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Accusers combine suits after Furlong seeks trial

Three people who allege John Furlong abused them when they were elementary schoolers 45 years ago combined their lawsuits against the ex-Vancouver Olympics boss into one on Feb. 6 and are now also seeking damages for defamation.

Beverly Mary Abraham and Grace Jessie West originally filed separate B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits July 24, 2013, followed two months later by a male, against Furlong, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation and Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George. All three aboriginal plaintiffs said they attended Immaculata Catholic elementary school in Burns Lake, B.C. where Furlong taught physical education in 1969 and 1970. They claimed to be victims of verbal, physical and sexual abuse who continue to suffer.

The new filing alleges Furlong defamed the trio at a Sept. 27, 2012 news conference, in October 2013 interviews on CTV and Dec. 12, 2013 on his website.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and Furlong claims innocence.

"The defendant denies that he sexually molested or physically abused or engaged in any inappropriate conduct," said Furlong's Sept. 23, 2013 defence statement.

In a Dec. 5, 2013 letter addressing Abraham's criminal complaint, RCMP Cpl. Quinton Mackie told Furlong's lawyer Marvin Storrow that the force did not have "reasonable and probable grounds" to recommend criminal charges against Furlong.

Verbal and physical abuse allegations were included in the Sept. 27, 2012 expose titled "John Furlong biography omits secret Burns Lake past" by journalist Laura Robinson in the Georgia Straight newspaper.

Furlong sued them for defamation two months later, but dropped the Georgia Straight from the action in October 2013 because he wanted to "escalate" his dispute with Robinson. While Furlong has not yet scheduled a trial against Robinson, she sued him and his public relations representative, TwentyTen Group, on Jan. 27 for defamation and scheduled March 30, 2015 to begin a trial.

In contrast, Furlong applied to the court Dec. 16, 2013 so that he could be tried March 16-20, 2015 on Abraham's lawsuit and he agreed to pay the costs. Normally, it is the plaintiff's responsibility to reserve court dates and pay the related costs. Gratl's joint Feb. 6 filing corresponds with his previously stated desire for his clients' cases to be heard at the same trial for the sake of efficiency and common cause.

Furlong's application also seeks any correspondence between the plaintiffs and Robinson, plus Abraham and West's medical records relating to their allegations and any documentation of requests made for compensation from the Residential Schools Class Action Litigation.

Furlong is the chair of Own the Podium, which funds Canadian Olympians who are medal contenders at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. He is scheduled to appear at the TwentyTen Group-promoted XL Leadership Summit on Feb. 12 to 13 in Vancouver.

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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