The freelance journalist behind an explosive exposé on previously unknown facts about the early life of 2010 Olympics head John Furlong is dealing with huge legal bills.
According to Laura Robinson, she has an outstanding tab as of April 30 this year of about $160,000 in connection with the defamation countersuit she filed against Furlong.
That doesn’t cover expenses in May leading up to and including the trial of her suit against the former Vancouver Olympics CEO, which started on June 15.
“It’s a massively expensive undertaking,” Robinson told the Straight during an interview at B.C. Supreme Court. The Ontario writer is being represented by Bryan Baynham of the Harper Grey law office.
In her testimony on June 16, Robinson said she spent $150,000 to defend against a defamation suit filed by Furlong, one that he eventually dropped. He also discontinued a similar lawsuit against the Georgia Straight.
Robinson authored a story headlined “John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake”, which was published in the Straight on September 27, 2012. The article reported that he arrived in the northern B.C. town in 1969 as a Christian missionary—not in 1974, as he wrote in his memoir Patriot Hearts—and that he allegedly taunted and physically hurt First Nations students he taught as a gym teacher at the former Immaculata Elementary School.
Robinson has set up a fund and a website (laurarobinsondefensefund.org) to seek the public’s help in her legal battle with Furlong, who sits on the boards of various organizations. “People I’ve never met and don’t know are being very generous, sending donations,” she said.
She has accused Furlong of defaming her after the publication of her article by attacking her as a dishonest and incompetent journalist.
“I’ve been doing a few speaking engagements, very few, and the other thing is I’m also working hard on this trial,” Robinson said. “My time that I would have been writing or speaking is taken up with research and working with the really fine legal team at Harper Grey.”
Robinson added: “If people believe in freedom of expression and believe that journalism writers need to tell difficult stories, I hope they’ll support me.”