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Diplomats file $28M suit against Canada over injuries suffered in Cuba

Diplomats file $28M suit against Canada over injuries suffered in Cuba
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OTTAWA — Five Canadian diplomats and their family members who became mysteriously ill while posted to Cuba are suing Ottawa for more than $28 million.

In a statement of claim filed Wednesday in Federal Court, the diplomats say the Canadian government failed to protect them, hid crucial information and downplayed the seriousness of the risks.

Global Affairs Canada acknowledges that nine adults and five children from diplomatic families have developed unusual illnesses in Havana, with symptoms including nausea, dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating.

Global Affairs has said the government is trying to pinpoint the cause, stressing that the health and safety of diplomatic staff and their families are the priorities.

Speculation has focused on some kind of acoustic or microwave assault, unknown contaminants and even chirping crickets.

Officials have all but ruled out environmental factors, such as toxins in the air, soil or water, and no longer suspect a sonic attack is to blame.

In April, Canada announced that diplomats posted to Cuba would not be accompanied by dependants due to the ongoing uncertainty.

The statement of claim says that not only “were the diplomats 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.”

The allegations have not yet been tested in court.

A doctor is now working full time to provide advice and assistance to those who have continuing symptoms.

In their claim, however, the diplomats say Ottawa has “actively interfered” with their ability to seek appropriate medical care.

The RCMP is leading an investigation into the cause of the ailments, which also struck several American diplomats in Havana.

Canada has been working with the U.S. and Cuban authorities on the baffling puzzle.

Canadian authorities say they are getting good co-operation from the Cuban government, which is also frustrated by the incidents.

“Overall, we have a multifaceted relationship with Cuba, which is very positive and continues,” said another official.

However, the incidents have aggravated the already strained relations between Cuba and the United States. The Cuban government says the Trump administration is using the issue to roll back new measures instituted by the Obama administration to re-engage with its Caribbean island neighbour after five decades of tensions dating back to the height of the Cold War.

The U.S. withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff in September 2017 but Canada did not.

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