The nightmare could finally be over for former VANOC CEO John Furlong after a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that he did not defame a freelance journalist who wrote allegations that he abused First Nations students.
In a written ruling released today, Justice Catherine Wedge wrote that Furlong, the former leader of the local organizing committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, had every right to defend his reputation against an article written by freelance journalist Laura Robinson published in the Georgia Straight in 2012.
On the same day the story was published, Furlong held a press conference and called Robinson’s work a “shocking lack of diligence” as part of a “personal vendetta” against him. He also alleged there were attempts to extort him before the Olympics.
But Robinson fought back, claiming she acquired sworn affidavits from eight former students who alleged Furlong physically and verbally abused them when he was teaching at Burns Lake, B.C. from 1969 and 1970.
She later announced that she would be filing a defamation lawsuit for the comments and allegations Furlong made that also damaged her reputation – as a journalist.
“Ms. Robinson’s publications concerning Mr. Furlong cannot be fairly characterized as the reporting of other persons’ allegations against him,” Justice Wedge wrote in her ruling today. “Rather, the publications constitute an attack by Ms. Robinson on Mr. Furlong’s character, conduct and credibility.”
“Each of Mr. Furlong’s statements was bona fide and responsive to Ms. Robinson’s attack on him. His statements were, accordingly, occasions of qualified privilege… For the reasons provided, Ms. Robinson’s claim is dismissed.”
Earlier this year, Furlong announced he would not be pursuing his legal case against Robinson after the last sexual abuse claims were thrown out by a B.C. Supreme Court judge. The accusers were verbally abusive to a judge, left threatening and vulgar voice mails to Furlong’s lawyers and lied about where they attended school in Burns Lake. One accuser even had a lengthy criminal past with 53 criminal convictions such as theft, fraud and forgery.
Feeling “vindicated” by the court decisions, Furlong wanted to move on with his life and did not want additional lawsuits to linger while he rebuilds his reputation. However, Robinson did not cease and continued with her defamation case.