More admissions and allegations came to light this week in John Furlong’s campaign against people who claim to be his victims, writer Laura Robinson and the Georgia Straight, publisher of an atypical piece, one not layered with reverence for VANOC’s former chief.
I have sympathy for the accused and for his accusers. Passage of time since the alleged acts, while problematic for prosecution of criminal behaviour, also prejudices the defence. Yet, as I was once a child victimized by assault, I understand how difficult it is to raise painful memories, particularly when there is concern about being believed and no expectation of holding anyone to account.
The history of children victimized in residential and church schools conditions aboriginals to that conjecture. In the nineties, an RCMP task force investigated thousands of tips regarding assaults on First Nations children and it identified more than 120 suspects. Some of the convicted were serial offenders who moved from one church institution to another.
In Furlong’s time under Bishop Fergus O’Grady, the stated aim of Catholics was to “integrate” white and Indian students. However, the real objective was to assimilate First Nations into a Catholic way of life, not to foster mutual understanding and respect for cultural differences. Sto:lo elder Joe Aleck, after most of a life involved with schools serving First Nations, said, “They were trying to eliminate our culture.”
The Irish church that fostered young John Furlong before he moved to Canada was infamous for abuse of thousands of children between the 1930s and the 1990s. In 2010, Pope Benedict wrote a pastoral letter that included:
I am truly sorry for the harm done to generations of Irish Catholics who suffered sinful and criminal abuse at the hands of priests, brothers and nuns.
Claims that school children in northern BC suffered abuse in the days new immigrant Furlong served his church are indisputable but remarkable because of his current profile in the community. Before joining the 2010 Olympics organization, Furlong served as General Manager of the posh Arbutus Club, playground of Vancouver’s crème de la crème. His performance during the games resulted in numerous gainful opportunities. His career prospects, he claims, are harmed by Ms. Robinson’s reporting.
Furlong employs one of the province’s top lawyers but his actions since Georgia Straight published Robinson’s story seem more driven by public relations strategists than legal experts. After great huffing and puffing against the newspaper after its September 2012 feature, the paper published this today:
THE FORMER CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, John Furlong, won’t proceed with a defamation suit against the Georgia Straight, publisher and editor Dan McLeod, and editor Charlie Smith.
Less than a year after filing his claim in B.C. Supreme Court—and before the case had reached examination for discovery—Furlong filed a notice of discontinuance in B.C. Supreme Court on October 29…
Furlong emphasized in interviews that he intended to focus efforts on Laura Robinson. Yet, he’s done little to further the legal action since it was filed against her. Little, that is, besides chatting with compliant media friends. (See Bob Mackin’s contribution at J-Source.)
I’m troubled by this Furlong claim, made during an interview with CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme:
I’m going to escalate this… I’m going to try and get this into a courtroom… It’s been hellish for me, my family… And now, the RCMP have come to a conclusion and they’ve concluded I’ve done nothing wrong.
This latter assertion seems based on an email dated six-month ago from Cpl. Quinton Mackie, the content of which is shown below. Furlong’s claim was quickly disavowed by police who stated the file is still open.
The former Olympics executive also damages credibility in responses to questions about rewriting the history of his arrival in Canada. The insistence that his book aimed to avoid biographical detail is belied by the book itself.
Perhaps Furlong’s PR/legal team will claim Robinson the reporter deserves special attention because she is waging a “personal vendetta” against him. That’s been their allegation but my review of the record finds it unproven. When a commentator faults policies and actions of a public figure, that is not a vendetta unless bias, deliberate inaccuracy and persistent malice can be demonstrated. I find disagreement and reluctance to praise but not malice.
Ms. Robinson’s reporting in the Straight was backed with affidavits sworn by people claiming to be victims. We’re left wondering if the decision to leave her as the lone defendant is related to her admitted lack of financial resources for a defence and her vulnerability to extended delays in process. This week’s attempt to block Robinson from appearing before a Danish sport conference might be interpreted as an effort to cause her financial harm. In fact, she says a claim for damages may be initiated.
It’s unclear how this situation will proceed. I can’t see that Furlong’s reputation will be much further damaged; he has many influential friends and a sympathetic BC media. His opponents in present legal actions are unable to proceed on their own resources; they are not persons of means. As a result, I expect the Robinson effort will end in due course and the plaintiff will explain that the case is not worth pursuing because the amount that might be realized is less than the cost of action.
In politics and law, advantage never goes to the poor.
From: QUINTON MACKIE (mailto:Quinton.Mackie@rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
Sent: April-12-13 3:04 PM
To: STORROW, MARVIN
Subject: Sexual abuse allegation
Good day Mr. Storrow
As per our conversation earlier today:
With respect to the sexual abuse allegation brought forward by Beverly Abraham through Laura Robinson. I can tell you that the RCMP have concluded their investigation into that matter and have found nothing to substantiate the complaint, as a result there will be no report to Crown Counsel forwarded.
The RCMP continue to speak to people that were mentioned in Laura Robinson’s statement of Defense. I will update you on this matter once all have been spoken to and a determination has been made with respect to any criminal wrong doing.