Canada has joined the ranks of those affected by the sonic attacks that were initially thought to have plagued just United States diplomats, adding more complexity to an already tense situation.
The Canadian capital of Ottawa acknowledged that an unspecified number of Canadians in Cuba had been affected based on the fact that a doctor had been sent by the Canadian federal government to investigate the attacks on its citizens. The new facts add a new angle to the attacks, as many speculated that whoever was responsible for the attacks had an anti-American agenda.
The newly-disclosed records show that Ottawa sent a doctor to Cuba back in August of 2017 to investigate symptoms of the attacks, which were allegedly perpetrated on Canadian embassy staff and their family members, including children. “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.”
The symptoms exhibited by Canadians were the same as those publicized in reports by American press – headaches, dizziness, nausea, hearing loss, nosebleeds, and cognitive issues including loss of short-term memory. Cuba has repeatedly denied any knowledge or association with the attacks, with one official going as far as referring to the attacks as “science fiction.”
Cuban officials weren’t alone in expressing skepticism about the attacks. A message to Ottawa on May 16th, which was approved by Canada’s ambassador to Cuba, expressed a concern that whatever symptoms Canadians were experiencing might be psychosomatic, while noting the “confirmed incidents” were isolated to U.S. diplomats.
A June 8 report to Ottawa details expanded symptoms – a loss of consciousness, blurred eyesight, lack of balance, and ear pain. “Many have heard strange noises in their residences and have experienced symptoms that they have not had before in their lives,” the report read. By the next day, the embassy head requested a medical adviser to come to Havana “as soon as possible” to screen the Canadian employees and family members affected. A few days later, patrols and guards were increased for embassy families.
The Cuban government, for its part, had reportedly taken weeks to dispatch medical personnel to assess the Canadians’ symptoms. Cuban media took its turn as well in the form of a television special. The program posed an incendiary question: did the attack ever actually happen? Creators of the program interviewed neighbors of the U.S. diplomats who didn’t experience symptoms, and officials from the Cuban interior ministry are quoted saying that sounds record by U.S. investigators are similar to the sounds that crickets and cicadas make.
As of yet, no details have been unearthed about who might have perpetrated the attacks and how. Despite this, the United States and Canada have taken vastly different approaches to confronting the matter. The United States halted diplomatic relations with Cuba almost completely, while Canada slowly released details of its own investigation with few policy changes.