It is the largest defection of Cubans since that of 24 pilgrims who traveled to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002.
The remaining singers were warned by Digna Guerra, the choir's manager, that the Cuban government would retaliate against their families if they tried to escape. The choir left Toronto for British Columbia the next day.
According to Ernesto Cendoya-Sotomayor, one of the refugees, there was no plan to defect en masse, but that the defections were the result of a "domino effect."
All of the refugees were initially housed with Cuban exiles in Toronto, although it is believed that six of them have since gone to the United States. Those who have remained in Canada are in the process of seeking asylum.
The Coro Nacional de Cuba was founded in 1959 by Ernesto (Che) Guevara as the Choir of the Rebel Army.