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Family, ex-wife say allegations about John Furlong are not true

VANCOUVER - Family members of former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong — including his ex-wife — have condemned new allegations against him of domestic and sexual abuse.
Former Vancouver Olympic organizing committee president and CEO John Furlong reads a statement in Vancouver on September 27, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Family members of former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong — including his ex-wife — have condemned new allegations against him of domestic and sexual abuse.

The family issued a statement Wednesday decrying the latest allegations made by reporter Laura Robinson, who is being sued by Furlong over an article she wrote about his time as a teacher at two Catholic schools in northern B.C.

A statement of defence filed by Robinson this week includes new claims alleging Furlong physically abused his former spouse and sexually assaulted a common-law partner.

"These shocking allegations are without merit and portray a character whom none of us recognizes," said the statement from Furlong's children, Maria, Johnnie, Damien, Emma, Molly, their mother Margaret, and their stepmother Gail, along with Furlong's 11 grandchildren.

"We are being subjected to shame and embarrassment by misuse of journalistic privilege and license."

The family said they felt compelled to speak out about the "serious, unsubstantiated" allegations contained in the court documents filed on Monday.

In them, Robinson said she was contacted after the original article was published last fall by a former neighbour of John and Margaret Furlong when they lived in Prince George, B.C., from 1970 to 1972.

The statement said "the plaintiff physically and psychologically assaulted and abused his wife." She cites four specific incidents allegedly committed against Margaret Furlong, including several loud arguments overheard by other residents.

"The plaintiff and his wife argued regularly and, as the arguments escalated, the student residents could hear the plaintiff slap and hit his wife, who could be heard crying apologetically," said the document.

"On one occasion, the plaintiff grabbed his wife's arm, twisted it tightly, and pushed her into their living quarters."

Robinson also said in the court documents that she was contacted following publication of the original story by Furlong's former common-law spouse, who told her "that she had been physically, emotionally and sexually abused by the plaintiff" while they lived together in Nanaimo, B.C., from 1979 to 1982.

Among six individual allegations of abuse listed in the statement is an allegation that Furlong forced the woman to have non-consensual sex on many occasions.

The original story published in the weekly Georgia Straight newspaper alleged Furlong lied about his past as a volunteer teacher at Immaculata School in Burns Lake and Prince George College in Prince George.

The school served predominantly First Nations students, and the article cited several former Immaculata students who accuse Furlong of physical and emotional abuse.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Furlong, a member of the Order of Canada, is suing the Georgia Straight newspaper, Robinson, publisher Daniel McLeod and editor Charlie Smith, claiming the article is false and defamatory.

The Furlong family called the claims by Robinson a self-serving, sensationalistic misuse of the media.

"Obscene accusations and innuendo have now been printed nation-wide and nothing could possibly undo that," said the statement.

"The public should be deeply concerned at the power of a single journalist whose words can smash into a family like a wrecking-ball.

Robinson issued a statement through her lawyer saying the allegations are not about the Furlong family.

"This is not about the Furlong family and never has been about the Furlong family. Because we do not want them to be in any way the focus of this story that is all we can say," said the email statement from Bryan Baynham.