John Furlong’s lawyer accuses Laura Robinson of “unremitting” attacks on fourth day of defamation trial

Ex-Vanoc boss being sued over media statements in wake of Georgia Straight article

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      Sparks flew on the fourth day of the trial of a defamation suit against former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong.

      “How did you expect him to react?” Furlong’s lawyer, John Hunter, asked Laura Robinson, who wrote an in-depth article about the prominent figure’s untold early years in Canada and alleged abuses he committed against First Nations students at an elementary school.

      “You expected him to send you flowers?” Hunter said, pressing on with his cross-examination today (June 18) of Robinson, who sued Furlong for allegedly impugning her integrity as a journalist following publication of her article in the Georgia Straight in 2012.

      “I expected him not to lie,” Robinson responded.

      Hunter reminded her that she had been told by Furlong’s camp that if her article was printed, she would be sued.

      Following the publication of her story in the Straight on September 27, 2012, Furlong did sue Robinson and the newspaper. He eventually discontinued the lawsuits.

      In his cross-examination, Hunter also outlined before B.C. Supreme Court justice Catherine Wedge how he is defending Furlong against Robinson’s defamation suit.

      In previous days, Hunter had told media that he would employ “qualified privilege” as a defense.

      “If someone is going to be attacked in the press…they ought to be able to respond to defend their reputation, shouldn’t they?” Hunter asked Robinson.

      The writer responded: “They have the right to respond and then the person they’re speaking of has the right to respond to their response.”

      At one point during the trial, Hunter told Justice Wedge that his client suffered “sustained, continuous, unremitting” attacks from Robinson in 2012 and 2013.

      According to the lawyer, Robinson contacted “professional colleagues” of Furlong and continued to make allegations of abuse.

      “That’s the position of the case,” Hunter said. “That’s what I want to do. I have a lot of material to that effect.”

      At the start of his cross-examination, Hunter accused Robinson of “orchestrating” the timing of the publication of her article in the Straight as well as in an Ontario First Nations paper, the Anishinabek News.

      “I wasn’t orchestrating anything,” Robinson replied.

      Hunter was going through emails exchanged at that time between Robinson and the Anishinabek News indicating that she asked the Native publication not to post online an abridged version of her piece until after the Straight’s piece had gone online.

      The Straight’s story contained allegations of racial taunting and physical abuses but made no mention of any claims of sexual abuse. The shorter piece that appeared in the Anishinabek News reported a certain “Anne” who had gone to the RCMP to complain that she was sexually molested by Furlong.

      As part of his cross-examination, Hunter also suggested that Robinson was talking to a “vulnerable” community when she went to Burns Lake, B.C., in April 2012 to interview former students of Furlong.

      According to Hunter, the Immaculata Elementary School and the former high school called Prince George College were not considered Native residential schools. As such, former students of those schools are not entitled to compensation even though they suffered abuse like those who attended residential schools.

      “Did you have any concern that you might hear from people who felt that because of abuse they had suffered in any context, they ought to have compensation…?” Hunter asked.

      Robinson replied that she doesn’t believe that people will lie to her just because there might be a chance that they could get compensation.

      “Really?” Hunter responded.

      Furlong’s lawyer went on to suggest that Robinson may not have gotten reliable information. The journalist replied that she felt that the people she interviewed were speaking “honestly” to her.

      When she first took the stand on Tuesday (June 16), Robinson testified that Furlong’s attacks against her affected her personal life, health, and finances.

      The court heard on that day that in 2014 her earnings dropped to about $11,000, from a high in 2011 of more than $52,000, an amount that included a court settlement.

      Furlong’s lawyer today provided details of Robinson’s financial standing in previous years, noting for example that in 2010, she had a negative income because of expenses even though she earned about $15,000 in fees plus about $800 more. In 2009, according to Hunter, Robinson had a negative income of $24.



      Oy Gevalt

      Jun 18, 2015 at 2:44pm

      I fear this isn't going that well for our little Ms. Robinson. And I've heard Mr. Furlong under oath before ... he's slicker'n snot.

      I think the odds-makers just went to 4:3 for Furlong.

      Following this case

      Jun 18, 2015 at 4:29pm

      Glad there are people like Laura Robinson in the media business and newspapers like The Georgia Straight. Thank you!

      Just saying

      Jun 18, 2015 at 4:39pm

      Wow, Ms. Robinson must live is a unicorn palace if she thinks people won't lie for money.

      Martin Dunphy

      Jun 18, 2015 at 6:55pm

      Just sayin:

      Please keep in mind that the question about compensation was asked by a defence lawyer during cross-examination and she is compelled to give an answer.
      At no time in this whole affair has there EVER been any question of financial inducements to secure testimony or information.
      By the way, have you stopped beating your partner? Yes or no.

      Alena Wardell

      Jun 18, 2015 at 10:31pm

      His cross examination questions sounded rather histrionic to me, and her answers sounded pretty to the point.
      And perhaps a journalist who is not in the business to make heaps of money, but rather is in the business for integrity and social justice is going to just make ends meet, paying her travel and food costs in order to report on issues that others lack the courage to touch. Her annual gross income, not net income....would seem much more relevant here. Now she can't even report on these stories because surely she can't go into debt doing so - someone has to pay. At least before she was able to be paid enough to live on to report the stories in the first place. Canada needs more voices like hers.

      SPY vs SPY

      Jun 19, 2015 at 8:08am

      Furlong's Lawyer John Hunter accused Robinson of "Going on a Witch Hunt" - well seeing how how the Catholic Church has such strong beliefs in "SORCERY"!!! Exorcisms and all that Jazz....

      YAH KNOW - Witch Hunt might be just the right Legal Term!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      Jun 19, 2015 at 9:56am

      I strongly suspect that Furlong's original legal actions against the Straight and Laura Robinson, filed in 2012, were PR exercises and nothing more. Once they'd served their purpose, they were discontinued. By conflating the original Straight article with subsequent and unrelated allegations of sexual abuse, Furlong's PR machine deliberately sowed public confusion about Robinson's article.

      At great cost to herself, Robinson has done the public an invaluable service by resisting Furlong's efforts to discredit her. Why? Because something extremely important is at stake in this case: the freedom of independent journalists to do their job. What we need in this country is a defence fund to assist journalists who are faced with SLAPP suits or PR campaigns designed to silence or bankrupt them. Otherwise oligarchs like Furlong can act with virtual impunity.

      By the way, Furlong has never given a remotely plausible explanation for the omission from his ghost-written autobiography of his years at Burns Lake--even though he was married there.

      out at night

      Jun 19, 2015 at 12:24pm

      This article reports that John Furlong's lawyer John Hunter asks, "Really?" in response to the statement: "Robinson ... doesn’t believe that people will lie to her just because there might be a chance that they could get compensation."

      I'd like to suggest that the statement in question applies more specifically to these particular people, not necessarily to all people. Could that be something the court transcript could clear up perhaps? In any case, I believe Ms. Robinson was referring to the scores of adults she has taken statements from over the last 5 years, folks in Burns Lake and other BC communities. She has had the opportunity to sit across from them and watch their faces as they tell their stories. If there are any liars in there, and who knows there may well be, then what really does that matter? They would have to ALL BE LYING in order to exonerate John Furlong. Does anyone, does John Hunter himself, believe that they are ALL LYING?