BRITISH COLUMBIA

Journalist continued to attack Furlong after initial article: lawyer

06/18/2015 05:07 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A freelance journalist's attacks on John Furlong were "sustained, continuing and unrelenting," even after she published an article alleging he abused First Nations students, his lawyer has argued.

Laura Robinson is suing the former Vancouver Olympics boss for public comments he made after her article was published in 2012 alleging he beat and taunted children at a Roman Catholic school in northern British Columbia some 45 years ago.

Defence lawyer John Hunter accused Robinson of continuing to assail Furlong throughout 2012 and 2013, by writing an academic paper that contained unproven sexual abuse claims and pressuring corporations to cut ties with Furlong.

Robinson testified Thursday that she presented a paper at a 2013 sports conference in Denmark that included statements that a man and two women had filed lawsuits accusing Furlong of sexual abuse at Immaculata School in Burns Lake, B.C.

During tense cross-examination, Robinson said she knew the man had filed for government compensation for abuse at a separate school in 1969 and 1970, the same years he claimed he was taught by Furlong.

"It wasn't unusual for students to be ferried about to the different schools," she testified. "Children were taken from one school to the next and often within that year."

The man's suit was dismissed earlier this year after he failed to show up in court. Another woman dropped her lawsuit in 2014 while the third accuser's legal action was dismissed after a judge found she attended a different school at the time.

Robinson acknowledged that she incorrectly wrote in her 2013 paper that a fourth person had filed a sexual abuse lawsuit. She said she included the claim because the woman told her she had taken legal action.

The journalist testified she later sent an amended version of the article to the organizers of the Play the Game conference. An online version of the paper — which says it was last updated in April 2015 — does not include any specific allegations of sexual abuse.

Hunter questioned Robinson about whether it crossed her mind that accusers might have been looking for a payout. Since Immaculata was a day school, former students had no access to compensation that was available for residential school survivors, he noted.

"I said that I wanted honesty and I felt that people spoke honestly to me," she replied.

He also interrogated her about a number of emails she sent to sports organizations and corporations questioning why they had not cut ties to Furlong since her initial article was published in the Georgia Straight newspaper in September 2012.

Among the corporations she contacted were Own the Podium, Canadian Tire, Rocky Mountaineer and Whistler Blackcomb. She testified that she was working on her academic paper, which was about the sports community's reaction to the allegations.

The court also heard that Robinson sent emails to aboriginal news publication NationTalk and the Musqueam Indian Band in 2013 asking about a First Nations event being held by the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team, of which Furlong is the executive chair.

Robinson denied trying to pressure the groups to drop advertising for the event, although NationTalk took down the Whitecaps press release after her email.

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.