In a letter, they claim that Canadian diplomats being deployed to Cuba “are not fully informed of the risks to which they are exposed”.
WASHINGTON – A group of Canadian diplomats accuses the Canadian government of withholding information about what diplomats say are three new cases of brain injury resulting from “Havana Syndrome” that have been identified in the past two years.
In a letter obtained by NBC News, diplomats said that “at least three additional cases were identified in 2019 and 2020” of the mysterious disease that also affected US personnel in Cuba. In its most recent public update on new cases in January 2019, the Canadian government said that “the last confirmed case of unusual health symptoms” was in 2018.
“The distortion of information misleads the public and represents a significant risk for sending new employees to Cuba, as they are not fully informed of the risks to which they are exposed,” wrote the diplomats.
The letter, sent last week to Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, by nine Canadian diplomats who served in Cuba and reported strange symptoms, was a point-to-point response to a briefing that the Government of Canada gave in February 2021 to diplomats who served in Cuba between 2017 and 2020.
Diplomats say that at the briefing, which took place virtually and included more than 40 people, they were notified that Canada plans to increase its staff at its embassy in Cuba, more than two years after Canada cut its staff in half in response to incidents. Diplomats say the government justified this move by saying there have been no new strokes reported since 2018.
“In fact, this is not correct,” write the diplomats.
They say that since March 2020, a total of 25 Canadian diplomats have been evaluated by experts at Dalhousie University, the institution used by the government of Canada to assess the health of diplomats.
It is not clear how many of them were finally diagnosed with brain damage. But two people familiar with the diplomats’ claims said that at least some of those whose injuries were identified in 2019 and 2020 have already had brain damage claims approved by the Canadian government.
Global Affairs Canada, equivalent to the U.S. Department of State, did not respond to specific questions from NBC News about the number of Canadian cases and personnel plans for its embassy in Cuba, citing an ongoing lawsuit filed by some of the diplomats.
“Since the beginning of the health incidents, the health and safety of our diplomatic staff and their families has remained a priority,” said Christelle Chartrand, Canada’s Global Affairs spokeswoman. “The department cannot comment on an issue that remains in the courts.”
Beginning in 2016, American and Canadian diplomats and other government officials stationed in Havana began to fall ill, many after hearing strange sounds and experiencing bizarre physical sensations. Several American workers in China and other countries reported similar experiences as well and were evacuated for evaluation.
The incidents caused auditory, balance and cognitive changes, in addition to mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion.
Canada, like the United States, said it did not determine a cause or culprit for what the United States initially considered targeted “attacks”. A study commissioned by the Canadian government pointed to the likely overexposure to pesticides in Cuba, while a December report by the United States National Academy of Sciences said the mysterious neurological symptoms are consistent with targeted microwave energy and raised the possibility of a weapon. microwave.
“We know that Russia has had some of these waves of energy directed since the 1970s,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Told NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell this week. “A lot of information has been classified. There was not enough willingness to share with Congress, with the public, what is really going on.”
Cuba has denied any responsibility for the symptoms suffered by diplomats or for having weapons that can produce them. “I can guarantee that this is completely untrue,” Colonel Ramiro Ramirez, head of diplomatic security for the Cuban Interior Ministry, told NBC News in 2017.
In the letter, first reported by Canada’s Global News, diplomats report being informed by the Canadian government in February that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s national police force, is still investigating and “actively engaged” in discussions with officials from the United States and Cuba, with plans to make a “technical visit” to Havana soon.
But diplomats cite “unacceptable delays” in advancing this investigation and coordinating care for affected Canadians, a group that includes numerous children who were in Cuba alongside their parents. Diplomats say they are still waiting for the Canadian government to finalize an agreement with Dalhousie University for children to be evaluated for brain damage.
“Three to four years after our children were injured, there is a serious question of the relative value of these assessments, given the unjustified delay, if this agreement is finalized,” wrote the diplomats. “In the meantime, our children have struggled with headaches, learning problems, visual, hearing and speech impairments, tinnitus and other illnesses. Who knows what the long-term impacts will be?”