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article imageDiplomats sue Ottawa over failure to address 'Havana Syndrome'

By Karen Graham     Feb 7, 2019 in Politics
Ottawa - Canadian diplomats and their families are suing the federal government, alleging Ottawa failed to properly address mysterious brain injuries they sustained while representing Canada in Cuba.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court on behalf of five diplomats, two spouses (one of whom works for Global Affairs Canada) and seven children. The plaintiffs worked in Cuba between 2016 and 2018, according to CTV News.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege they had “been targeted and injured, suffering severe and traumatic harm by means that are not clear.” They also claim the federal government failed to warn them about the health risks involved with working in Cuba.
It is also alleged the government failed to remove them when they became ill and failed to provide adequate medical care, reports the Globe and Mail.
“I think it became, ‘We are fed up. We don’t think we’re being treated properly and we’re going to take this as our only alternative,’ " said Paul Miller, one of the lawyers representing the diplomats. “We’ve got some people who may not work again.”
The plaintiffs are not named in the lawsuit, but they did speak with CTV News under the condition of anonymity. They have been diagnosed with what is being called "Havana Syndrome," reporting symptoms similar to those associated with a concussion, like dizziness, confusion, headaches and nosebleeds.
“My brain just doesn't work the way it used to,” one woman said, adding that she sometimes suddenly loses her balance. “My kids are having nosebleeds,” said another. “My youngest son is passing out for no reason.”
The US embassy in Havana  seen here on September 29  2017  after a series of mysterious health incid...
The US embassy in Havana, seen here on September 29, 2017, after a series of mysterious health incident involving its diplomats prompted Washington to withdraw more than half its personnel
Adalberto ROQUE, AFP
The Havana Syndrome
While the mysterious malady has been dubbed "Havana Syndrome," it is still unclear what is causing the illness. It has been attributed to everything from a sonic attack or high-frequency radio waves to the Indies short-tailed cricket, known formally as Anurogryllus celerinictus.
American diplomats first began complaining of symptoms in late 2016, when they and some of their family members began experiencing unexplained health problems, including headaches, nausea and other ailments after hearing penetrating noises in their homes and nearby hotels.
The malady spread to Canadian diplomats when in August 2017, five Canadians and 16 American diplomatic staff were confirmed to be suffering symptoms. By January 2018, the number of affected Canadians increased to eight, then to 10 in April 2018, then 13 by November 2018. A total of 26 American diplomats have been affected.
In the lawsuit, the Canadian government is being accused of mishandling the crisis from the start and withholding information from the diplomats. The U.S. immediately informed the Canadian Embassy about the first illness in 2016, yet the plaintiffs allege the information was not shared with them.
"Throughout the crisis, Canada downplayed the seriousness of the situation, hoarded and concealed critical health and safety information, and gave false, misleading, and incomplete information to diplomatic staff,” reads the statement of claim.
One Canadian diplomat was tipped off by his American neighbor, and when he heard the symptoms, a “light” went off in his head: “This is exactly what's going on in my house,” he recalled thinking.
According to the Havana Times, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has confirmed her meetings with diplomats and family members, although she would not comment on the suit. She has said, however, that "I’m really concerned about them and they have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support."
More about havana syndrome, Cuba, unknown illness, Lawsuit, Canadian diplomats
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