Canada flags unexplained inferior illnesses for foreign staff to meet “duty of care”

Ottawa — Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised staff around the world to monitor the symptoms of mysterious illnesses following unexplained inferior health accidents between Cuban diplomats and American staff in various countries.

In September, Global Affairs Canada held a briefing with senior executives at Ottawa’s headquarters, heads of all overseas missions, and other federal partners working at the embassy, ​​according to a newly disclosed briefing note. have started.

A broadcast message explaining how to report symptoms and concerns to all Global Affairs staff, according to a November memo made for Melanie Joly, who just took office as Canada’s latest Foreign Minister on October 7. Was issued.

Canadian diplomats and their families in Havana, Cuba, have had headaches, memory loss, lack of concentration, cognitive and visual problems, noise sensitivity, dizziness, nausea, sleep disorders, mood changes, since 2017. I am reporting problems such as nosebleeds.

Fifteen Canadians have received a definitive diagnosis of “acquired brain damage,” says Global Affairs.

Several Americans who worked in Cuba reported a similar health problem commonly known as Havana Syndrome. Recently, there have been reports of symptoms among American staff in Washington, Austria, and China.

“Continued media coverage of unexplained inferior health incidents experienced by US government officials abroad has, of course, raised concerns among Canadian government officials around the world,” a November note to Jolly. Says.

The Global Affairs staff briefing was done “to pay close attention and fulfill the duty of care,” he added.

RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have sent similar messages to staff, the agency said.

CSIS has offices within certain Canadian diplomatic missions.

“In line with the Global Affairs Canada Protocol to respond to anomalous events affecting overseas Canadian authorities, CSIS advised employees accordingly,” intelligence spokesman Keira Lawson said. Said.

Patricia Skinner, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs, has not disclosed whether staff have reported new cases since the 2021 health symptom department briefing.

“For privacy and security reasons, we cannot comment on the details of ongoing investigations, individual cases, or specific security measures,” she said.

Ongoing Canadian and US investigations have not identified the cause of the disease, but theories range from targeted sonic attacks by the enemy to pesticide application.

Given the unusual health accidents in Cuba, as of April 2018, Canadian diplomats dispatched to Havana were not accompanied by spouses or children.

In January 2019, Global Affairs cut its diplomatic footprint in Havana in half. Since then, the ministry has not yet fully staffed the number of diplomats to better respond to the needs of Canadian consulates in Canada and advance Canada’s foreign policy, trade and development priorities. Was increased.

“Global Affairs Canada intends to increase the number of Canadian diplomatic staff in Cuba over time,” she added.

Departmental records obtained by the Canadian press through the Information Access Act were recorded in March last year, considering the transition to more staffing in Havana, but the emergence of new cases of possible syndrome. Indicates that it has been temporarily suspended.

“Depending on the situation, we can consider additional health and security measures to drive the growth of our footprint, or we can consider other options,” said the March 5 official briefing inside. The memo states.

Skinner did not say whether the possible cases were actually confirmed through testing.

Eight Canadian diplomats and their families who got sick while stationed in Cuba are suing Ottawa in federal court for millions of dollars in damages.

Family lawyer Paul Miller said in an interview that at least another diplomat working in Cuba (probably the unnamed diplomat mentioned in the March 2021 department memo) will soon join the proceedings. Stated.

“I don’t want to be involved in suing their government,” Miller said, given that some sick diplomats could adversely affect their careers. “And this last person took some serious time before deciding to join.”

Diplomats say the Canadian government failed to protect them, hiding important information and downplaying the seriousness of the risks. The government has denied misconduct and negligence and wants the court to dismiss the proceedings.

According to Skinner, Global Affairs continues to maintain security and health protocols to respond immediately to unusual events and health symptoms that affect Canadian diplomats and their families.

RCMP does not reveal the results of a long-term study of health problems.

Pamela Isfeld, president of the Association of Foreign Services Officers, said he hopes the mysterious episode will be resolved.

“I share everyone’s frustration — there seems to be no conclusion anywhere in this study.”

Along Jim Bron Skill

Canadian press