Canadian government won’t say if it will follow US with compensation for ‘Havana Syndrome’

U.S. payments to current and former State Department employees and family members with ‘qualifying injuries’ will range between $140,000 and $187,000

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The Canadian government is silent on Ottawa’s intention to follow through on a US announcement to financially compensate US diplomats with mysterious symptoms first seen in Cuba.

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Last week, the US State Department announced it would cut checks for embassy workers with the so-called “Havana syndrome” – a range of symptoms ranging from ringing in the ears to cognitive impairment of long term suffered by Americans and Canadian diplomats who have worked in Cuban embassies in both countries since 2016.

These payments, payable to current and former State Department employees and family members with “qualifying injuries,” will range between $140,000 and $187,000, depending on the level of injury.

Inquiries made Monday morning to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) by the National Post about whether Ottawa was planning something similar were not acknowledged by press time.

Pamela Isfeld, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) – the union representing the 2,000 serving and retired members of Canada’s diplomatic corps – said what interests her members most right now are the answers.

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“Let’s get to the bottom of what it is so we can figure out what’s the best way to help people and we can do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. she declared.

American and Canadian diplomats in Havana began noticing mysterious and so far unexplained symptoms about six years ago after hearing strange chirping or ringing, with some describing rapidly changing pressure sensations typically felt in the cars with partially rolled windows.

  1. FILE - Tourists drive classic convertible cars on the Malecon next to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, October 3, 2017. The State Department is preparing to compensate victims of mysterious brain injuries colloquially known as

    State Department to Pay 6-Figure Sums to Havana Syndrome Victims

  2. None

    The Havana syndrome: Why Canadian diplomats accused their government of abandoning them

  3. The Canadian Embassy in Havana

    Canadian diplomat says government sent him back to Cuba with brain damage

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Complaints have been filed by both diplomats and their family members, including young children.

As news of the disease grew, cases began to appear around the world, apparently targeting diplomats in China, Russia, Taiwan, Colombia, Germany and Poland.

Earlier this year, CBS News reported that government workers in Washington, DC had complained about similar incidents as far back as 2019, including at least one on White House grounds.

Assessments released earlier this year by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that the symptoms were not the result of a hostile attack by foreign powers, although some officials – including the director of the William J. Burns agency – previously described the incidents as “attacks”.

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Last year, a senior Canadian diplomat told the Citizen of Ottawa he had suffered measurable brain damage after two assignments in the Cuban capital.

The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was finally returned to Canada in January 2019 after his symptoms – which included dizziness, memory loss and cognitive impairment – got so bad that even simple tasks like remembering passcodes proved impossible.

Isfeld said Havana Syndrome has opened valuable lines of dialogue about the health of Canada’s frontline foreign service workers.

“It really brought to light some of the systemic gaps in health care for people overseas, in their ability to deal with some of the really difficult things that can happen for people in the foreign service,” he said. she declared.

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“But in the meantime, we have members and their families who are still suffering from this.”

Although PAFSO has nothing to do with the $28 million lawsuit filed against the federal government in 2019 by Canadian victims of Havana Syndrome, plaintiffs’ attorneys report an equally chilling pace as they make their way through the courts.

“It’s awfully slow,” said Paul Miller of Toronto law firm Howie, Sacks & Henry, who said the GAC’s flow of documents and information had encountered a number of blockages, including the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 and, more recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .

“The federal court gives some deference to the government, which I understand from a logical standpoint, but I get upset because my co-lawyer and I have clients to answer to who are still hurting, and their children are hurting. .”

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Many of its plaintiffs are young professionals in their 30s and 40s who, thanks to their symptoms, have had their career prospects either severely hampered or curtailed altogether – not to mention those who have children with the same ailments.

Among the National Post questions in Monday’s survey ignored by Global Affairs Canada were updates on the number of Canadians with Havana syndrome – unofficial sources put the number at 17.

Six years of investigation have yet to determine the cause of the symptoms, with theories ranging from pulsed electromagnetic energy, ultrasonic sound waves, pesticide exposureor even Collective panic.

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