Ottawa won’t say whether diplomats in Cuba still being briefed on ‘Havana syndrome’ risks.

Global News

Breaking news &current latest Canadian news headlines;national weather forecasts &predictions, local news videos, money and financial news;sports stats and scores.

https://globalnews.ca/

Click to play video 'Freeland won’t comment on lawsuit by Canadian diplomats in Cuba against Ottawa over mysterious health issues'

WATCH ABOVE: Freeland won't comment on lawsuit by Canadian diplomats in Cuba against Ottawa over mysterious health issues(Feb. 2019)– Feb 6, 2019

The federal government is refusing to say whether it is still briefing outgoing diplomats bound for the embassy in Cuba — or those heading anywhere else — about the risks and lasting impacts of what’s become known as “Havana syndrome.”

Nearly two dozen Canadian diplomats and family members were diagnosed with “multiple functional and structural impairments” in their brains following their postings there, and documents obtained by Global News show officials warned departing diplomats in 2017 to stay silent on the risks.

And now, recent reports from the New York Times and GQ Magazine that American intelligence sources are pointing the finger at Russia as potentially responsible for similar symptoms in U.S. diplomats and spies, the Canadian government refuses to answer repeated questions about its investigation.

“For privacy and security reasons, we cannot comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigations, individual cases, nor on specific security and briefing measures,” said John Babcock, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada on Monday.

The department’s response — the same they gave to a set of questions one month ago — came after Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne’s office declined to answer questions.

The mystery began in late 2016 and early 2017 when American diplomatic staff at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, began reporting unusual symptoms similar to those from a concussion: hearing loss, memory loss, tinnitus, nose bleeds, vision problems and vertigo, among others.

Canadian diplomatic staff and their families began reporting symptoms in early 2017 and into the following year, with more than 40 Canadian and American diplomats and their families impacted.

But nearly four years after the onset of the mystery, there are no official answers and the Canadian government is fighting 15 of those Canadians impacted in court, arguing the plaintiffs have made “exaggerated” claims.

Global News filed multiple access to information requests for internal emails and official correspondence from Global Affairs Canada about the matter in September 2017, when media reports began emerging of mysterious symptoms affecting diplomats in Cuba.

Those records show officials at Global Affairs Canada warned diplomats departing in the summer of 2017 not to say a word about the symptoms being reported by those already stationed in Havana, and that those briefings made no mention to the fact Canadian children were among those impacted.

Trending Stories

“You all have top secret clearance — and understand the responsibilities and obligations that come with that clearance. This information can not be shared,” said one of the briefing notes.

Diplomat Allen, a pseudonym imposed by the Federal Court for one of 15 diplomats and their family members now suing the government over its handling of the matter, said the list of symptoms outgoing diplomats were briefed on didn’t come close to what was happening.

He said the briefings given to a new batch of diplomats being sent to join the embassy left out key details — including that his own children had suffered symptoms after a “screeching, metallic” noise was heard in their home in Cuba

He recalled how one woman, who had been posted to the embassy that summer with a young child, approached him several weeks after arriving to ask what his family had experienced several weeks prior.

“She said, ‘They never said anything about kids being affected.’”

That individual and her child are now among the 15 plaintiffs in that $28-million case.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the government is failing its diplomats by refusing to provide support and clear information about the situation, which remains unresolved.

“The fact that the Liberal government continues to ignore calls from Canadian diplomats and their families for answers about what the government knows about the Havana Syndrome is extremely disappointing,” said Chong.

“The Liberals have failed to take steps to protect our diplomats and their families, and are now failing to provide answers about what they knew. The Liberals should also work with our allies and officials to eliminate this risk to our personnel.”

“The government must ensure that Canadian diplomats are properly briefed about any security concerns and all necessary steps are taken to ensure their safety, whether in Cuba or anywhere else in the world.”

Government lawyers are arguing in court that diplomats are “exaggerating” their symptoms.

But neither Champagne’s office nor Global Affairs Canada would say why, if that’s the case, it is still listing the embassy in Cuba as an unaccompanied posting nearly two years after the last reports of new cases, meaning diplomats cannot bring spouses or dependents with them.

That’s a risk designation shared with the embassies in countries like South Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Новини по темі

Moscow opens dozens of inoculation centres despite vaccine not yet meeting safety needs.

The Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols.

Pope revamps Vatican financial intelligence after scandals, corruption probes.

Pope Francis is intent on bringing greater accountability and transparency to the Vatican, building on efforts forged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Coronavirus deaths in Iran surpass 50,000 as officials ease some lockdowns.

A two-week partial lockdown in the capital of Tehran and other major cities helped slow, but not stop the rising wave of deaths from the coronavirus over the past few weeks.

Protesters Clash With Police, Set Cars On Fire Over Security Law In Paris.

Violence erupted in Paris on Saturday for the second consecutive weekend at a mass protest against a new security law, with demonstrators clashing with police, vehicles set alight and shop windows...

Biden facing mounting pressure to expand diversity in U.

Of the nine major picks Biden has made so far, only two — Secretary of State choice Antony Blinken and chief of staff Ron Klain — are white men.

Number of COVID-19 cases confirmed worldwide exceeds 66 mln.

The overall death toll is 1,521,598 people, while 42,484,682 coronavirus patients have already recovered.

Trump administration must accept new DACA applications, judge says.

The Trump administration had announced the end of the program in 2017, leading to the legal challenges that wound up in front of the Supreme Court.

Cargo ship attacked off Yemen in the Gulf of Aden: authorities.

A cargo ship travelling past Yemen in the Gulf of Aden came under attack in unclear circumstances, maritime authorities said Saturday.

Global community should increase pressure on Russia to make it comply with Budapest Memorandum – FM.

Ukraine calls on the global community to increase pressure on the Russian Federation to ensure it returns to the international legal regime, in particular to the implementation of the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum.

European Union, U.K. leaders to hold crunch talks to break Brexit impasse

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart, David Frost, agreed Friday to ``pause'' negotiations while they brief political leaders.