John Furlong during Vancouver 2010. (ATR)
(ATR) Threats to sue – and countersue – await the results of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation into the disputed past of VANOC’s former CEO.
John Furlong is vowing to fight a newspaper and reporter in court after they published allegations that he abused students at a rural aboriginal school 40 years ago.
Laura Robinson wrote in Vancouver urban weekly Georgia Straight
on Sept. 27 that Furlong originally came to Canada in 1969 as an 18-year-old lay Catholic missionary and worked as a physical education teacher in a Burns Lake, British Columbia elementary school. Furlong’s 2011-published Olympic memoir, Patriot Hearts
, said he arrived in Canada at Edmonton Airport in 1974 before settling in Prince George, B.C. and did not mention he was recruited to move to Canada by the Frontier Apostles.
Unproven allegations of abuse are contained in affidavits by eight people who claim to be Furlong’s ex-students. A complaint of sexual assault from the same era was also filed before mid-July of this year with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP is investigating.
Furlong did not attend the London Olympics.
In the meantime, Furlong and his lawyer Marvin Storrow are pledging to sue Robinson and the Georgia Straight for defamation.
"I categorically deny absolutely any wrongdoing,” said Furlong, while reading a prepared statement at a hastily called Sept. 27 news conference. “It just didn't happen.”
The news conference was held at The Landing, a heritage office building in Vancouver’s Gastown historical district that served as the original home of the Vancouver Whistler Bid Corporation and, later, VANOC. Organizer Andrea Shaw of the Twentyten Group was a VANOC marketing vice president who also worked with Furlong during the bid phase.
Robinson and the Georgia Straight
said they stand behind the story. Robinson said she would countersue Furlong for his suggestion that she has a personal vendetta toward him and that she did not seek his comment. Robinson said she repeatedly contacted Storrow with questions that he did not answer.
Furlong was hired in April as the executive chair of Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, who said they would be “doing everything we can to support John through this process.”
Furlong said he did not mention his time in Burns Lake in his book because the stay was “brief” and “uneventful.” Robinson, however, found newspaper records showing that Furlong met and married his first wife there in 1970.
"I have been asked if John Furlong ever mentioned working in Burns Lake for several years before 1974 during the course of our interviews for Patriot Hearts
. I can say he did not,” co-writer Gary Mason said in an email. “As for the rest of the allegations in a Georgia Straight article about John, I have no knowledge and can't speak to them.”
Robinson’s story also calls into question whether Furlong’s father, Jack Furlong, identified the body of a relative who died in a May 1974 terrorist attack in Dublin, Ireland. Robinson interviewed Jim Roice, who said his sister (and John Furlong’s cousin) Siobhan Roice was identified by his father Ned Roice in the Dublin morgue. Similar information appears in a December 2003 story in the Irish Independent newspaper.
Furlong speculated in the book that the incident may have led to his father’s death less than a month later. Ned Roice, meanwhile, died last June.
Reported in Vancouver by Bob Mackin
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