John Furlong's lawyer says statements about journalist Laura Robinson weren’t malicious

Former Vanoc CEO recalls “very happy” time in Burns Lake at defamation trial

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      The northern B.C. town of Burns Lake may not have gotten a mention in John Furlong’s autobiographical book, but according to the former Vancouver Olympics CEO, it’s a special place for him.

      “My time in Burns Lake is precious to me,” Furlong said in his first day of testimony in the defamation suit filed against him by freelance journalist Laura Robinson.

      Robinson was the author of “John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake”, an article published in the Georgia Straight on September 27, 2012.

      According to the article, the former Vanoc boss first came to Canada in 1969, five years earlier than 1974, the year Furlong wrote in Patriot Hearts that he and his family arrived.

      The story also reported on eight sworn affidavits by former students of Furlong at the Immaculata Elementary School, alleging that the native of Ireland taunted, bullied, and hurt First Nations students.

      On the day Robinson’s story came out in the Straight, Furlong explained why he didn’t mention Burns Lake in his book.

      “My time in Burns Lake was fairly brief and fairly uneventful,” Furlong said at a news conference.

      Furlong later sued the Straight and Robinson for defamation, but he eventually discontinued his legal action.

      Meanwhile, Robinson counter-sued Furlong for various public statements he had made questioning her competence and honesty as a journalist.

      The trial of Robinson’s defamation suit started on June 15.

      Furlong took the witness stand for the first time today (June 22), and responding to questions from his lawyer John Hunter, the former Olympics official recalled that his time teaching physical education to elementary students in Burns Lake in the 1969-1970 school year was “absolutely fantastic”.

      “I met my wife there. We got married there,” Furlong said in B.C. Supreme Court.

      He also met a lot of people, and according to him, he felt that when he left Burns Lake, it would always be a “warm memory” for him.

      “It was a very happy place,” Furlong said.

      When organizers for the 2010 Olympic Games didn’t include Burns Lake in the torch relay, Furlong said that he used his executive influence to make sure that the town was part of that exercise.

      The court also heard from Furlong that before the Games, a staff member with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games told him of meeting a woman who was claiming that she was mistreated by Furlong in Burns Lake.

      “I have absolutely no recollection of anything like this,” Furlong recalled of his reaction at the time.

      According to Furlong, the Vanoc staffer suggested to him that for a payment of $5,000, the issue would go away.

      Furlong went on to relate that contrary to a previous claim that he talked with the woman somewhere in Surrey, the meeting took place in the False Creek neighborhood of Vancouver.

      “We shook hands and we went away,” Furlong said about how the meeting ended.

      In his opening statement today, Furlong’s lawyer told the judge that the law recognizes a person’s right to answer an attack on that person’s reputation.

      According to Hunter, a person responding to an attack may use “violent” or “excessively strong” language, and “may attack the character of their attacker”.

      Hunter also said that Furlong’s statements against Robinson after the publication of her article were made without malice.




      Jun 22, 2015 at 3:30pm

      Furlong also contacted the police as soon as the person approached him regarding the mistreatment.

      By Gosh

      Jun 22, 2015 at 3:37pm

      Right to answer an attack and right to use strong language are a whole lot different than making misleading statements about someone and about the article that was published. So far from published reports, Furlong seems to have orchestrated a malicious campaign against Robinson something he was not entitled to do.

      not much changes

      Jun 22, 2015 at 4:30pm

      Catholic priests , ministers , teachers , etc have done this routine for decades when confronted with abuse allegation , money , power and the old boy network can get you off of anything . The only reason the rest of the people who have signed affidavits accusing Furlong of abuse are not getting there do is all to do with there lack of there resources . Furlong will win by the golden rule - if you got the gold you make the rules .

      SPY vs SPY

      Jun 22, 2015 at 5:11pm

      So John Furlong believes that he has the right to use "Violent or Excessively Strong Language" to attack anyone who attacks his character!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      So he sued the Newspaper and the Reporter who.......................

      THAT HE HAD ABUSED THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      So he never sued the Native Canadians and then he sued the Person and Paper - that simply reported the TRUTH and that Truthful Language was too much for Furlong.

      And today in Court Furlong now blames Laura Robinson for everything that happened to him since the day the Paper came out and even the death of his wife, who died in a car accident in Ireland.

      Robinson's Lawyer stated in court today that there 35 other Natives in the Burns Lake area who had indicated that they would come forward and testify to the abuse they suffered at Furlongs hand.

      So Furlongs defense is - He can say anything he wants - and everyone else had better SHUT UP

      OR ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      out at night

      Jun 22, 2015 at 7:44pm

      A teenage gym teacher, recruited from Ireland and transplanted to a Catholic school in Northern British Columbia. In the late 60s, early 70s. But he didn't abuse the predominantly Aboriginal students. No, never.

      So the scores of former students who are on the record alleging his physical and verbal abuse, they are all lying and/or brainwashed and mislead, and/or motivated by the prospect of government settlements? We are supposed to buy the latter scenario, that all these former students are lying or mistaken, and we are supposed to reject the idea that he was a brutish teacher at a Catholic school in northern BC in that era.

      And for some reason this idyllic period of his life was left out of his book 'Patriot Hearts', and not on anyone else's radar and absent from his CV. "Fishy" just doesn't cover it. I'd say, mm, oh, how about: "Guilty"?


      Jun 22, 2015 at 8:18pm

      His time in Burns Lake was "absolutely fantastic" and he met and married his wife there, but he didn't write about his time there because it was "fairly brief and fairly uneventful"? I wonder what his wife would've thought of that!

      TRC supporter

      Jun 22, 2015 at 11:35pm

      Canada's Truth & Reconciliation Commission just made over 80 recommendations after 7 years of research - for good reason. I believe in truth & justice for all, fair comment in investigative journalism and speaking truth to power. And I believe all of those native students who made allegations of abuse by John Furlong.

      For nearly 3 yrs since Robinson's story was published here, I've seen most network media people spinning for Furlong, damage control by his powerful PR firm via national networks reporting whatever he says as gospel. They allow him to publicly assassinate the character of an excellent investigative reporter who simply reported injustices alleged by BC natives students, 40 yrs ago - exactly where Furlong had been. Yet, he conveniently left out those years from his Memoir as "uneventful", even as he now testifies that they were warm & wonderful years, where he met & married his first wife.Why?

      Robinson spent almost four years researching this "Lies Of Omission" expose bravely published by the Straight in Sep 2012. She investigated every allegation BEFORE approaching Furlong for a statement, or even writing the story. Not only did this reporter do her "due diligence" double checking all facts, timelines, legal documentation & proper protocol, she did the morally right thing in reporting what she learned. Was she supposed to bury the information from at least 8 native students who swore affidavits about THEIR horrible experiences with John Furlong at the Immaculata Catholic school in Burns Lake, just because he was a powerful person now?

      After the story broke, tnat'd media networks let Furlong play the VICTIM with outrage & denials to discredit all these allegations and vilify the reporter! These brave students who spoke out were once again dismissed and Furlong's proclamations were printed at face value, maligning Robinson and the Georgia Straight for daring to run the story.

      Scores of others later came forward with more stories to tell. Was Robinson supposed to ignore them too? Nearly 3 yrs later,Furlong drops his defamation lawsuit against the Straight & then against Robinson. Why? Doesn't that say more about HIM? Yet, once again he is front & centre as the poor VICTIM, the students he allegedly abused are again maligned and Robinson is blamed for the death of his wife!

      What's wrong with this picture folks?

      I told you so!

      Jun 23, 2015 at 12:10am

      Poor me! Look, I am a victim. Yes John, whatever you say John. You are the face for 2010 Olympics, you can do no wrong. Just check out FIFA.

      My advice to John Furlong...

      Jun 26, 2015 at 3:16pm

      Just say you were becoming a journalist at the time you made the statements.