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Journalist's lawyer presses John Furlong to go to trial

A year after John Furlong filed a defamation lawsuit against a newspaper and reporter, the saga may finally see a courtroom.

But the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics has still not set dates for a B.C. Supreme Court trial, according to the lawyer for journalist Laura Robinson.

Furlong sued the Georgia Straight and Robinson on Nov. 27, 2012, two months after the newspaper published Robinson's "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake" expose. Furlong emphatically denied allegations in Robinson's story that he had physically abused eight students of a Catholic elementary school where he taught physical education in 1969 and 1970.

Furlong's Patriot Hearts memoir, published a year after the 2010 Games, made no mention of the Irish native's missionary work in Burns Lake before his 1974 arrival at Edmonton.

Robinson's lawyer Bryan Baynham filed a Nov. 22 application under the Libel and Slander Act seeking a judge to order Furlong post a $100,000 security with the court. The sum represents the estimated costs if a verdict or judgment is given in favour of Robinson.

"If the plaintiff does not post security within 30 days of entry of this order, the defendant Laura Robinson has leave to apply to dismiss the action against her," said the filing.

Baynham told The Tyee that a preliminary Dec. 4 hearing on the application has been adjourned to Dec. 9. An application to have the case dismissed for want of prosecution is also being prepared, because Furlong has yet to set the case for trial.

Baynham estimates the case would need a minimum 19 days before judge and jury and has reserved Jan. 19, 2015 to open the trial. It is Furlong's responsibility to agree and pay for the dates, he said.

On Oct. 29, Furlong discontinued his action against the Georgia Straight, though he has said publicly he wants to "escalate" the action against Robinson.

"The plaintiff has never sought to have the article removed from the Georgia Straight webpage, and it remains available for viewing to this day," said the Nov. 22 filing.

The filing said the list of documents disclosed to Robinson does not include Furlong's residential address, employer, income "or whether he possesses exigible assets in this jurisdiction." Furlong is the chairman of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Rocky Mountaineer Railtours and Own the Podium and is a director of Whistler Blackcomb and Canadian Tire.

"The evidence demonstrates that the plaintiff has suffered little if any damage to his reputation and earning capacity due to the article; moreover, one recognizes in the plaintiff's decision to discontinue against the Georgia Straight an acknowledgement that his allegations have no realistic possibility of success at trial and are, thus, frivolous," the filing said.

Baynham said neither Furlong nor his lawyer John Hunter have formally responded to a Nov. 13 demand for apology. Robinson alleges that Furlong defamed her during a series of media interviews Oct. 28 to Nov. 3.

A prepared Nov. 13 statement from Furlong's public relations agent TwentyTen Group said "no apology is merited nor will be made." Meanwhile, Robinson is launching a website to raise funds for her legal defence.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Due to the nature of this story, comments are closed.

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