Category Archives: Canadian Embassy

Canada sent doctor to Cuba to examine diplomats after sound attacks

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—The federal government sent a doctor to Cuba to examine Canadian diplomats who suffered everything from nosebleeds to short-term memory loss amid concern about mysterious acoustic attacks, newly declassified memos show.
In August, Ottawa acknowledged that an unspecified number of Canadians in Cuba had been affected, but Global Affairs has said little about the events.

The June visit to Havana by Dr. Jeffrey Chernin of Health Canada revealed symptoms similar to those experienced by U.S. personnel in Cuba, the internal Global Affairs Canada notes say.
Word of the perplexing phenomenon — which remains unexplained — emerged during the summer, prompting the United States to bring many diplomats home from Havana and to expel Cuban representatives from Washington.

In August, Ottawa acknowledged that an unspecified number of Canadians in Cuba had been affected, but Global Affairs has said little about the events.
The newly disclosed records, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show that as early as May, Canada’s mission in Havana was seeking help in working out “next steps” for Canadian staff having problems.
“Many of the symptoms are similar to signs of extreme stress, and there is the possibility that there could be mental health effects caused by the fear of being targeted,” wrote diplomat Karen Foss. “Either way, testing should help to rule out cases and reassure personnel that we have the means to be able to provide duty of care.”
Symptoms included headaches, dizziness, nausea, hearing loss, nosebleeds and cognitive issues including loss of short-term memory.

But Canadian officials were puzzled about who or what might have been behind the purported attacks.
“There are no answers,” Foss wrote in a May 28 email. “We are left to (sift through) what we know about … the targets and possible suspects.”
About a week later, Foss advised that the head of Canada’s mission in Cuba had called a meeting of staff to advise of the “increased threat level.”
A security situation overview noted a need to review who in the mission “is most vulnerable because of any pre-existing condition or other consideration that means they are at greater risk if they are targeted.”
Canadian officials quietly began drafting statements in case the “situation is leaked to the press” — noting there were hints the issue was being discussed at a Virginia school.
By June 9, the mission was underscoring the need for help from a federal medical adviser and stressing that new diplomatic personnel bound for Cuba should be made aware as soon as possible of the strange ailments affecting staff.
Local guards were asked to increase their patrols around the residential properties of Canadian staff and to be extra vigilant in reporting.
Dr. Chernin arrived in Havana on June 18 to meet concerned staff individually and take part in a townhall-style meeting a few days later. The doctor found that symptoms, experience and recovery varied, but he seemed to rule out viral causes such as the flu or hearing loss due to age.
Privy Council Office and Global Affairs Canada officials held a subsequent meeting with Cuban counterparts to encourage “closer collaboration” on fact-finding, explore the possibility of greater security in areas where Canadian diplomats were living “to discourage further attacks” and express Canada’s ongoing commitment to good relations.
All Canadian personnel experiencing symptoms have undergone testing in Canada or the U.S., Global Affairs spokeswoman Sujata Raisinghani said Thursday.
However, she declined to say how many diplomats and family members have been affected.
“The government of Canada continues to work closely with Cuban authorities to ascertain the cause of these unusual symptoms.”

‘Sonic attack’: Canadian diplomat in Cuba also suffered hearing damage

The Guardian

At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that US officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device.

Brianne Maxwell, Canadian government spokeswoman for global affairs, said officials “are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working – including with US and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause.”

Maxwell added that officials did not have any reason to believe Canadian tourists and other visitors could be affected.

Canada helped broker talks between Cuba and the United States that led to restored diplomatic relations.

In the autumn of 2016 a series of US diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Some of the US diplomats’ symptoms were so severe they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation US officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.

The US officials weren’t authorised to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on 23 May. She did not say how many US diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms”.

The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late on Wednesday that “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception”.

The statement from the Cuban foreign ministry said it had been informed on 17 February of the incidents and launched an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government”.

It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”

The ministry said it had created an expert committee to analyse the incidents and had reinforced security around the US embassy and US diplomatic residences.

“Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including US citizens,” the statement said.

US officials told the Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved. The FBI and Diplomatic Security Service are investigating.

Cuba employs a state security apparatus that keeps many people under surveillance and US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. Like virtually all foreign diplomats in Cuba, the victims of the incidents lived in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government.

However, officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command.

Nauert said investigators did not yet have a definitive explanation for the incidents but stressed they take them “very seriously,” as shown by the Cuban diplomats’ expulsions.