so few patrons bring their own wine to dinner stems from a Canadian mentality that “We sort of have a notion that it’s almost an impolite thing to do” (B.C. Gets Corked – Dec. 31).

I recently returned to Canada after many years in Australia, where BYOB (bring your own bottle) is a universal practice. I therefore greeted B.C.’s announcement last summer permitting this here with enthusiasm. A month later, I made a dinner reservation at a local restaurant and asked about the charge (corkage) for bringing my own wine. I was informed that there would be a $40 per bottle charge!

It’s the Canadian mentality of non-acceptance of being “corked” that is the reason for the lack of BYOB.

Geoff Lindup, Qualicum Beach, B.C.


10, 11, 12, --, 14 etc.

The Globe’s editorial in defence of 13 (Triskaidekaphilia – Jan. 1) brought up the irrational fear of that number and asked, “But we’re past that, aren’t we?”

Then, in the Life & Arts section, I found a full page of astrological prognostication. Surely we’re past that, aren’t we?

Paul McFedries, Toronto


Your editorial reminded me of my mother, Essie, who, when confronted by the plan to move Canada to the metric system, declaimed: “If God had meant us to go metric, He would have given us 10 disciples instead of 12.”

Larry Wulff, Toronto

Report Typo/Error

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeDebate


Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular