Canadian Diplomats Sue Their Government Over Mysterious Cuban Disease

Canadian Diplomats Sue Their Government Over Mysterious Cuban Disease

MONTREAL — Canadian diplomats who were posted to Cuba are suing their government, claiming that it failed to protect them and to respond robustly to a mysterious illness they acquired while stationed in Cuba.

The illness, known as Havana Syndrome, has affected dozens of American and Canadian diplomats posted to Cuba, some of whom have come down with symptoms like memory loss, sleep disturbance and nosebleeds, after saying they heard a strange high-pitched sound.

The suit, which was filed this week in a federal court in Toronto, says the Canadian government has been too slow to respond and did not provide sufficient medical treatment after diplomats and their children were targeted in 2017 by strange “debilitating attacks” that resulted in brain injuries without any evident physical trauma.

Paul Miller, the lawyer representing the 14 diplomats, spouses and children who are suing, compared the attack that preceded their illnesses to “a science fiction horror film.”

“It’s a privilege to serve Canada around the world, but it’s also really hard, and it’s something that whole families do,” she said. “I’m really concerned about them, and they have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support.”

One Canadian career diplomat who is party to the suit, said that her family’s lives had been turned upside-down. The diplomat, who requested anonymity because she still worked for the government, said that while stationed in Cuba in 2017 she suddenly fell ill with debilitating headaches, which she initially attributed to stress.

After hearing about the American cases of Havana Syndrome, she said she connected her symptoms to high-pitched noises that had been coming from her backyard.

She said her 10-year-old daughter had been affected as well, waking up with a heavy nosebleed and later suffering headaches that forced her to miss school.

She said the Canadian government had waited for months before seeking treatment for the diplomats and had prevented them from warning other colleagues who were to be posted to Cuba.

The diplomat said the emotional trauma of suffering from a mysterious illness had been exacerbated by the feeling that the government did not believe them.

The suit contends that, despite knowing the risks after similar attacks on American diplomats in 2016, Canada continued to send its diplomats to Havana. It accused the government of playing down the seriousness of the situation, leaving victims to “contend with the rumors that they were faking it.”

The plaintiffs also contend that the government restricted the information they could share with doctors, and tried to stop the University of Pennsylvania Center for Brain Injury and Repair, which had been studying the syndrome, from testing the Canadians.

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