Former VANOC CEO responds to defamation countersuit

Former Vancouver Olympic head John Furlong has once again denied allegations he abused students at a Catholic school in northern British Columbia four decades ago, as part of two legal replies filed in B.C. Supreme Court today.

John Furlong claims he was a popular phys-ed teacher and says journalist's allegations are defamatory and untrue

John Furlong has filed a lawsuit against a Vancouver newspaper and a journalist over allegations about his past. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Former Vancouver Olympic head John Furlong has once again denied allegations he abused students at a Catholic school in northern British Columbia four decades ago, as part of two legal replies filed in B.C. Supreme Court today.

The replies, which were filed by Furlong's lawyers, are the latest chapter in an increasingly complicated legal battle stemming from a story published by the Georgia Straight newspaper and journalist Laura Robinson in September of last year.

In the story, Robinson alleged that during Furlong's time as a teacher in Burns Lake in 1969 and 1970 that he abused several First Nations students at the Catholic day school.

Furlong emphatically denied the allegations and two months later filed a lawsuit against Robinson and the weekly Vancouver newspaper seeking damages, as well as an apology and retraction.

The Georgia Straight filed a response to Furlong's civil claim saying the story was not defamatory and amounted to fair comment.

Robinson filed her own counterclaim, insisting that what she wrote was true and constitutes responsible communication on matters of public interest. Robinson also alleged in the counterclaim that Furlong physically abused his ex-wife.

In his response on Friday, Furlong filed replies to both Robinson and the newspaper, saying he was a popular physical education teacher in 1969 and 1970.

His reply said that while he made students run laps and do push-ups, threw basketballs at them in drills, and required children to wear gym clothes, none of that was intended to be malicious, unfair, abusive, or harmful.

Furlong also denied the allegations of abuse involving his ex-wife, and accused Robinson of using the legal process as a "back-door" publication of defamatory comments.

Furlong also claimed that Robinson has a history of journalistic inaccuracy and defamation, and listed four documented instances of her prior stories that failed to stand up to court challenge, police investigation or independent investigation.

Robinson's lawyer Bryan Baynham said, "My client stands by her story and wants to have this matter behind her as soon as possible."

Allegations about Furlong's past are now also the subject of two other civil claims filed earlier this week in B.C. Supreme Court by two women who have alleged Furlong sexually assaulted them during his time at at a school in Burns Lake.

Furlong has previously denied all the abuse claims at a news conference, but has yet to respond to the lawsuits with a statement of defense. None of the claims by any of the parties have been proven in court.

Furlong's replies to the Georgia Straight's and Laura Robinson's responses

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor