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Elliott, Robert Lawton (1928–)

Robert Lawton Elliott, grandson of pioneer Robert Wilson Elliott, was born in 1928 to Percy Elliott and Elsie Shaw and raised on a farm near Vibank, southeast of Regina. After graduating in Political Science and history from the University of Saskatchewan in 1949, he worked as a radio news editor and broadcaster before joining the British Colonial Service. He took further studies for a year at London University and the London School of Economics, and was then sent to West Nigeria as a District Officer with the British Colonial Service. In 1956 he joined the Canadian Department of External Affairs and was assigned to the Middle East Division, where he helped formulate policy during the Suez Crisis. In 1957 he was appointed vice-consul in Beirut, Lebanon, where he remained until 1960. His next posting was in Ottawa, where he worked in the Africa and Middle East Division of External Affairs; this involved him in the Congo Crisis.

From 1963 to 1966, Elliott served as the Canadian High Commissioner to London, and in 1966 he was transferred to Lagos, Nigeria, to deal with the Biafran Crisis. In 1970, after the civil war ended, he organized Canadian government CIDA relief for Nigeria’s post-war reconstruction. Elliott returned to Ottawa to become director of the Middle East Division. In 1973 he was appointed as Canadian Ambassador to Algeria. In 1976 he was transferred to Paris, working at the Canadian Embassy as Minister Plenipotentiary for four years. In 1980 Robert Elliott became the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt and the Sudan. He was on the reviewing stand with Anwar Sadat in 1981 when Sadat was assassinated, but was unhurt himself. Returning to the External Affairs headquarters in Ottawa in 1983, Elliott became Director General for the Middle East until he was named Ambassador to Hungary in 1985. He left Budapest in 1988 to become the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, and remained there until 1991.

After he returned to Canada in 1991, Elliott was loaned by External Affairs to the University of Saskatchewan as a visiting professor. He retired from External Affairs in 1992 after serving that department for thirty-seven years. During those years he had three temporary postings (1961, 1962, 1974) with the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In recognition of Robert Elliott’s diplomatic and humanitarian work, the University of Saskatchewan awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in the spring of 1997 when he delivered the convocation address.

David R. Elliott

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