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.


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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

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