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  • Furlong Faces Abuse, Defamation Trials in Civil Court in 2015


    John Furlong (Getty Images)
    (ATR) John Furlong, who was the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics’ CEO, still faces a civil trial in spring over allegations he abused two students 45 years ago at a Catholic school in northern British Columbia.

    However, his most-prominent accuser has withdrawn her lawsuit and the lawyer who was representing the three plaintiffs has resigned from the case.

    Beverly Mary Abraham and Grace Jessie West filed lawsuits in July 2013 claiming sexual, physical and mental abuse by Furlong when he was a gym teacher at Immaculata elementary in 1969 and 1970 in Burns Lake. A male who wishes his name not be published filed similar allegations in September 2013. Furlong originally came to Canada from his native Ireland as a missionary to teach aboriginal Canadians, but did not include that in his 2011 post-Olympic memoir, Patriot Hearts.

    Abraham withdrew her case Dec. 19. According to CKNW radio, she cited stress and the need to care for her elderly mother. She said she consulted chiefs of her aboriginal tribe before deciding.

    In April 2013, Royal Canadian Mounted Police chose not to pursue criminal charges against Furlong after investigating Abraham’s complaint.

    Lawyer Jason Gratl declined to say why he resigned from the case, claiming “professional obligations.”

    An 18-day trial in British Columbia Supreme Court is scheduled to begin March 30, 2015.
    Furlong is also scheduled to go on trial for defamation on June 15, 2015 in a lawsuit filed by journalist Laura Robinson, who authored the September 2012 expose “John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake” for the Georgia Straight.

    Furlong sued Robinson and the newspaper for defamation in November 2012. He dropped his action against the newspaper in October 2013, but has not scheduled court dates against Robinson, whose story remains online.

    Abraham was among eight people who provided affidavits to Robinson, but the sexual abuse allegations were first published by CBC, hours after a Sept. 27, 2012 news conference at which Furlong emphatically denied harming children.

    Said Robinson: “I believed everything that Beverly Abraham put in her affidavit, which included sexual abuse; at that time she was the only person to have alleged (sexual abuse) and it wasn’t in my article. I believe all the students are brave and courageous.”

    Furlong remains chair of the Canadian Olympic Committee-related Own the Podium, Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps and Rocky Mountaineer Railtours and a director of Canadian Tire and Whistler Blackcomb. He is also co-chair of a Vancouver bid for a 2016 stop on World Rugby’s Rugby 7s World Series.

    Written by Bob Mackin in Vancouver.

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