Furlong ‘Forgives’ Robinson

I find the take on the Furlong/Robinson dispute a textbook case for hypocrisy and obfuscation. In what appeared to be a magnanimous gesture in front of Vancouver’s Board of Trade (where, this week, Furlong chose to resurrect his career), he cast himself as a victim, but a victim with no grudges against his supposed tormentor, Laura Robinson. This is a moment where people’s view of the law can be so fundamentally mistaken. Madame Justice Wedge’s court decision, which went against Robinson, essentially ruled that Furlong did not ruin her career, that because he was being accused of heinous behaviour, he had a right to attack her publicly. The truth of what she was hearing and telling as a journalist became irrelevant. But people see the judge’s wrongheaded decision as a vindication for Furlong’s behaviour as a physical education teacher at Immaculata School in Burns Lake.

At no time during the civil trial was the subject of Furlong’s physical and psychological abuse of indigenous students ever at issue. He has never been absolved of that nor was he forced to face the one issue most central to the case. (SEE BELOW: AFFIDAVITS AND LETTER FROM PEOPLE OF BURNS LAKE) The trial was about Robinson’s ‘aggressive’ methods as a journalist and the resultant hurt suffered by this Canadian icon. Why did Furlong win his case? Because the judge ruled that the abuse issue was not relevant to the case. So any suggestion that Furlong was vindicated is only true with regard to the allegations of sexual assault (dropped by the complainants) that Robinson herself did not allege in her Georgia Straight article.

Who is really the one most hurt by this damaging public battle? Robinson has paid huge legal costs and her career as a writer is substantively done. Both native Canadians and women in sport are also negatively affected by the loss of this courageous advocate. And where are the voices in the press defending her right to publish allegations backed up by affidavits? Too busy currying favours with the Canadian sporting establishment? Where are the women in amateur sport? Indeed, where? Nowhere to be heard.

And where are the native voices coming to her defense? Silenced no longer: SEE BELOW.  Meanwhile, Furlong will be a featured speaker on the circuit, no doubt receiving standing ovations every time he speaks. And he will prosper through elections to corporate boards, no doubt brushing shoulders with a scoundrel named Stephen Harper.

A sad state of affairs. But, as with wrongful convictions, the truth is out there and not a matter of opinion. Here is a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau signed by people from Burns Lake.

November 26, 2015

Attention: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau


The Honourable Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould


The Honourable Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Carolyn Bennett


Dear Sir/Madams:

Re: Burns Lake First Nations People and John Furlong

It’s time that our voices are heard.

We, the undersigned, call upon the Prime Minister to request that John Furlong step down from Share the Podium until we are heard.

In her September 2015 judgment, the judge made comments about us without hearing from us. No-one had time to listen to us. They should have talked to us before any decision was made.

The judge said Laura Robinson distributed a flyer, but we saw no flyer. We communicate not in writing, but by mouth. When we heard Laura was coming to Burns Lake, most people assumed it was to talk about residential schools. Laura talked to those people and, after they left, she talked to us—those of us who had had Mr. Furlong as their PE teacher. Many of us—members of the Lake Babine Nations—were not at the Burns Lake Band office.

The judge said Laura “contaminated” our memories. But she didn’t. We all have bad memories of Mr. Furlong, but over the years we haven’t talked much about them. It would be good if we talked more together.

When we saw him on TV, the anger came back. “Is he still around?” we thought. After the Olympics, we found out he hadn’t even mentioned Burns Lake in his book.

Someone said Laura damaged us. That is not true. Mr. Furlong was one who damaged us. He was part of a system that damaged our dreams.

Someone on the Whitecaps said on the Internet, “native people just want more money.” We never asked for money. We just wanted our stories heard.

Please direct your reply to Cathy Woodgate—cathywoodgate@hotmail.com.

Thank you.


“Hereditary Chief Richard Perry”

“Hereditary Chief Ronnie Alec”

“Hereditary Chief Ronnie Matthew West”

“Henry Michel”

“Maurice Joseph”

“Cathy Woodgate”

“Molly Charlie

“Ann Tom”

former students: