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Canadian diplomats hit by mystery symptoms in Cuba sue Ottawa

09 February 2019

Fourteen people, including current and former diplomats and their families, are seeking Can$28 million ($21 million) in damages from the federal government.

The court filing comes one week after Canada's foreign ministry announced that it was withdrawing up to half of its diplomatic staff in Cuba after another one of its diplomats fell ill with the unexplained symptoms that have afflicted a total of 40 Canadian and American diplomats and their family members in Havana. 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. At least one diplomat was told by Global Affairs that Ottawa couldn't guarantee his safety, he said in the interview with CTV News.

"When the USA was withdrawing its diplomats, Canada knew there was a problem and we didn't pull our people out", plaintiffs' lawyer, John Phillips told Radio-Canada.

"I am not going to comment on the specifics, but I do want to reiterate that I have met with some of these diplomats and, as I said to them, their health and safety needs to be our priority". The affected Canadian diplomats were being monitored by the University of Ottawa's Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Brain Repair Centre at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, CBC said.

The new documents detail an effort to silence the affected embassy staff, who were sent for medical testing in Cuba, Canada and the U.S, with only sporadic follow-up appointments. "The delay has had a huge impact on us in terms of the stress, trying to bring out lives back to normal".

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The group alleges that the Canadian government mishandled the crisis, deliberately withheld information from these Canadian diplomats, damaged their reputations and put their families in harm's way. "It's brain injuries and it's long term and it has a significant effect", Phillips added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada was taking the situation seriously.

As NPR's Scott Neuman reported, the mysterious attacks initially began against American diplomats in late 2016. 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. However, investigators have begun to cast doubt on that theory. I'm really concerned about them and they have Canada's upmost sympathy and support.

In the lawsuit, the diplomats argue they not only were "prevented from considering the true risks of a Havana posting to their own health, but they were also denied the opportunity to protect their children, and must live with the knowledge that they may never fully recover".

Canadian diplomats hit by mystery symptoms in Cuba sue Ottawa