John Furlong Takes the Stand

During week two of testimony, It was interesting to compare Laura Robinson and John Furlong on the witness stand. Robinson’s flaw is that she tends to explain too much. In trying to rationalize without being asked to do so, she may be forgetting that it’s okay to be wrong or inconsistent at times. Furlong, on the other hand, is irascible and haughty. His whole attitude bespeaks an individual who has been put upon. When I listen to him, I think that what he’s saying below the surface is “Why does a great and important man like me have to be here answering these ridiculous questions?”

Furlong’s story was elicited by John Hunter, his capable attorney. He made every attempt to make people feel sorry for him. Just as he had obliquely hinted that Robinson had tried to extort money from him to “make it go away”, he also blamed her for his wife’s death in a car crash in Ireland. The gist of that not-so-veiled allegation is that if he and his wife had not been in Ireland, running away from the whole sordid mess, she would still be alive today. Another thing he said that struck me as blatantly manipulative was that someone yelled at him on the street about how he had raped a native woman. I really have a hard time believing that happened or that it happened when he said it happened. No doubt his story is sad but he has little more to blame than his own hubris. If he hadn’t written his self-serving autobiographical memoir, obliterating his time spent at the Immaculata School, he would never have been called on his past behavior. Then again, his denial of his past behavior, in the face of thirty separate affidavits, may well have been a greater cause of his wife’s death in Ireland. If he had faced the truth, he would not have had to leave town. His testimony is riddled with contradictions, denials and outright fabrications.When asked about these contradictions, he simply asserts: “This is MY truth.” Reminds me of a Chinese saying: “There is your truth; there is my truth; and there is the truth.” It won’t go away, Mr. Furlong.

On cross examination by Robinson’s lawyer, Bryan Baynham, Furlong was red-faced and intemperate. Once, when questioned about the events surrounding his wife’s gathering up hundreds of copies of the Georgia Straight and trashing them, he pounded his fist on the table, accusing the lawyer of sullying his wife’s reputation. It would not surprise me if Furlong did this kind of thing at board meetings. There is much more ‘out there’ on Furlong, much more than any single individual knows. What’s tragic here is that many other journalists are staying away or are writing nasty things about her in the press. She is defending their right to cover a story just as much as she is defending the right of indigenous people to be heard. Furlong is being treated like the victim when the real victims are the ones he smacked and belittled during gym class. But I guess there are those in this secretly racist society who think of his accusers as a bunch of lying Indians. Or that Laura Robinson is an aggressive ‘activist’, as if activist is a dirty word. Otherwise, we all have to face the possibility that John Furlong, one of the heroes of the 2010 Olympic Games, is a fraud.

This is too much to bear for many Vancouverites; the Olympics were a fun time for many people in the city, including myself. I wanted to walk up to Furlong one day and shake his hand, thanking him for the incredibly moving and exciting weeks of both Games: Olympics and Para-Olympics (the opening ceremonies of which I attended). Now, his inclusion of indigenous peoples in the game ceremonies appears like terrible hypocrisy and cynicism. To deny their reality, to fail to come to terms with what really happened, sullies his reputation forever. Shooting the messenger was unnecessary and mistaken. He would have been forgiven.


Latest Mr. Big ruling in British Columbia

Noticing that the judge ruled the Mr. Big confession was obtained through inducement. If you read the piece, you’ll see that the same methodology (i.e. if you tell us what we want to know then we’ll make the charge go away) used on the Victoria stepfather was used on Burns and Rafay, who, at the time, were teenagers. This judge applied the Supreme Court of Canada ruling to this case as the Hart ruling–strong corroborating evidence must be present to back up the sting confessions.

Robinson/Furlong proceedings, Day Three


I was in attendance (June 17th) for the third day of hearings into journalist Laura Robinson’s defamation suit against former VANOC CEO, John Furlong. Robinson claims to have had her freelance income reduced by some 40,000 dollars a year as a result of the litigation brought against her by Furlong who denied the accusations of physical, emotional and racial abuse brought against him by seven former students at the Immaculata School in Burns Lake, B.C.

Furlong’s lawyer, John Hunter, is making a case that Robinson had an “obsession” and engaged in a vendetta against his client and, by extension, “male authority figures”. His singular focus was on the unproven allegation of sexual abuse by Beverley Abraham, a former student. Whether to avoid the trauma of a hearing or whether she lacked evidence or confidence, I really don’t know, but Abraham dropped the criminal charge. For Hunter, the dropping and vacating of all three sexual assault charges against Furlong is their strong point. The physical, emotional and racial abuse charges were conveniently ignored by the lawyer. In making them irrelevant, the strategy employed becomes clear: Robinson would not be happy with any story unless the sexual abuse charges were left in. Since these charges turned out to be false, unsubstantiated or withdrawn, Robinson could be painted as an angry, vindictive, irresponsible and overly ambitious journalist.

Two major issues now dominate this civil trial. Number one is the history of abuse against First Nations people in Canada, wherein such actions were more or less routine and where such accusations were routinely dismissed. Robinson was approached by these very people to set the record straight. That she would advocate for Beverley Abraham is perfectly natural in this context. She was chosen to be their voice in the case where a powerful man like Furlong was in denial of the other substantive allegations against him. Furlong has not done a mea culpa, in fact has insisted from day one that “This did not happen.” Robinson could not sort out one denial (physical, emotional and racial) from another (sexual). Yes, she did push the sexual abuse allegation because, at the time, she believed Ms Abraham. Isn’t any good reporter “obsessive”? The major journals she contacted on behalf of the Georgia Straight refused, just like the Straight, to publish the sex allegations.

Issue number two is the subtext of the proceeding. It’s not mentioned but it is most definitely present. Robinson is being attacked as a woman, a woman who hates men (never mind just “men in authority positions”). Her wanting to include criminal allegations against Furlong, instead of being based on her concern that Beverley Abraham had been silenced, becomes instead a need to subvert and destroy a well connected pillar of the sports community, i.e. John Furlong.

Now we are supposed to feel sorry for this poor put upon individual who, as a physical education teacher, humiliated his students. My take is that, as a very young man, he was not fully in control of himself. Okay, so own up to it. He was part of a culture of abuse; everyone knows that schools with native children were abusive. Even the Chief Justice of the SCC. But rather than admit to a flaw, Furlong denied and still denies, erasing another small bit of native history. And this man hating woman, Laura Robinson, is portrayed as the real culprit!