Desmond Boylan / AP
Several Canadian diplomats who mysteriously fell ill during their service in Cuba, challenge the government for allegedly ignoring or trying to hide information about their ailments and then taking them too long to remove them from the country.
In the process, the five diplomats and their families – a total of 14, including several children – say that the government has consciously exposed them to "extremely serious and debilitating attacks" that resulted in brain injury of what the suit denotes as Havana syndrome. They are looking for $ 28 million – about $ 21 million US – in damages.
The claim alleges that Canada severely dealt with the crisis when it became clear that US diplomats were not the only target of the attacks in early 2017.
"Canada has downplayed the seriousness of the situation, stored critical health and safety information and kept it hidden, and provided false, misleading and incomplete information to diplomatic staff," said the court case. Apparently the government went so far as to suggest that the physical ailments experienced by people were psychosomatic, according to the documents.
In addition, the lawsuit argues that the government has jeopardized a larger number of its citizens by continuing to send new families to Havana after several people began to show symptoms consistent with that American personnel.
"When the US withdrew its diplomats, Canada knew there was a problem and we did not get our people out of the closet," John Phillips, a lawyer representing the group, told the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
While some affected families moved from Havana after the first disease reports, it took until April 2018 that the Canadian government stopped placing new families in Cuba. By contrast, the US withdrew most non-essential staff from the country in September 2017.
"What we want to compensate is the long-term damage done to the diplomats and their families, it is brain damage and it is a long term and it has a significant effect," Phillips added.
According to the lawsuit, all 14 suspects suffer from Havana syndrome with symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injury, including headaches, memory loss, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. "Moreover, neurological assessments of the brains of victims actually show damage that corresponds to that of a concussion," according to the lawsuit.
"A few times I stood up and my nose was flowing with blood," an unidentified diplomat told the CBC. "The delay has had a huge impact on us in terms of stress, where we tried to make life normal again."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Thursday about the lawsuit and said that the government has taken the situation in Cuba "very seriously".
"There is no doubt that the consequences for the health of diplomats in Cuba have been visible and real," Trudeau told reporters.
"We continue to work with the local authorities and work with the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] to determine what the source is of these sounds or the problem they are dealing with, "he said.
As Scott Neuman of NPR reported, the mysterious attacks initially began at the end of 2016 against US diplomats. At that time it was thought that they were a & # 39; sonic & # 39; weapon. However, researchers have begun to question that theory.
In January 2018, the Associated Press reported that the FBI failed to find any evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage.
Minister Chrystia Freeland of Foreign Affairs has acknowledged the trial Thursday and told reporters that she had met with a number of diplomats and their families.
"It is a privilege to be able to serve Canada anywhere in the world, but it is also very difficult," Freeland said.
"I have met some of the affected Canadian diplomats who have served in Cuba and they have told me about their situation, I am really concerned about them and they have the greatest sympathy and support from Canada. They were in Cuba who represented us and our representatives represented land, and their health and safety must definitely be a priority. "
In the lawsuit, the diplomats argue that they were not only prevented from considering the actual risks of a Havana placement for their own health, but they were also denied the opportunity to protect their children, and should live with the knowledge that they may never fully live. to recover."
They also accuse the government of "active interference" with their ability to seek appropriate medical care by restricting the information they may share with health care professionals.