Thu | Aug 22, 2019

Canadian diplomats file suit over injuries suffered in Cuba

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 11:55 AM
AP 
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
AP Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Some Canadian diplomats who became mysteriously ill while posted to Cuba are suing the Canadian government.

Canada has confirmed 14 cases of unexplained health problems since early 2017. Twenty-six workers at the United States Embassy in Cuba have also been affected, suffering a range of symptoms and diagnoses, including mild traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion.

Five Canadian diplomats say in a CND$28-million (US$21 million) lawsuit that the government failed to protect them, hid crucial information, and downplayed the seriousness of the risks.

The Canadian government acknowledges that nine adults and five children from diplomatic families have developed unusual illnesses in Havana.

The lawsuit said 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”.

Canada announced last week it is removing up to half of the Canadians at its embassy in Cuba after another diplomat fell mysteriously ill. Canada ordered the families of diplomatic staff in Havana to return home last April.

Cuba has adamantly denied any involvement.

The mysterious cases have already sent US-Cuba relations plummeting from their high point in 2015 under US President Barack Obama, who restored full diplomatic ties between the two estranged countries.

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

Cuba is a favourite tourist destination for Canadians, and the Canadian government said there is no evidence of any related ailments among Canadian travellers.

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

“There is no question that the health impacts on diplomats in Cuba have been visible and real,” he said.

“We are continuing to work with local authorities and work with the RCMP to determine what is the source of these sounds or this issue they are facing,” he added, referring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force.

– AP