John Furlong claims he didn’t hide Christian missionary past under cross-examination at defamation trial
Former Vanoc head admits he immigrated to Canada a year later than stated in autobiography
John Furlong has admitted in the witness stand that he arrived in Canada as a landed immigrant from Ireland in 1975—not in 1974 as he wrote in his autobiography and told in stories about his life.
The former Vancouver Olympics CEO made the admission upon the resumption today (June 23) of his cross-examination by the lawyer of a freelance journalist who is suing him for defamation.
Bryan Baynham, who is representing plaintiff Laura Robinson, began by asking about the name of the “famous customs agent” in Edmonton who supposedly stamped Furlong’s passport, welcoming him to Canada with a call to make the country “better”.
Furlong couldn’t remember who the officer was. Besides, according to him, there was a point he was trying to make with the story that he told in his 2011 book Patriot Hearts.
“The point about that story isn’t about his name. It’s about the message,” he said in B.C. Supreme Court.
That message was about the responsibility of all Canadians to their country, and Baynham said that he knew about that, but there was the question of when Furlong actually arrived.
Baynham reminded Furlong that in Patriot Hearts, he wrote that he came over in 1974.
“The date is irrelevant,” Furlong responded.
Baynham pressed on, stating that it is clear that Furlong didn’t come to Canada as an immigrant until 1975.
Furlong answered: “I’ll give you this. I won’t say it was 1974.”
Baynham followed up, causing a bit of laughter among the audience in the court gallery.
“I say it was sometime then,” Furlong replied. “I don’t know the date in 1975. I really don’t. I wish I did.”
Baynham moved on, noting that there is a photo in an Irish newspaper in February 1975 showing Furlong with Ireland’s national women’s basketball team.
“You were in Ireland in 1975,” Baynham told Furlong.
“Yes,” Furlong admitted.
Furlong has received many accolades, including those from media outlets, because of his role in heading up the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
These included being named “Canada’s Nation Builder of 2010” by the Globe and Mail.
An article published in December of that year by the Globe about the newspaper’s choice of Furlong for the recognition states: “The story is one John Furlong never tires of telling. The day he landed in Edmonton in 1974 to begin his new life, an unassuming immigration officer welcomed him with the words: ‘Make us better.’ ”
At another point in Furlong’s cross-examination, Baynham accused him of not telling anyone at the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Vancouver organizing committee for the 2010 Olympics that he actually first came to Canada much earlier in 1969 as a Christian missionary.
Robinson wrote about Furlong’s previously undisclosed history as an Oblate Frontier Apostle in a story published by the Georgia Straight in September 2012. The story also reported on eight sworn affidavits by former students of Furlong at the Immaculata Elementary School, alleging that he taunted, bullied, and hurt First Nations students.
Addressing Furlong, Baynham said that nobody among Olympics officials knew about Furlong’s past as a missionary.
“You’re dead wrong,” Furlong countered, saying “lots of people at Vanoc” knew that he was once in Burns Lake, B.C., where he taught physical education to school children as part of his missionary work.
Furlong maintained: “It was well known.”
After the Straight article came out, Furlong sued the Straight and Robinson for defamation, but he eventually discontinued his legal action.
Robinson counter-sued Furlong for various public statements he made questioning her competence and honesty as a journalist.
The trial of Robinson’s defamation suit started on June 15.
Talking to reporters after the trial wrapped up for the day, Furlong said that he was “glad” his cross-examination was over.
According to Furlong, it was “important” for him to clarify issues in court in the presence of his children.
Furlong acknowledged: “It was a difficult, challenging day.”
Furlong’s defence team also called two witnesses, Ken Shields, a former coach of the Canadian national basketball team, and Rusty Goepel, who chaired the Vanoc hiring committee.
Shields was a subject of a 1994 article by Robinson regarding alleged systemic racism in the selection of the national basketball team. (The Globe later retracted the charges of racism and settled a libel lawsuit with Shields.)
He told the court that he was “devastated” by the article, and that he contacted Furlong after Robinson’s article in the Straight was published in 2012.
Shields also testified that he has known Furlong for a long time.
Goepel, who was quoted in the Straight article by Robinson, told the court that he didn’t believe accusations that Furlong abused school children.
According to Goepel, Furlong is an “exceptional leader”.
Jun 23, 2015 at 4:05pm
Hmm, 1969, 1974. What happened in Ireland to send him back here.
And when was he hired as Chief Executive Officer of the upscale members-only family Arbutus Club on Vancouver's west side?
Jun 23, 2015 at 5:58pm
Man, you guys are covering this like it's the Olympics.
SPY vs SPY
Jun 23, 2015 at 6:37pm
Laura Robinson testified that she had written a 3,000 word article about systemic racism in the selection of Players for Canada's Basketball team. The selection process used Canadian Universities as a base for tryouts.
However many young Black Canadian Basketball Players were getting scholarships to USA Universities and were left out of the Canadian Team Selection Process - Because they went to USA Universities.
The article was to appear in the Focus Section of the Saturday Globe and Mail and Robinson had specifically stated - Do Not Give the Article to the Sports Section!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They gave the article to the Sports Section (The Editor of the Sports section was someone Robinson had previously written about as having Abusive Relationships with Young Players he was Coaching) and they chopped the article up into something that was never intended by Robinson.
So the Globe had to pay a settlement to Ken Shields - not Laura Robinson!!!!!
Jun 24, 2015 at 5:46am
I understand Laura is having financial difficulties presumably due to this ongoing legal action.
Perhaps the Straight would consider relocating her to the coast and setting her up with a nice window view office in the Georgia Straight building. I'm sure there is no end of bad men around they can unleash her on to pad out the weekly Gwyn Dyer and music Club news.
Might get pricey defending all of those defamation suits, though. But that's the price to be paid for integrity.
Jun 24, 2015 at 9:03am
Is this the best that Robinson's lawyer can do? The suggestion that Furlong should remember the name of a customs officer who processed him on arrival is ridiculous. I can remember several interactions with Canadian and US customs officers over the decades, and I never learnt, or asked, the name of any of them. They've never displayed their names on their uniforms. A silly question.
It's not a silly question, it's theatre.
Jun 24, 2015 at 12:52pm
It is, no doubt, a matter of record exactly when Furlong entered Canada and his lawyer could likely produce evidence of that date if it were necessary.
Robinson's lawyer is asking the question as to when Furlong arrived, to highlight inconsistencies in his subsequent retelling of the moment. Baynam is putting on a show deigned to influence onlookers ( judge, jury?) to consider that Furlong often lies about things. Now it isn't exactly lying to 'leave out' part of your biography, but if enough innocent omissions can be catalogued, they look more like a lie than an omission, and you dont actually have to prove the lie, which is a harder bar to clear.
One thing, though. Robinson and the Straight ought to be able to produce harder evidence to justify the damage done to Furlong ( or anyone else they accuse). We'll see what unfolds.
Jun 24, 2015 at 4:14pm
Rusty Goepel? Isn't that the Rusty Goepel who was with Goepel McDermid Securities, Goepel Shields Partners Inc, Raymond James Financial inc and Raymond James Ltd?
The same Rusty Goepel who, according to the Elections BC database, personally and through the corporate entities above contributed over $139,000to the BC Liberal Party since January 1, 2005?
Jun 25, 2015 at 6:35am
The inconsistencies in Furlong's story are important. They go to credibility. Beyond that one surely would remember the date one migrated to another country - this isn't just another trip where one could easily mix up the dates - this is a life altering event.
The statement about dates in a biography, an official one at that, which blurs a part of the life of someone is also significant. People do this in their resumes all the time and sure they are only human to portray themselves in a good light. But a biography should be different although I concede an "official" biography is typically a puff piece used largely to put oneself in a good light as well.
Here though the gaps are significant because a reasonable person could easily be suspicious about why something was left out and that could reasonably trigger further inquiry. Robinson's lawyer is getting at seemingly small things to show that it would not be unreasonable to follow up on these things as well to question the larger narrative of Furlong's promotions of himself.
The cross examination as reported in the press also seems to have shown a man who makes his own rules and is prepared to state what he wants whenever it suits him. He has trashed a journalist for aggressively following a story, but he dropped his own suit and only trashed her using PR techniques. Crocodile tears for himself but a profound willingness to do to someone else what he ostensibly believes is wrong for himself.