April 01, 2015 - 7:17 AM
VANCOUVER - As a young man who immigrated from Ireland, John Furlong channelled his "highest respect" for First Nations by volunteering to teach at an elementary school in northern British Columbia.
Forty years later, he ensured four B.C. First Nations were full partners when he headed the Vancouver Olympics, saying his push for their participation was a source of personal pride.
So it was with every instinct he fought anger starting two years ago, when "deep and horrible, hurtful and highly damaging" allegations of sex abuse were levelled against him by three aboriginal people, he told reporters on Tuesday.
Furlong declared the "almost unimaginable nightmare" had finally ended a day after the dismissal by a B.C. Supreme Court judge of the last of three civil lawsuits that have held his family, business interests and public profile hostage.
He was subjected to RCMP investigations, examinations for discovery by lawyers and intense personal scrutiny, even though none of his accusers faced him in court.
Despite the "paralyzing" circumstances, he said he's not angry, but is disappointed.
"I wish them no harm and hope they will go on to find inner peace," he said in a statement, delivered at his lawyer's offices in Vancouver. "However, they will have to live with what they have done. And I hope they do better."
Looking aged since he championed the 2010 Games, Furlong exhaled audibly several times and didn't take questions.
The allegations stem from several articles published in September 2012 by a freelance reporter who conducted inquiries in the tiny sawmill town of Burns Lake, B.C., about Furlong's time at the Catholic school starting around 1969.
Furlong also announced he is dropping a defamation suit — combating the "lies" penned by Laura Robinson — as part of his efforts to rebuild his life.
"Given these three positive court outcomes, the lawsuit is no longer necessary for me to achieve vindication or innocence," he said. "My name is cleared."
But he will continue to defend himself against her counter defamation suit.
"Her reporting is deeply flawed and unfair," he said, calling her techniques questionable. "I am confident that truth will again prevail."
Robinson stood by her journalism after Furlong's statement, saying she will proceed with her case with its first date in June.
"I feel that the dropping of Mr. Furlong's lawsuit against me today is recognition that my reporting on the serious allegations was responsible and appropriate," she said in an email statement after declining to comment by telephone.
"My suit is about an attack on my integrity and professional conduct as a journalist. It has never been about these three cases."
The final lawsuit against Furlong was tossed out Monday after the 54-year-old male plaintiff living in Prince Rupert, B.C., failed to appear for the start of the trial.
The judge stated the man had referred to evidence of photos that didn't exist, had threatened to harm Furlong and had disrespected the courts. He was awarded special costs.
Another woman's case was dismissed in February, because she didn't attend the school where Furlong taught physical education. The first claimant withdrew her suit in December citing stress. The lawyer for all three, Jason Gratl, also withdrew his representation.
RCMP investigated allegations made by Beverly Abraham, the primary subject of Robinson's articles, with Furlong's co-operation. Police did not press charges.
Following his ordeal, Furlong also criticized the legal system for allowing "ruinous, toxic allegations" to be put on public record, for them merely to be abandoned "with impunity, seemingly without consequences."
His counsel John Hunter noted there was no opportunity for external judicial review.
"There are some weaknesses (that) I think lawyers and perhaps the courts need to reflect on."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015