John Furlong says he's been 'living in absolute hell' since allegations
Published Monday, October 28, 2013 10:06PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 28, 2013 10:07PM EDT
John Furlong, the man who organized the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, says he is trying to reclaim his life by using the courts to fight back against allegations of sexual abuse brought against him last year.
In an interview with CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, Furlong says he’s been “living in absolute hell” for the past 17 months after a weekly Vancouver newspaper published allegations claiming he physically and verbally abused First Nations students while working as an 18-year-old volunteer teacher in northern B.C. more than four decades ago.
In a report published last September, the Georgia Straight said eight former students signed affidavits about their experiences at Immaculata Elementary in Burns Lake, B.C., in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They alleged a young Furlong would hit and kick them, as well as make racist comments, while serving as a physical education teacher.
Over the summer, two women -- Beverly Abraham and Grace West -- filed separate civil lawsuits accusing Furlong of sexual abuse. A third student filed a third lawsuit last month, alleging he, too, was abused.
Furlong has categorically denied all of the allegations made against him.
“The question is almost insulting,” he told CTV News in an exclusive interview. “When this was handed to the RCMP for the first time, I thought, first of all, it would last a week. I thought a week and it would be over. But it’s (been) 17 months of living in absolute hell.”
He added: “I know that I did nothing to any of those kids. I’m sorry if they’ve had challenges or difficulties in their life. But I have never, ever, ever inappropriately touched anybody in my life.”
The Roman Catholic diocese that ran the Burns Lake school has also denied the allegations.
In a statement of defence filed over the summer, the Diocese of Prince George says it has no record of Grace West or the third complainant even being at the school.
“I don’t know what is behind (the lawsuits) ... because they didn’t happen.”
Furlong -- an Irish immigrant who permanently moved to Canada in 1974 -- became a household name during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. As CEO of the VANOC organizing committee, he’s received a number of awards and recognitions, including the Order of Canada, the Order of B.C., and induction into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Soon after the Georgia Straight article was published, Furlong filed his own lawsuit against the newspaper, as well as against the freelance reporter who wrote the piece.
The article Laura Robinson suggested Furlong lied about his past at Immaculata Elementary. Robinson noted that Furlong’s Olympic memoir, entitled Patriot Hearts, did not mention that his first trip to Canada came in 1969 when he was a Catholic missionary. Instead, he starts his story in 1974, saying he was recruited to move from Dublin to Prince George, B.C., to set up a high school athletics program.
“I didn’t put (Burns Lake) in the book because I didn’t think it was relevant,” Furlong explained. “But it is a pretty long leap to say because (someone) didn’t put something in a book that something terrible happened.”
Furlong has since dropped the lawsuit against the paper to focus solely on his case against Robinson. He accuses her of having a “personal vendetta” against him and claims she has a history of inaccurate reporting.
“She’s made life as hell for me as you could possibly make it, and I don’t understand the inspiration,” Furlong said. “But today, I’ve got to the point where enough is enough.
“My goal now is to never let this happen to another person, to not let anybody face what we have faced,” he added. “I’m going to escalate my court case against Laura Robinson because of what she’s done and because I’m not alone.”
Furlong said the allegations were especially poignant since they came soon after one of the best years of his life. He admits he wasn’t able to read the article through to the end.
“I woke up that day and it was probably one of the top three worst days of my life,” he said. “I frankly never read it until the end. You can’t read garbage like that.”
He says he’s since read “pieces” of it over time, calling the article a “stinger.”
“I couldn’t describe how bad it’s been: It’s been hellish for me, my family. And the things they have been put through,” Furlong said. “And now the RCMP have come to a conclusion and they’ve concluded that I’ve done nothing wrong. I said that at the beginning … and to have to live through this on the basis of such a complaint has just been horrible."