Statement by Global Affairs Canada on ongoing health and security situation of Canadian diplomatic staff and dependants in Havana, Cuba
April 16, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Government of Canada continues to investigate the potential causes of unusual health symptoms reported in 2017 by some Canadian diplomatic staff and dependants posted to Havana, Cuba. There is a government-wide effort to address this situation, including an ongoing investigation in cooperation with Cuban authorities. The health, safety, and security of our diplomatic staff and their families is our top priority.
All members of the Canadian diplomatic family who reported unusual symptoms have received medical testing. In the majority of cases, no additional medical follow-up was required.
There have been no new incidents since the early fall of 2017. Diplomatic families who have returned to Canada, however, have continued to experience symptoms. The symptoms include dizziness, headaches and lack of ability to concentrate, amongst others. In some cases the symptoms have appeared to lessen in intensity, before reasserting themselves.
In March 2018, the Department received the results of an environmental assessment of our diplomatic staff quarters in Havana, including tests of air and water quality. This assessment did not indicate anything that could point to a cause.
More recently we have received information from Canadian medical specialists involved in the evaluation of affected Canadian diplomats and dependants, as well as from American medical specialists studying a cohort of affected US diplomatic staff at the University of Pennsylvania. According to these specialists, medical information raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury. Additional research is needed to better understand this. The cause remains unknown but could be human-made.
As a result of this ongoing uncertainty, Global Affairs Canada has decided to change the designation of our Embassy of Canada to Cuba to an ‘unaccompanied post’. This means that Canadian diplomats posted to Cuba will not be accompanied by their dependants. Arrangements will be made to support our diplomatic staff and their families returning to Canada in the coming weeks, as well as for those families who had expected to be posted to Cuba this summer. At the same time we will be reviewing all of our diplomatic positions in Cuba, with a view to balancing our duty of care to our staff members and their families, with the ongoing need to deliver services to Canadians in Cuba, and to promote and protect Canadian interests there.
Canada has a positive and constructive relationship with Cuba and has received close cooperation from the Cuban authorities since health concerns of Canadians serving in Cuba first surfaced in the spring of 2017. While regular Embassy operations will continue, there may be some service delays as the Department manages the departure of dependants in the coming days.
There is no evidence to suggest that Canadian travelers to Cuba are at risk. Canadian travelers should continue to check the Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories (https://travel.gc.ca/) for the latest updates.
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