Writer Says She Was Shocked at John Furlong’s Reaction to Her Story Alleging He’d Abused Students

By Keith Fraser
The Province
June 16, 2015

Laura Robinson says she was shocked and devastated by the reaction of Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong to an article she wrote alleging he’d physically abused former students in northern B.C. more than 40 years ago.

The Ontario freelance journalist began her testimony Tuesday at the trial at which she is alleging Furlong defamed her following the September 2012 story in the Georgia Straight newspaper.

A day after the article was published, Furlong held a press conference at which he said he was “very disappointed” by the “shocking lack of diligence” that Robinson had done in researching the article.

“I was completely shocked,” Robinson said of her own reaction to Furlong’s statement.

“It affected me in a very devastating way that someone would say those things about me.”

Under questioning from her lawyer, Bryan Baynham, Robinson said that from the very beginning she and Charlie Smith, the editor at the Georgia Straight, knew it was going to be “ very difficult” story to research and tell.

She said she gave Furlong many opportunities to respond to the allegations and did an “awful lot” of research into Furlong’s time as a teacher at a Catholic school in Burns Lake in 1969.

At his press conference, Furlong also alleged that he had encountered Robinson on “many occasions” in the past and accused her of being on a “personal vendetta.”

Robinson told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge that she had only met Furlong several times.

On one of those occasions, in response to a question to him about him being a Frontier Apostle Catholic missionary, Furlong screamed at her and told her to stop it, she said.

She followed him and he said, “That’s what we were all called” and “I’m not getting into this,” she said.

As for the allegation that she was on a personal vendetta, she said: “I thought it was an incredibly unfair and inaccurate statement. Powerful and not true. Especially at a national news conference.”

At the press conference, Furlong also suggested that on the first occasion the allegations were brought to his attention prior to the 2010 Olympic Games, he was advised that for a payment, the matter could be made to go away.

“That was probably the most shocking part of what he said,” said Robinson.

“What was most shocking was that Mr. Furlong connected me to some alleged extortion in 2009 in Surrey. There was no even inkling in all my questions that I was part of some extortion. It’s a federal offence.”

Baynham also questioned Robinson about her reaction to a statement made by Furlong alleging that she had gone to the RCMP and filed a complaint alleging he had sexually abused a former student.

“That was 100-per-cent mistruth,” said Robinson. “There is absolutely no foundation to that statement whatsoever. That was such a difficult thing to hear.”

The RCMP investigated sexual abuse allegations but declined to lay charges against Furlong, who has never been charged with a crime.

Furlong filed a defamation suit against Robinson, and Robinson filed a counter-suit. Furlong later abandoned his suit against Robinson.

Robinson said that she felt compelled to file her own lawsuit because, “this was just beyond anything I could imagine.”

“It was an unrelenting attack. My action against him was as a result of that unrelenting attack.”

Robinson said the impact of the lawsuit on her life has been “huge,” noting that she’d spent $150,000 in legal fees on the case and used up her savings and RRSPs.

She said that when she started researching the story, she told her husband that she was probably going to get sued, but he said he would support her financially regardless.

Robinson said she has been to a hospital emergency ward numerous times for stomach cramps and has had sleepless nights over the case.

Her freelance income in 2011 was about $52,000, dropping to $23,000 in 2012, $12,600 in 2013 and $10,000 in 2014, court heard.

Robinson also testified about a trip she took to Burns Lake in April 2012 to research the story, talking to a number of alleged victims of the physical abuse.

She said the people she spoke to were consistent in the phrases they used to describe what had happened to them and were “very traumatized” during the interviews.

“Some people were crying,” she said.

Robinson said she contacted Smith and told him that she had “numerous on-the-record very serious” allegations and that it was a “huge story.”

Smith said the signed statements she had received from the witnesses were not good enough and they needed to get sworn affidavits. During another trip to Burns Lake, she got the affidavits, she said.

Robinson is expected to finish her direct examination Wednesday morning and then begin her cross-examination by Furlong’s lawyer.









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