September 27, 2012
Former Olympics boss denies abuse allegations
By Jim Morris, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - The man who headed the organizing committee for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games denies allegations he physically abused aboriginal children while teaching in northern B.C.
John Furlong also said Thursday he plans to take legal action against the reporter who wrote the story and Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper which published it.
“I want you to know I categorically deny absolutely any wrongdoing, and I believe that the RCMP in looking into this matter will discredit the complaint entirely because it just did not happen,” Furlong said, reading from a prepared statement.
“As a result of inaccurate reporting I feel that my character has been recklessly challenged and I have no choice now but to proceed with legal action.”
The RCMP released a statement confirming they “are aware of the allegations involving John Furlong and are investigating,” but would offer no further comment.
The story, by Laura Robinson, alleges Furlong came to Canada in 1969 as an Oblate Frontier Apostle missionary and worked at Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake, as a physical education teacher.
In his book, Patriot Hearts, Furlong says he arrived in Canada in 1974.
The article quotes several former pupils who say Furlong physically and verbally abused children from the Babine Lake First Nation, calling them “good for nothin’ Indians.”
Ronnie Alec, a hereditary chief, is one of several people who filed an affidavit for the article which described the abuse.
“When you’re not doing too good in basketball, all of a sudden you get kicked in the butt or slapped on the head,” Alec wrote. “It was a hard kick, and he backed up to make the slap, so it hit hard. He could stand in front of us and, unexpected, he would slap us on the head…”
Furlong, now executive chair of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, told reporters his time in Burns Lake “was fairly brief and fairly uneventful.”
“I went back to Ireland and came to Canada years later as a landed immigrant," he said.
A tired-looking Furlong, joined by his lawyer Marvin Storrow, didn’t answer reporters’ questions.
Robinson’s CV says she is a freelance journalist and the author of five books on issues in sport.
Furlong said the story felt like a personal vendetta by Robinson.
“On the very first occasion this was brought to my attention prior to the Olympic Games, I was advised, for a payment, it could be made go away,” he said. “As such, I reported the matter to the police.”
Robinson was angered by the implication it was she who'd sought money from Furlong. She said it was a former student who approached Furlong after recognizing him on TV.
"It was not me," Robinson said in a telephone interview. "Believe me, my lawyer will be talking to Mr. Furlong's lawyer about the way in which he said that."
Robinson said she tried repeatedly to contact Furlong to ask him about the allegations.
"I have tried since March 2011 to get him to respond to my questions," she said. "I went first through his publisher. He would not answer those exact questions."
Furlong has been a high-profile person in B.C. for at least a decade because of the Olympics. Some people wonder why it took so long for the allegations to surface.
Robinson said many natives didn't think they would be believed.
"There is no indication to them that when you speak out about what you consider an injustice anything will be done," she said.
"Their experience has been when they reported injustices, nothing has been done."