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:
- Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, established in 2000 with functions including the investigation of abuse of children in institutions in the State.
- British Columbia’s Righting the Wrong: The Confinement of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor Children.
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.