BRITISH COLUMBIA

John Furlong Denies Abuse Allegations In Laura Robinson Story

07/26/2013 02:53 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT
CP
VANCOUVER - Former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong has denied more allegations of abuse levelled by a freelance reporter, saying in court documents Laura Robinson is a journalist who uses "unorthodox and unreliable" investigation techniques to get her stories.

Furlong launched a lawsuit after Robinson wrote a story published in the Georgia Straight last fall that accused him of harming aboriginal students when he taught at a Catholic school in Burns Lake, B.C.

In new court documents filed Friday, Furlong said additional accusations in Robinson's statement of defence that allege Furlong abused his former wife, an unnamed former common-law spouse, and students, are defamatory and unfounded.

"The events alleged are said to have occurred in 1969 and the 1970s, but have not been reported in the intervening decades to the plaintiff or to the authorities by any persons involved," the court document said. "This is because they never occurred."

Furlong alleged in his original lawsuit that Robinson was waging a personal vendetta against him.

In reply in a statement of defence, Robinson stood by the article she wrote last fall and denied it was defamatory.

Both Robinson and the Georgia Straight newspaper have also claimed in court documents the article is shielded from the lawsuit under the fair comment and responsible communication principle because they believed they made every effort to ensure the allegations were true.

None of the allegations outlined in any of the legal documents have been tested in court.

Robinson's statement of defence also added allegations of abuse that were not included in the article, Furlong noted in his documents filed Friday.

She said that after her story was published, she was contacted by a former common-law spouse of Furlong's. The woman, who was not named, alleged Furlong sexually assaulted her when the two were living in Nanaimo, B.C., from 1979 to 1982, the court documents say.

Robinson's statement also claimed the ex-VANOC CEO physically and emotionally abused his former wife, Margaret Furlong, when they were living in Prince George, B.C., and working at the same school between 1970 and 1972. Both Margaret and John Furlong have said those allegations are untrue.

In the latest court documents, Furlong accused Robinson of using "back-door publishing" to get out the allegations that were not part of the Georgia Straight article.

"The defendant knew her allegations were not fit for publication under normal journalistic criteria," the document stated.

"But by placing them in a privileged court document, the defendant attempted to shield herself from defamation laws and understood the media could and would publish the allegations because they were in a privileged document and had been raised in a court case that involved a public figure."

Furlong also attacked Robinson's journalistic integrity, alleging the woman has a history of reporting serious inaccuracies and has a reckless regard for the truth.

The latest court documents cite four examples of Robinson's reporting that it said included "highly damaging allegations that were made orally or published ... and then proven false by the alleged victims, proven to be untrue in court proceedings, by police investigation or proven false or wanting in fact by an independent investigatory body."

One instance involved a 1994 article in the Globe and Mail where Robinson levied racism allegations against Ken Shields, the coach of the Canadian national men's basketball team, the court documents say.

The document said an independent panel investigated and concluded there was no basis for the racism allegations. The Globe and Mail retracted the allegations, and, after being sued by Shields, settled for an undisclosed sum, the court documents say.

In a second example, the court documents say Robinson wrote an article for Chatelaine Magazine in 2000 that alleged members of the Vancouver Fire Department organized "the distribution of phone numbers to private lines in their fire hall in order to set up inappropriate sexual encounters with women."

An independent probe found no evidence to substantiate the allegations, the court document say, and noted the phone lines were an old practice for firefighters to stay in contact with their families.

The court documents do not say if the Chatelaine article resulted in court action.

On Friday, Robinson's lawyer Bryan Baynham said in an interview his client is "surprised and shocked" that such personal attacks were levied against her, but she stands by her story in the Georgia Straight.

"She's anxious to see it get to trial," Baynham said.

Baynham also denied Robinson was trying to smear Furlong through "back-door publishing," saying the allegations in her statement of defence were included to respond to Furlong's statement of claim.

Furlong's court document on Friday also detailed his "true history" as a physical education teacher, saying he was well-liked by students at both the Burns Lake and Prince George schools where he taught.

It also said that many "ordinary actions" undertaken by him as a phys-ed teacher, such as requiring students to do push-ups and run laps, and criticizing or reprimanding them when they were acting improperly, were "entirely appropriate." No abuse, physical or verbal, ever happened, the document said.

Earlier this week, two women filed lawsuits against Furlong alleging he sexually molested them while he was a teacher at the Burns Lake school in 1969 and 1970.

Furlong has yet to file a statement of defence in the latest lawsuits, and none of the allegations against him have been proven in court.

Robinson could not be reached for comment.

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