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Ottawa hid vital information, claim ailing diplomats who served in Cuba

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  • OTTAWA — Five Canadian diplomats and their family members who became mysteriously ill while posted to Cuba are suing Ottawa for more than million.

    In a statement of claim filed Wednesday in Federal Court, the diplomats say the Canadian government failed to protect them, hid crucial information and downplayed the seriousness of the risks.

    Global Affairs Canada acknowledges that nine adults and five children from diplomatic families have developed unusual illnesses in Havana, with symptoms including nausea, dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating.

    The department has said the government is trying to pinpoint the cause, stressing that the health and safety of diplomatic staff and their families are the priorities.

    Speculation has focused on some kind of acoustic or microwave assault, unknown contaminants and even chirping crickets.

    Officials have all but ruled out environmental factors, such as toxins in the air, soil or water, and no longer suspect a sonic attack is to blame.

    In April, Canada announced that diplomats posted to Cuba would not be accompanied by dependants due to the ongoing uncertainty.

    The statement of claim says that not only “were the diplomats prevented from considering the true risks of a Havana posting to their own health, but they were also denied the opportunity to protect their children, and must live with the knowledge that they may never fully recover.”

    The allegations have not been tested in court.

    A doctor is now working full time to provide advice and assistance to those who have continuing symptoms.

    In their claim, however, the diplomats say Ottawa has “actively interfered” with their ability to seek appropriate medical care.

    The RCMP is leading an investigation into the cause of the ailments, which also struck several American diplomats in Havana. Canada has been working with the U.S. and Cuban authorities on the baffling puzzle.

    During a visit to Washington on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment on the specifics of the court action.

    However, she noted she had met with some of the Canadian diplomats who have experienced illnesses.

    “It’s a privilege to serve Canada around the world, but it’s also really hard,” Freeland said.

    “I’m really concerned about them, and they have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support.”

    — Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

    Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press



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    Alberta

    As Hair Massacure Returns for Another Year, Here’s A Moving Look at How it Began

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  • On February 22, 2019, thousands of heads will be shaved in honour of the journey of sick children losing their hair due to chemotherapy.

    People will gather once again at the Toyota Mayfield Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall to collectively shave their heads, raising money in support of Albertans facing cancer.

    The Hair Massacure is founded, supported and organized by The MacDonald Family, in honour of their daughter Kali, a childhood cancer survivor.

    The MacDonald family partners once again with the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and supports Terry Fox Profyle, a Pediatric cancer research project.

    With the support of their partners, the family plans to scale Hair Massacure to the national level with the support of the Children’s Wish Foundation, continuing to raise funding for pediatric cancer research and for children with life threatening illnesses.

    Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada

    Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada is a 100% Canadian charity that grants the single-most heartfelt wishes of Canadian children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Every wish is as unique as the child making it.  In Alberta and the NWT, we grant a Wish every three days and approve around 180 new Wishes each year. Wish referrals can be made by anyone who has a child in their lives between the ages of 3-17 and meets the medical criteria. Become a supporter of the largest Wish granting organization in Canada today!

    Terry Fox Profyle

    For the first time in Canadian history, more than 30 pediatric cancer research and funding organizations have joined forces through Terry Fox PROFYLE, a pan-Canadian project to give children, adolescents and young adults who are out of conventional treatment options another chance to beat their cancer. Short for PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE, the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) and these research and funding partners are working and fundraising together under a unique partnership that to date is providing a total of $16.4 million to molecularly profile the tumours of these patients, no matter where they live in Canada. For example, if Terry Fox had been diagnosed with cancer today, he would have been eligible for PROFYLE when the tumour returned and spread to his lungs. A $5-million investment by TFRI is the catalyst bringing together top scientists and clinicians, research centres, cancer charities and foundations at children’s hospitals across the country to create new hope for young people who need it the most.

    Video produced by Storyteller Productions .


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    Health

    Health agency hunts for Canadians who had surgery at Tijuana clinic

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  • OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says at least 30 Canadians who had surgery at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico are at risk of potentially deadly infection.

    But the agency isn’t sure, because of the difficulty in responding to health alerts in other countries.

    An investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month found Canadians underwent weight-loss surgeries at the Grand View Hospital in Tijuana, just like American patients who became infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. Tijuana is right next to the U.S. border, close to San Diego.

    “It may be that we never know the exact number of Canadians involved,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public-health officer. “We’re trying to ensure that all patients … should be having communications from the treating facility to inform them of their potential risk so that they can do medical follow-ups.”

    The federal public-health agency issued a notice Wednesday recommending patients who went to the Grand View Hospital, or other Tijuana facilities, starting last August, seek medical help immediately if they’re experiencing signs of infection, including fever, redness, or pus or swelling at the surgical site.

    The bacteria involved is called pseudomonas aeruginosa, and it’s a known hazard in medical settings, especially for patients who have had surgery.

    The health agency also warns of risk of blood-borne infections including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to poor equipment sterilization at Grand View. Other patients are advised to avoid the hospital until Mexican authorities give the all-clear.

    Medical tourism presents a challenge to health authorities because Canadians are under no obligation to report when they’ve had treatments abroad, Njoo said.

    “We can’t demand or track any Canadian who decides to go overseas,” said Njoo. “Anyone could be going abroad for tourism and if that includes going for an elective procedure in a medical facility that’s not something that we would necessarily be aware of.”

    A 2017 survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found Canadians were the third-biggest market for plastic surgery outside their home country, behind only Americans and Spaniards.

    According to Statistics Canada, overseas health-related spending by Canadians rose from $447 million in 2013 to $690 million in 2017.

    Stephen Cook, The Canadian Press


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    february, 2019

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