Abuse went beyond one person in one place

Laura Robinson’s incrimination of establishment man John Furlong led to quick and predictable responses in local media. Vancouver Sun scribbler Daphne Bramham painted a sympathetic picture of the man she called BC’s shaken local hero, a man who had been “powerful, respected and mythologized.”

Bramham colleague Ian Mulgrew took the usual promedia position that commentaries outside approved places are dangerous and inflammatory. He claimed that after the Georgia Straight piece:

…a good old-fashioned lynching was underway on the Internet.

Friday, Bill Good’s morning-after radio editorial began with a comprehensive defence of his long time friend. Throughout the show, Good suggested that abuse of children forty years ago was routine. He declared that mistreatment was commonplace in those days and wondered why people in the north would today raise allegations regarding decades old events.

The broadcaster might do a little reading on systematic abuse of children, particularly mistreatment within any institution that claims to provide moral leadership while it trains victims to silence. I recommend two worthwhile starting points:

Good offered a justification of abuse that is an element of blame the victim:

Mother whacked me with a stick and I turned out fine. What’s wrong with those native folks? They didn’t complain long ago.

Good also featured disjointed words of a media lawyer who might have found the morning hour too early. Despite twice listening to David Sutherland’s segment, I was no better informed about this threatened libel case.

I don’t know Furlong, his accusers or freelance journalist Laura Robinson. From published reports, we conclude that Furlong refused to address or respond to Robinson’s questions. The personal history he has been claiming seems incomplete, if not inaccurate. Of course, Furlong would not be the first person to hide uncomfortable moments from the record and to paint a self-serving portrait of himself. If those particular actions were crimes, most of us would have a record.

Another troubling element is Furlong’s implication that the Georgia Straight newspaper made no effort to validate “any of the elements of this story” and that Robinson was guilty of a:

shocking lack of diligence in researching the article…

If Furlong and lawyer Marvin Storrow refused to respond to repeated communications from the writer, who spent years on the story, they might be accused of a shocking failure to clear the record.

Furlong hurts his credibility too by the imprecise accusations he made and implied against Robinson:

Having experienced this reporter on many occasions in the past this feels very much like a personal vendetta. And finally let me just say on the very first occasion that this was brought to my attention prior to the Olympics I was advised [for] that for a payment it could be made to go away. And as such I reported this to the police.

A careless reader might assume that Laura Robinson had offered to drop the story if paid cash. Furlong did not say that but his words were crafted to leave the impression. Of course, if police investigated an extortion attempt prior to February 2010 and no charge was laid, we should be skeptical of Furlong’s claim. We also note that the record of Robinson’s writings shows no evidence of a vendetta aimed at Furlong the man and she reports contact with him in only a few public news conferences.

This story resonates for me. I feel long standing empathy for First Nations and other youth who were routinely mistreated in this province years ago. As a young teen, I witnessed the faces of New Denver children pressed to steel fences that imprisoned Doukhobor families who were “different.”

I saw it in Powell River. My high school graduation class included the first aboriginal student to finish public school in District 47. Although every young white male expected to be able to choose work in the town’s paper mill, not one aboriginal was allowed that expectation. In a relatively affluent community, one group of citizens was routinely excluded from opportunity and told to stay quiet.

I think churches have not fully atoned for mistreatment of First Nations people in British Columbia. Accusations of specific failures ought to be objectively examined whether the alleged perpetrator was an ordained priest or an unqualified young missionary.

Categories: Journalism, Justice

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24 replies »

  1. Whilst I don't have any feelings one way or the other, yet, I do feel that John Furlong's obvious reluctance to talk about his earlier years to be detrimental.

    I am sure that John Furlong enjoyed the public figure benifits whilst being associated with Vanoc and Gordon Campbell. Being scrutinzed later is also part of this “public figure” scenario.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out – is there any need to be secretive on earlier periods in ones working life ?

    Thanks for the thoughtful presentation Norm.


  2. If there are accusations then they must surely be investigated. It makes me chuckle when someone of Furlongs stature is accused and MSM are behind him almost to the man or woman. If it were some poor guy on the eastside, well, he surely must be guilty and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. A comment on Bill Good…. umm, why waste the time.

    Great balanced article Norm, unlike AGT.


  3. Listening to Furlong's statement, I hear diversion. He made multiple references to the Olympics, his book and several other “accomplishments” to remind everyone what a good citizen he is.

    Moot points.

    This is all about his (selectively forgotten?) time in Burns Lake and not about the periods of time the Bill Goods like to shill about.


  4. If the accusations are true, then why weren't they brought forward at a much earlier date?

    Such as: when Mr. Furlong became president of VANOC, when he released his memoirs, when he received any of his numerous awards and accolades, when he became president of the Whitecaps

    If Mr. Furlong was in Burns Lake during the time of the incident, I would say now is the time to be forthcoming and honest about his recollection there. It was a different time and different place with a whole set of perverted rules in these Aboriginal schools, where the normal is now considered absolutely appalling.


  5. One might point out to Mr. Good that if thinks physical, sexual or verbal abuse in a a different time was 'acceptable', he might wish to rethink the 'real' affect of how he 'turned out' as a result of being hit with a switch by his mother.


  6. Thanks for your thoughtful piece Norman.
    Like you & others, I see a disturbing issue with Mr. Furlong's selective memory; no mention in his book about his years in Burns Lake.
    Yes, it has been a long time, but perhaps Laura Robinson has finally given voice to people who would otherwise never have been heard.
    This is a messy business with no comfortable resolution in sight.
    Mark B


  7. Over and over the rhetorical question is asked; “Why wasn't this brought up at an earlier time?”

    The only logical response is; palms up, eyebrows raised and a WTF look.


  8. It has been (is?) a first line of defence when churches and organizations like the Boy Scouts faced accusations of harbouring abusers. Children were threatened and taught to stay quiet.

    I know from personal experience about the influences that inhibit memories from being dealt with appropriately. My experience happened more than 50 years ago in Vancouver and I suppressed the memories for decades. I still think about it and wonder if the perpetrator was stopped or if he carried on attacking other youngsters. The character drove a Nash Metropolitan and throughout my life, whenever I saw one of those strange little cars, my gut tied in knots.


  9. My native fiends were from Hazelton, the 4 of them were sent to a town on Vancouver Island. None would talk about going to school or even where they went to school before coming to high school here. Years later when our soccer coach died, I heard from one his life was in shambles ,divorced, trying rehab and not living well. When he left town he was full of promise but so scared to go back home. Life before I met him was not talked about, but life after was but all stemmed back to some big hurt before he was sent south, hopefully he is still alive I asked him to call collect whenever but he never did and he seems to be lost in the wherever as he is no longer where I last heard about him. Talking about the abuse they suffered just in dribs and drabs as he found it too hard to talk about it. The early 70's even here were not kind to them as even the local natives would not have much to do with them.


  10. Children who are abused, often stay silent out of fear and terror. They are also deathly afraid, no-one will believe them. It's only when these kids grow up and they can defend themselves, do they have the courage to speak up.

    BC is well known, for neglecting our children. Thousand of our children live in poverty, and go to school hungry. Scum like Campbell the drunk, thieved and sold everything, he got his dirty hands on. He refused to raise the minimum wage, while he stuffed his own pockets, and gave his useless self a, $60,000 per year salary hike.

    Even Harper is proud of himself. Boessenkool, the drunk groper said. It was the smartest thing Harper ever did was to, get rid of the National Program for children. That is why, Harper loves Red China's Human Rights, they don't have any. Child laborers in Red China, only earn pennies a day.

    When you see government abuses, towards our children….our contempt and anger at those monsters of government, grows and grows. Harper's National program for children, Christy Clarks family's first and Campbell's abuses of our most unfortunate children, is a complete disgrace.

    No child in a country such as Canada, should have to go to school hungry. However, that's what happens when monsters rule.


  11. Hello Norm,
    I don't pretend to know how these people could feel or deal with these issues even though I grew up in that period being born in the year 1951. Like Mr. Good I was disciplined physically but unlike Mr. Good I realize how fortunate for me I was not taken from my mother and surroundings and placed in the hands of strangers of different race and beliefs and often degraded and shamed by them for my race.
    Even in those times as a white Canadian child I was assured to have qualified people with the required teacher credentials not someone 18 years old fresh on our soil with zero credentials such as the young John Furlong.
    In my opinion Mr. Furlong had the oppotunity to humble himself and apologize for any percieved or otherwise abuse these people believe they suffered at his hands. This should have been a sincere apology, without the presence of his lawyer, a sole moment to say he was sorry at any involvement he had in their past that was negative for them, instead he used this opportunity to threaten the messenger of these people and warn of dire outcomes for all who question him.
    This is all of course in the hands of fate now and that initial chance to respond is behind him.


  12. Three IFs:

    I agree with you, Don. IF Mr. Furlong did do the things he is accused of, he should not deny them. A proper face-to-face apology would go a long way. Otherwise it all looks like a “Clinton moment.”

    If he is totally innocent, of course, he should stick to his guns and deny it all.

    If there is fire to go along with this smoke, we must remember that Furlong would have been considered an under-21 minor at the time — unable to vote, drink or sign contracts. We don't hold minors fully accountable today, and certainly any of their legal misdeeds would be under publication ban. I don't believe this point has been made yet.

    The age changed to 19 in BC on April 15, 1970. Alleged misdeeds were done in the late 1960s.


  13. I would think that if you were a well behaved practicing catholic at the time, that is all that would have been needed to get this job. Clearly Furlong had high aspirations right from the start, regardless of being naive.
    I also agree that this could have been a moment to build bridges and it was tossed away in order to protect the name brand, John Furlong. Getting paid at speaking engagements of upwards of 20k is nothing to sneeze at. This man is king and he hobnobs with the most corrupt amongst us, so clearly this puts him at a different elite level than the ROC.
    My bigger question is who the hell would buy his book?


  14. ” A proper face-to-face apology would go a long way. Otherwise it all looks like a “Clinton moment.””

    I must confess I get so tired of the hypocrisy, especially of the right wing whiners who point at Clinton's indiscretions like the BC liaRs point at the falsely portrayed terrible, terrible nineties.

    Keep in mind that even though Clinton, ever the parsing lawyer, hedged his bets about pot, Bus$h the Lesser never admitted to the coke and marijuana use that rendered him unwilling to pee in the bottle and thus losing his certification to fly patrol on the Tex-Mex border in the TANG, after taxpayers invested a cool mil in training his dumb ass.

    But the real hypocrite when it comes to Clinton is the sorry excuse for a man that led the charge for impeachment over a blue dress (an act done in the House of Reps and then heard in the Senate, where Clinton was essentially acquitted). Yep that was Speaker of the House Creepy Newt Gingrich, another serial adulterer, who at the same time he was persecuting Bubba, was cheating on his second (and ill) wife with his aide, who became the current official arm candy for the portly blowhard.

    I'm still disgusted by the fact that the Congress and Ken Starr(Chamber) spent years and at least five or six times the money investigating the Clintons, looking for anything to take them down, than they spent on investigating the events of 9/11 which cost 3000 lives and a substantial amount of property damage.

    And then there is the serial adulterer that our man in Ottawa sent to London.


  15. Great piece on the Furlong scandal, Norm.

    I'd like to address the comments some people are making about the time lag in coming forward and their feeling that it undermines the case of the victims.

    Firstly, as it was the RCMP who were delivering these kids back to their abusers at Immaculata whenever they ran away, I think it is a fair assumption on their part that the police would have virtually zero interest in investigating these abuses. -And after the Dziekanski killing who would be stupid enough to trust them now?

    Secondly, as far as coming forward to the media earlier, Ms. Robinson is probably the first journalist who bothered to listen respectfully. The circle-the-wagons approach that the mainstream media is displaying is ample evidence of their bias in favour of the elite in our society. The story would have been embargoed, considered untouchable even if a MSM journalist wanted to cover it. Objective reporting is a myth. The owners of these outlets lay down the law on what can and cannot be reported on and the message is more than ably delivered to reporters when their more intrepid colleagues are fired.

    There simply were no avenues for this information to be brought to light earlier – and my depressing prediction is that the current editor of the Georgia Straight will probably be unemployed once memories have once again started to fade on this story.

    I believe there's a much larger story here. One of my late relatives was very well connected to the local intelligence scene and he was repeatedly told of a high level pedophile ring consisting of many members of the “great and good” who used the hotel facilities of the establishment clubs to hide their perverted activities. I'm not saying that Mr. Furlong is a pedophile, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of his more vociferous mainstream media defenders were.


  16. If I was accused of doing the things that John Furlong has been accused of; and if I was not guilty of having done those things; then I speculate here that in any public statement I made subsequently I would carefully point out that I didn't do those things. In the case of John Furlong's carefully crafted version of events, and with the solicited input and advice of a bevy of of lawyers, he claims: “I categorically deny absolutely ANY wrongdoing. This could be interpreted in at least a couple of very different ways, including the one which doesn't deny the doing, only that there was anything wrong with doing it. Come on John, put away the “before the courts” routine and answere the questions.

    As for Bill Good he puts the “P” and “A” in Pompous Ass. And anybody who can't discriminate between a mother's love tap and the real horrors endured by First Nations children in residential schools and out…shame, shame, shame.


  17. Has anyone noticed the massive amount of ink and air time spent on convicted in Thailand pedophile Christopher Neil, yet not one accusation has been lodged in Canada?

    Could it be the establishment mainstream media are providing a propaganda screen for Furlong?

    Could it be that the “old boys club” the pretends to be media in this province are protecting one of their own?

    Don't blush, just asking.

    Oh yes Ms. Bramham and Mr. Mulgrew and Good, how many times have to stated: “Don't shoot the messenger.”?


  18. Very reasoned and thoughtful analyses, thank you.

    Just on a different tack, the more John Furlong rants and spins, the more it becomes apparent that he is so accustomed to dealing with “journalists” who are content to regurgitate press releases and not question things that he simply can't grasp that there are true journalists such as Laura Robinson, who work idependently to get the truth of a matter.


  19. An anonymous comment was submitted here that cannot post entirely since I don't know the underlying story well enough. This is an edited version:

    One year ago in the UK, the famous entertainer Jimmy Savile died. Jimmy had found himself the recipient of an OBE (Order of the British Empire) amongst other awards. Now, one year later, Simmy Savile has been [accused of sexual abuse of under-age girls.]

    Only with his death did these charges really come to light as they were effectively subdued for many years. One has to wonder just how many of the rich & famous … are never taken to task.
    We don't know what, if anything, Furlong did wrong. But a defence [that…] I did no wrong, is a bit weak.

    More on this story at The Telegraph Was Jimmy Savile too big a star to challenge?


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