Former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong arrives at B.C. Supreme Court after the lunch break during the second week of a defamation case brought against him by journalist Laura Robinson

Journalist says Furlong abused over 40 students

Journalist penned letter alleging Furlong abused over 40 former students: court

  • Jun. 24, 2015 9:00 a.m.

By Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A freelance journalist suing former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong for defamation penned a handwritten letter claiming he had abused more than 40 First Nations’ students at a northern British Columbia school, the trial has heard.

Former 2010 Games spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade told B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday she was “stunned” when Laura Robinson handed her a lengthy note during a chance encounter at a Toronto airport in April 2013. The note alleged Furlong’s actions at Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C., had resulted in at least one suicide.

“She invites me to be an off-the-record interview for her,” said Smith-Valade, looking down at a piece of photocopied paper held in her hands. “She said, ‘I’m hoping you will consider this option to go off the record as a way of being a member of the human race.'”

Smith-Valade said she immediately handed the letter over to Furlong’s lawyers after landing in Vancouver.

Robinson is suing Furlong for defamation based on public comments he made after she published a newspaper article in September 2012.

The article included affidavits from eight former First Nations students and alleged Furlong physically and verbally abused the children while working as a gym teacher at the Roman Catholic school.

Furlong has vehemently denied all allegations of abuse, none of which have been proven in court.

Cpl. Quinton Mackie led the RCMP investigation into allegations of sexual-assault levelled against Furlong by former student Beverly Abraham in July 2012.

He told the trial on Wednesday that Abraham alleged Furlong had “touched her” on three occasions while she was an 11-year-old day student at Immaculata school.

Mackie said that both a lack of evidence and inconsistencies in Abraham’s reports led him to close his investigation in April 2013.

“She was troubled,” Mackie said, responding to a question from Robinson’s lawyer about whether he believed Abraham had been abused. “To this day I believe she has had a very hard life. I don’t know the extent of that.”

The file remained open for another half year while a pair of external police investigators from Alberta reviewed Mackie’s examination alongside another RCMP probe into general complaints police had received about historic cases of general abuse at the school.

Both investigations wrapped up in December without recommending criminal charges.

The former principal of Immaculata Elementary School also testified on Wednesday and defended Furlong’s character.

“My observations were that he treated the children with respect,” said Sister Marie Melling, who worked at the school from 1967 to 1971.

“I found him to be very knowledgeable and also very committed. He ran very good classes.”

Melling said she was not aware of Furlong ever using a strap to discipline children, though she said it would have been allowed at the school at the time.

She said she recalls one complaint about the former physical education teacher. She said a student formally grumbled that Furlong would make his class run uphill backwards.

“I told him, ‘These are children,'” Melling said. “I also told him, ‘We are not training them for the Olympics.'”

Closing arguments are expected to take place on Friday.

— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

Just Posted

Lost a ring? This White Rock man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

PHOTOS: Family Day celebrated at Historic Stewart Farm

Youngsters participate in some old fashioned fun

Clayton’s little neighbourhood libraries are open for business

’Take a book, leave a book’ initiative aims to bring Clayton residents closer together

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

UPDATE: Plane flips over at Pitt Meadows airport

The pilot and lone occupant exited the aircraft on his own and uninjured.

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Prince George man with ties to Vernon sought by police

UPDATE: Rescue crews for 2 hikers caught up in possible avalanche on Mount Seymour

North Vancouver RCMP say they don’t know what the nature of the call is yet

Most Read

l -->