New Furlong filing admits ‘no actual knowledge’ behind a key allegation

By Bob Mackin, for The Tyee

In new B.C. Supreme Court documents, the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics admits he has no proof that a journalist made an abuse complaint about him to the RCMP.

By Bob Mackin, for The Tyee

In new B.C. Supreme Court documents, the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics admits he has no proof that a journalist made an abuse complaint about him to the RCMP.

John Furlong filed his statement of defence Feb. 27 in the defamation lawsuit launched a month earlier by Laura Robinson, who wrote a 2012 expose about the Irish-born Furlong's initial years in Canada as a Catholic school physical education teacher.

In his court filing, Furlong "believes," based on information he claims was available to him and provided by the RCMP, that Robinson brought Beverly Abraham's allegations to the RCMP. But it said he "has no direct or actual knowledge of whether the plaintiff initiated a complaint with or otherwise reported Ms. Abraham's allegations to the RCMP."

The court filing is different from what Furlong said in an Oct. 28, 2013 interview with Global BC's Chris Gailus ("she went to the RCMP and made the complaint") and in an Oct. 29, 2013 statement on his website ("the RCMP have cleared me of the allegations that Ms. Robinson brought to the RCMP on behalf of Beverly Abraham in the summer of 2012").

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RCMP did advise Furlong lawyer Marvin Storrow in a December letter that it did not have enough evidence to recommend he be charged for allegedly abusing Abraham, a student at the Immaculata Catholic elementary school in 1969 and 1970. Abraham and two others are proceeding with civil lawsuits against Furlong, alleging he physically, mentally and sexually abused them while he taught at the Burns Lake, B.C. school.

Furlong has denied their allegations. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

A prepared statement from Robinson and her lawyer maintained "Abraham on her own volition reported Mr. Furlong to the Burns Lake RCMP detachment."

"The rest of Mr. Furlong's Response contains his usual charges against Ms. Robinson; charges she looks forward to defending during her defamation case against Mr. Furlong commencing March 30, 2015," said the statement.

Furlong's court filing repeated his accusation that Robinson has a vendetta against him and a "reckless" pattern of reporting through her career. Furlong admitted he spoke the words as alleged by Robinson during a media blitz late last October and early November, but "denies that those words were defamatory of the plaintiff, as alleged or at all."

"Mr. Furlong acted diligently in attempting to verify the truth of his public comments in the circumstances," said Furlong's defence statement.

Robinson's lawyer, Bryan Baynham, sought formal apologies on Nov. 13 and Dec. 13, 2013, but the Furlong filing said "no apology was offered because the impugned statements are not defamatory of the plaintiff as alleged or at all because the impugned statements are true."

Furlong is pleading justification, fair comment, and responsible communication, claiming his statements "do not tend to lower (Robinson's) reputation in the community."

Furlong's defence statement maintained the Sept. 27, 2012 Georgia Straight story (under the headline "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake") contained "false and defamatory allegations" that he abused, bullied and racially taunted students while volunteering at Immaculata.

On Oct. 29, 2013, he discontinued the action against the Georgia Straight, which continues to publish the story on its website. He also vowed to "escalate" his action against Robinson, but has yet to schedule a trial against her. Robinson, however, immediately set March 30, 2015 to begin her trial of Furlong.

Robinson also named TwentyTen Group, the marketing agency that represents Furlong, as a defendant in the defamation suit. The company has yet to file its statement of defence.

TwentyTen Group organized the XL Leadership Summit in Vancouver on Feb. 12-13, featuring Furlong, astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse. Furlong also appeared on CBC for interviews during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, but did not attend the Games in Russia. He chairs Rocky Mountaineer Railtours and is a director of Canadian Tire, two companies that advertised heavily on CBC's Sochi 2014 coverage.

None of the allegations made by Robinson about Furlong, or Furlong about Robinson, have been proved in court.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee, where this article was originally published.

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