Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

John Furlong files long-awaited rebuttal in defamation suit

John Furlong, who was the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, says he was well-liked by former students that he never harmed and has accused journalist Laura Robinson of abusing the court process because of a personal vendetta.

"The events alleged are said to have occurred in 1969 and the 1970s but have not been reported in the intervening decades to the plaintiff or to the authorities by any persons involved," according to Furlong in a July 26 B.C. Supreme Court rebuttal. "This is because they never occurred."

Furlong's long-awaited, 12-page rebuttal to January defamation defence filings by the Georgia Straight and reporter Robinson was filed in Vancouver on the eve of the first anniversary of the London 2012 Olympics.

Furlong sued the newspaper and Robinson on Nov. 27, 2012 for defamation, two months after their Sept. 27, 2012 expose, "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake," alleged both inconsistencies in his Patriot Hearts memoir and that he abused aboriginal children at Immaculata Elementary School while he was a physical education teacher.

The Georgia Straight and Robinson's defence statements contained more allegations that Furlong used racial slurs and beat and molested children. Those filings also claimed he abused his first wife and raped a common-law spouse. In his July 26 filing, Furlong said the additional allegations "defamatory, unfounded and cannot be supported by reliable evidence."

"The serious untrue allegations of wrongdoing by him made for the first time in that expanded pleading constitute an abuse of the court's process and of its privilege," said Furlong's statement, filed by lawyer John Hunter.

Furlong alleged Robinson has a "historical pattern of serious inaccuracies" and "reckless regard for the truth." His 2011-published book, written with Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason, indicates he arrived in Canada from his native Ireland in fall 1974 at Edmonton. At a news conference last September, Furlong admitted he was actually in Burns Lake and Prince George between 1969 and 1972 and called his initial foray to Canada as an 18-year-old Catholic missionary "fairly brief and fairly uneventful."

On Sept. 27, 2012, Mason told The Tyee that "I have been asked if John Furlong ever mentioned working in Burns Lake for several years before 1974 during the course of our interviews for Patriot Hearts. I can say he did not."

Furlong claimed in the July 26 filing that Patriot Hearts "was never intended as a chronological personal biography" and called any suggestion that he chose to hide "earlier visits to Canada" untrue and defamatory.

Furlong also claimed he was "well-liked by students at both Immaculata and Prince George College," so much that he received a trophy at a school assembly before he was recruited to become Prince George's director of parks and recreation. Furlong's statement did not mention the year.

His statement also described his job duties as physical education teacher, including bringing students to other authority figures to be disciplined, and that he sometimes criticized or reprimanded students who were performing activities improperly or without enthusiasm. He claimed he never exhibited racist attitudes toward "First Nations or First Nations individuals."

"The RCMP has thoroughly investigated the alleged charges against the plaintiff," according to Furlong's statement. "The RCMP has found nothing to substantiate the complaint or allegation. As a result, counsel for the plaintiff Furlong has been informed no charges have been laid and no report will be made to Crown counsel."

That conflicts with what the RCMP told The Tyee earlier this week. Spokesman Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said via email on July 24 that the investigation "remains ongoing." In response to the July 26 filing, Vermeulen said "we are not in a position to comment at this point as our file has not been fully concluded."

Furlong's July 26 rebuttal came two days after two aboriginal women sued Furlong for alleged abuse while they were elementary students at Immaculata. Their statements of claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court by Vancouver lawyer Jason Gratl, also name the Vancouver Catholic Archdiocese and Prince George Catholic diocese as defendants. Those lawsuits claim parents confronted Furlong and school officials and that one of the girls was moved 145 kilometres away to a school in Smithers to escape the alleged abuse by Furlong.

None of the allegations in either lawsuit has been proven in court.

Furlong's public relations agent, the TwentyTen Group, not his lawyer, sent the July 26 documents to reporters. The rebuttal was many months delayed.

On Jan. 22, the TwentyTen Group said Furlong was confident of vindication and that "his legal team will be filing a formal response in court in the coming days." In early March, TwentyTen Group said Furlong had returned to Vancouver after visiting Ireland. "At this point in time, John is reviewing the latest statements made in determining next steps."

Part of the reason for the rebuttal may have been the April 11 death of Furlong's third wife, Deborah Sharp, in a head-on crash near their residence in rural Gorey, Ireland. Irish police continue to investigate. Toxicology tests are pending.

Furlong remains listed as the executive chair of the Vancouver Whitecaps and chairman of Own the Podium and Rocky Mountaineer Railtours. He is a director of Whistler-Blackcomb and Canadian Tire. He was recently named to the advisory board of Arian Resources, a junior mining company exploring for gold in Albania.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

Due to the nature of this story, comments are closed.