Georgia Straight alleges VANOC CEO John Furlong abused Aboriginal high school students

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Georgia Straight alleges VANOC CEO John Furlong abused Aboriginal high school students

Earlier today, Vancouver free weekly The Georgia Straight published allegations that VANOC CEO, Chairperson of Own the Podium and Executive Chair of the Vancouver Whitecaps John Furlong (O.C., O.B.C.), misreported details in his recent autobiography Patriot Hearts of his original entry into Canada. Specifically, Furlong did not enter Canada in 1974, but in 1969 as an Oblate Frontier Apostle missionary. 

He went not to Prince George to direct a high-school athletic program but to Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C., to help save the souls of First Nations children. It was here that 18-year-old Furlong, fresh out of Dublin’s St. Vincent’s Christian Brothers Secondary School, with no formal training as a teacher and no university behind him, ran physical-education classes.

The Straight article, written by Laura Robinson and supported by eight sworn affadavits, alleges sustained and multiple cases of physical, psychological and, possibly, sexual abuse.

[Beverley] Abraham closes her eyes and fights tears. She says Furlong regularly made the same four girls—her and three friends—stay behind after phys-ed class, one at a time. The three friends were the ones who started drinking with Abraham. She says the three committed suicide in later years. “Every time I started phys-ed, I was honestly always afraid. He stood by the change-room door. [A nun] would say, ‘Okay, girls, come on.’ We were just afraid to go. He really degraded our name and our inner self. No wonder they call us drunks. Why did we drink so hard? Immaculata School.”

Furlong responds to the allegations. The RCMP is investigating.

Regions: 
Catchfire Catchfire's picture
kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The Georgia Straight published the victims own words and they bear repeating.  I know what it is like to be sexually abused by a catholic basketball coach so this story hits home and literally brings tears to my eyes.  I think for me the fascinating part is that he has somehow forgotten about his time in Burn's Lake in all his official bios.

Quote:

Abraham sits at a Burns Lake restaurant. It’s licensed, but she hasn’t touched alcohol in years. It’s part of her healing journey. Her food remains untouched; she says nausea swells up when she thinks about Furlong.

“Young girls started drinking. My friends and I started drinking at age 12. I do believe it was because of his abuse. If we didn’t do what he said, he’d grab us by the shoulders. ‘Do you understand me!’ Smack on the back of the head; smack in the front.”

Abraham closes her eyes and fights tears. She says Furlong regularly made the same four girls—her and three friends—stay behind after phys-ed class, one at a time. The three friends were the ones who started drinking with Abraham. She says the three committed suicide in later years. “Every time I started phys-ed, I was honestly always afraid. He stood by the change-room door. [A nun] would say, ‘Okay, girls, come on.’ We were just afraid to go. He really degraded our name and our inner self. No wonder they call us drunks. Why did we drink so hard? Immaculata School.”

Ronnie Alec, a hereditary chief, also filed an affidavit about Furlong. The Olympic CEO’s image on television brought disturbing flashbacks for Alec. “When you’re not doing too good in basketball, all of a sudden you get kicked in the butt or slapped on the head,” he wrote in his affidavit. “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.…With his big eyes, I can picture him, and then, next thing: boom, a hard slap to the head.”

Alec says that after he saw Furlong on TV, he called his office to try to confront him before the Olympics began but he never heard back from him.

Alec’s voice is joined by Cathy Woodgate’s in her affidavit. “I was slow and weak. I got hit by a ball, whipped in the calves, yardstick thrown at me—all by John Furlong. I was very shy, very low in self-esteem. I grew up with low self-esteem and decided not to take part in any physical activities because of this nightmare of phys-ed class.”

Later, at age 29, Woodgate was diagnosed with a type of muscular dystrophy. She had it as a child, which was why she was always at the back of the pack while the children were being forced to run extraordinarily long distances—more than 30 laps of the school field or a run up and down Boer Mountain, a good eight kilometres—with no water. Furlong “saluted” Immaculata’s few white pupils who made it to the top but ignored their First Nation classmates, according to former students.

Students from 1969-70 say Furlong screamed “Lazy Indians!” at them and physically abused them in different ways because, in his mind, they had committed some offence that needed punishment. He did not, they say, see them as children who were afraid of a tall white man who communicated through beatings and screaming in English. He is remembered as a gratuitously violent bully who taunted children, beating them in front of the class if he felt they were too slow, fat, or inattentive.

Richard Perry, another hereditary chief, said in an affidavit that he is convinced he suffered brain damage because of Furlong’s repeated beatings, and he struggles to comprehend what he reads even today.

“I was hit on the head all the time. I was hit with a ruler: a metre stick in the legs. I remember one day talking to another Native person in my language. I said, ‘What are you learning in school?’ John Furlong hit me for that. Those days there was not too much learning. I remember John Furlong chased me home one day.”

First Nation families who went to school authorities about Furlong’s abuse say nothing changed. If students complained to the nuns, they were strapped for lying. When they tried to skip classes or stay out of school, the RCMP brought them back—to more punishment.

“Another time, he [Furlong] took me to a private room where the furnace was,” Perry declared in his affidavit. “It was really noisy so no one could hear.…I watched them take kids one by one to the basement and beat us [with the strap]. I got too much abuse, too many hits all the time.”

Other students talk about the furnace room—a much feared place. Furlong, they say, grabbed children by the hair and dragged them there for strappings, usually by a priest or nun.

Paul Joseph and his cousin Richard also went to Immaculata. “Richard was pretty much the same age as I am,” Joseph said in a phone interview from Burns Lake. “On the John Furlong side, he hit me so hard once when we played basketball, right on the back of the head with a full hand for no reason. Another time I didn’t hear him say [something] to me while I was playing basketball. He came from behind and grabbed my hair from the back—almost on top of my head. He punched me in the back of the head and I went flying. I was unconscious for 15 minutes. I remember then I was crying. Everyone was too afraid to help me.”

Joseph says the abuse was unrelenting. “I played lots of hockey. John Furlong hit me right at the back of my head with a hockey stick. After this, I didn’t want to go to school. I was too afraid of what he would do. If he doesn’t get his way, he will hit us really hard. My cousin Richard and I just walked around outside in the cold. We didn’t have anyone. My parents were dead and I was 13. If we went to the priest, he would say we were lying. He would put our hands on the desk and hit us so hard. It feels like our hands are broken.”

http://www.straight.com/article-788776/vancouver/furlong-bio-omits-secre...

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Setting the Record Straight on my Life and Family: John Furlong

I came to Burns Lake in 1969 as a volunteer at a small school that needed help.  I worked hard to try and be a positive influence, I cared deeply for the students and I left after 14 months of service.  My wife and I then moved to Prince George where we continued to volunteer before returning home to Ireland by 1972 as our volunteer commitment had ended.  As this time will be discussed at length in court, I can say only that as a volunteer teacher I treated everyone in a fair, appropriate manner and at no time unlawfully or harmfully. I have never denied nor purposefully omitted speaking publicly of this time. It was not material in any way to my very difficult and emotional decision to leave Ireland permanently and where the story of my life as a Canadian begins. 

Contrary to the article, my eldest son was born not before but after our return to Ireland, on January 28th 1973 in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, close to our home. He is an Irish born proud Canadian with dual citizenship.

 

Ms. Robinson’s contempt for me and for the Olympics was well known to the leadership at VANOC. She was openly acerbic in her articles about VANOC’s activities especially as they related to First Nations and female athletes, my leadership, and the International Olympic Committee. She is particularly known for her caustic criticism of male authority figures in sport. At VANOC we accepted her scrutiny – biased as it consistently was – as part of the job. We thought our interaction with her ended with the Games. My family and I are at a loss to try to understand her motivation for this latest attack that is both personal and destructive to the extreme. The damage to us is massive and will be immeasurably detrimental to us for years to come. 

quizzical

the "massive" damage  on those children's lives will last their lifetime. some are dead.

we're supposed to be worried about him?

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Notice that the FN's complainants are not the focus of his response.  Who cares whether a reporter likes him he is calling eight people liars.  I hope they sue his ass off and he gets left with the reputation he deserves.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

While it does sound like the reporter and the Straight might have erred regarding his cousin Siobhan, I completely agree with krop and q regarding his response to the abuse allegations. He deliberately omitted his role in an organization riddled with abuse of FN schoolchildren--for me that's enough to warrant the asking of a helluva lot more questions of his time there which were of so little importance to his biography.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Furlong sues Georgia Straight over abuse allegations

A story by a reporter in the Georgia Straight newspaper “maliciously intended” to injure the reputation and cause harm to John Furlong, the former Vancouver Winter Olympics CEO contends in his defamation lawsuit.

The Sept. 27 story by Laura Robinson in the Vancouver weekly alleged that Furlong abused several First Nations students at an elementary school where he taught more than 40 years ago.

Shortly after the article was published, Furlong, who is now the executive chair of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, went public with several vehement denials of the allegations and vowed to launch a defamation suit.

“As a result of the Georgia Straight article, the plaintiff has been brought into public scandal and contempt, and suffered, and will continue to suffer, grave damage to his character and reputation,” says Furlong’s suit, filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

“The plaintiff and his family have suffered distress and embarrassment as a result of the Georgia Straight article.”

In the lawsuit, a copy of which only became available Wednesday, Furlong is seeking unspecified general, special, aggravated and punitive damages.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Vancouver newspaper defends John Furlong story in court

Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp., which owns the Straight, publisher Daniel McLeod and editor Charlie Smith filed their response this week, denying the article is defamatory.

They also argue the article is protected by a relatively new legal defence known as responsible communication and should be considered fair comment.

"The Georgia Straight article is not capable of being defamatory of the plaintiff, and is not in fact defamatory of the plaintiff, as alleged," says the statement of defence, filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

"Alternatively, the Georgia Straight article constitutes responsible communication on matters of public interest. ... The newspaper defendants were diligent in trying to verify the contents of the Georgia Straight article before publication."

 

The article generated stories by other media outlets and prompted Furlong to hold a news conference, denying the allegations published in the Georgia Straight, as well as allegations of "sexual abuse" that were not included in the Georgia Straight piece.

The newspaper's response to civil claim says any harm suffered by Furlong was brought about by his own news conference.

"Any cancellation of paid speaking agreements was caused, or alternatively contributed to, by the controversy resulting from the plaintiff's highly publicized press conference," says the statement.

"The plaintiff self published the substance of the Georgia Straight article at his press conference ... and he is therefore solely responsible for the republication which resulted."

 

 

ryanw

Quote:

The article generated stories by other media outlets and prompted Furlong to hold a news conference, denying the allegations published in the Georgia Straight, as well as allegations of "sexual abuse" that were not included in the Georgia Straight piece.

like a Columbo episode

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Here is good Tyee article about the defenses responses to the libel suit. The original article cited eight statutory declarations from people now they have upped the ante to twenty five people.  Since truth is an excellent defence in a libel suit I love the tripling of the complaints.  I suspect that after his denials other people in the community went WTF and decided to also step forward.

Also of note is who the respective parties are using as counsel. 

Quote:

The chief executive of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics has been accused in B.C. Supreme Court documents of hitting children on the backs of their heads with a hockey stick and locking children out of an elementary school in the middle of winter while he taught in Burns Lake, B.C., more than 40 years ago.

The Georgia Straight newspaper's Jan. 14, 2013 response to John Furlong's Nov. 27, 2012 defamation lawsuit contains the names of 25 people who say they were physically abused, bullied and/or racially taunted by Furlong when he worked as a volunteer physical education teacher at the predominantly aboriginal Immaculata Catholic elementary school.

...

The Georgia Straight is represented by Roger McConchie, who has written a widely used legal manual on libel and is considered one of the top libel lawyers in Canada. McConchie was hired by ex-Liberal MLA John van Dongen last year to be a friendly intervenor in the auditor general's lawsuit seeking the agreement that absolved guilty ex-Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk from $6 million of legal bills after an October 2010 plea bargain. The charges stemmed from the 2003 sale of BC Rail to CN.

Furlong is represented by John Hunter and Claire Hunter of Hunter Litigation Chambers. John Hunter's resume includes representing the Vancouver College Foundation, Parents and Alumni Association in a 2002 B.C. Court of Appeal matter in which abuse victims from a Christian Brothers orphanage in Mount Cashel, Nfld. sought compensation. Hunter's firm includes William Berardino, the special prosecutor in the case against Basi and Virk.

http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2013/01/16/Straight-Defence/

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

A further article on the defence statement.  It is far more damaging if the facts are as stated. 

"Patriot Hearts" has been nominated as the best hubris of the decade. Why would someone with these kinds of skeletons in their closet want to write a self aggrandizing book about themselves?

Quote:

The defence statement filed by the Ontario journalist who is being sued for defamation by John Furlong alleges that the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics chief executive groped schoolchildren while he was a gym teacher in northern B.C., beat his first ex-wife and raped his ex-common law wife.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Laura Robinson wrote an expose for the Georgia Straight's Sept. 27, 2012 edition, headlined "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake," which pointed out inconsistencies in his 2011-published post-Olympics memoir, Patriot Hearts. It also included allegations in sworn statements from eight ex-students that Furlong abused them at an aboriginal elementary school after the Irish native moved to Canada as an 18-year-old Catholic missionary.

Furlong sued Robinson and the Georgia Straight on Nov. 27, 2012, alleging she acted with malice. The Georgia Straight filed its defence statement on Jan. 14 in B.C. Supreme Court.

Robinson's Jan. 21 defence filing alleged Furlong touched the breasts and buttocks of schoolgirls, including Beverly Mary Abraham, who claimed Furlong called her his "favourite princess" and told her she was "my prodigy, you're my favourite out of all the girls."

Furlong met and married Margaret Cook, a schoolteacher at Immaculata, and the two moved to Prince George College where they were resident supervisors at the Catholic high school from 1970 to 1972. Robinson's statement alleged that Furlong physically and psychologically assaulted his first wife, whose face "had a huge bruise" and "her eyes were red and swollen" the morning after a loud fight in their Hostel 2 living quarters at Prince George College that was allegedly heard by several students.

During 1979 to 1982, the statement said, Furlong and his common law wife lived in Nanaimo and he allegedly physically assaulted, bullied and psychologically abused the woman, who was a reporter for a local newspaper. The statement alleged Furlong raped her in a shower.

"The plaintiff felt that he had a license to have sex on demand, which resulted in her being forced to have non-consensual sexual relations on many occasions," said the documents, filed by Robinson's lawyer Bryan Baynham.

"At the end of their relationship, they stopped having sex altogether and she began sleeping in the guest room. The plaintiff entered the room uninvited and forced himself on her, ultimately raping her."

Furlong's lawyer, John Hunter, declined comment on Robinson's defence statement.

"The matter is before the courts," Hunter said.

http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2013/01/21/New-Furlong-Allegations/

NorthReport

Furlong is one of the Canadian establishment's icons - what do people make of this? 

My gut tells me people with a lot of influence, power and wealth in our society have a lot of clot to supress news reports, comments from witnesses, etc. 

onlinediscountanvils

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/07/24/bc-john-... Furlong's former students file lawsuit against ex-VANOC CEO[/url]

Quote:
Two former students of a Catholic school in Burns Lake, B.C., have filed notices of civil claims in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging sexual abuse at the hands of former VANOC CEO John Furlong, who taught at the school in the 1960s.

The lawsuits filed by Grace Jessie West, 53, and Beverly Mary Abraham, 55, name Furlong, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Roman Catholic Prince George Diocese and the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George.

Quote:
The lawsuits also allege Furlong defamed the women at a news conference in September 2012 after the newspaper story was published when he said that those who alleged he had abused them at the school were lying or attempting to extort him.

NorthReport
NorthReport
NorthReport

Here's a perfect example of Canada's high society. You know the people that are above the law, Canada's untouchables, all the folks that are running Canada into the ground.

45 First Nations people allege experiencing or witnessing abuse by former school teacher John Furlong, President of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Journalist Laura Robinson broke the story.

http://canadalandshow.com/podcast/laura-robinson

jas

John Furlong defamation case begins as journalist Laura Robinson sues

While a few sources are reporting on this, very few seem to understand that the three dismissed lawsuits (West, Abraham, and unnamed) had nothing to do with the testimonies Robinson reported on.

The Globe reports:

He dropped his lawsuit earlier this year after the dismissal of the last of three lawsuits against him alleging sexual abuse,

which gives the impression of his innocence against all the allegations. Could Furlong have paid some people off to come forward with false lawsuits? A media stunt to clear his name? Here is a bizarre reporting of the first dismissed case: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/woman-drops-lawsuit-alleging-sex-abus...

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Gary Mason, the Globe reporter who has been reporting on Furlong, also co-wrote Furlong's biography. A point rarely brought up in his reporting of the case, for some reason.

The most logical explanation for the dropped sexual assault cases is that Abraham was advised her chance at conviction was extremely low and didn't want to go through with a painful trial -- especially since the smear army was already out in force. We don't know the circumstances of the woman who did not appear to have attended Immaculata, and the man, whose case was dismissed, seems to have endured significant hardship--he was representing himself, did not appear in trial and hung up on the judge. None of these "vindicate" Furlong as he claims. In fact, Beverly Abraham's case sounds highly credible and is backed by her nation's elders.

None of that has anything to do with the eight sworn affadavits (evenbtually swelling to 45 witnesses) that corroborate Furlong's abuse or the shameful lies Furlong repeatedly told to hide the fact he spent time in Burns Lake.

jas
jas

Furlong blames [Georgie Straight] article for wife's death

Former Olympics CEO John Furlong says he blames a damaging Georgia Straight article for the death of his wife.

Furlong testified in B.C. Supreme Court that Deborah Furlong died in a car accident in April 2013 while the two were in Ireland escaping stress from publication of allegations he abused children in Burns Lake more than 40 years earlier.

"It cost me my wife," he said.

The two had been married 299 days.

Pondering

jas wrote:

Furlong blames [Georgie Straight] article for wife's death

The Georgia Straight hits the streets on Thursdays; Furlong said he talked with his family in the week before the article appeared. But his wife woke up early and disappeared.

He said he became worried, but then she returned and admitted to having followed the newspaper's delivery van around the city.

She said she spent the morning emptying newspaper boxes and loading them into their truck. It was filled to the ceiling with copies of the free alternative weekly.....

Furlong said the stress became too much for his wife, who confronted a stranger in a checkout line who was reading an article about him and made derogatory comments.

That's when they decided to go to Ireland.

So, she died because they could afford to go take a holiday in Ireland.

Sean in Ottawa

Pondering wrote:

jas wrote:

Furlong blames [Georgie Straight] article for wife's death

The Georgia Straight hits the streets on Thursdays; Furlong said he talked with his family in the week before the article appeared. But his wife woke up early and disappeared.

He said he became worried, but then she returned and admitted to having followed the newspaper's delivery van around the city.

She said she spent the morning emptying newspaper boxes and loading them into their truck. It was filled to the ceiling with copies of the free alternative weekly.....

Furlong said the stress became too much for his wife, who confronted a stranger in a checkout line who was reading an article about him and made derogatory comments.

That's when they decided to go to Ireland.

So, she died because they could afford to go take a holiday in Ireland.

In fairness two points:

First: the accident was caused becuase she was driving on the wrong side of the road. The Irish driver was not at fault.

Second: It was not their decision to go to Ireland that had anything to do with it. It was her decision to drive in a country where you drive on the opposite side, without being reliably able to do so. Many people visit countries and do not drive there as they understand that they cannot do so safely due to different rules of the road, in some cases different language/symbols on signage, different speeds and styles of driving etc.

The story is sad and understandable but it is unrelated to accusations made against him.

http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/1049828/irish-inquest-rules-misadvent...

NorthReport

UBC accused of violating First Nations human rights over Furlong speech

http://thebreaker.news/miscellany/hrt-complaint/