Furlong denies abuse allegations in statement of defence

Former VANOC CEO John Furlong has denied abusing two former students at a Burns Lake elementary school in a statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court today.

Ex-VANOC CEO says he can't remember teaching either student and denies he acted inappropriately

Former VANOC CEO John Furlong has denied abusing two former students at a Burns Lake elementary school in a statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court today.

Grace West and Beverly Abraham both claim to have been sexually and physically abused by Furlong while he was a physical education teacher in the Burns Lake area in late 1960s and early 1970s.

The two women filed a civil claim against Furlong in July, seeking compensation for the abuse and alleging defamation after he suggested at a press conference in September of last year that unnamed people were lying in an attempt to extort him.

In court documents filed Monday in the two cases, Furlong said he doesn't recall if he taught West and Abraham during his time as a volunteer teacher at the Catholic school in northern British Columbia more than four decades ago.

"The defendant denied that he sexually molested or physically abused or engaged in any inappropriate conduct in respect of the plaintiff," said two identical statements of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

The two women filed civil claims in the summer against Furlong and against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese after allegations of physical abuse surfaced earlier this year against Furlong in connection to his time teaching physical education to First Nations students at Immaculata School.

West, 53, alleges Furlong kicked her in the buttocks almost every day, as well as in the legs and back, always when nobody was around to witness the abuse.

She said he called her names, including "dirty Indian," and sexually molested her in a change room after gym class approximately once a week.

In her statement of claim, West said she told her father, who confronted Furlong and removed her from the school. West said other parents also went to the diocese with complaints, which failed to act.

Abraham's statement of claim said she was 11 years old when sexual abuse by Furlong began. Abraham, now 55, said Furlong also asked nuns working at the school to physically punish her by having her kneel on the floor while they struck her open palms repeatedly.

The women are also seeking compensation in their civil claims for defamation over Furlong's suggestion at a news conference that unnamed persons had threatened to make accusations in order to extort him.

In the court documents filed Monday, Furlong said it was the plaintiffs themselves who made their identities public.

"The plaintiff self-published the false allegations that she had been sexually or otherwise abused by the defendant," it said. "If the plaintiff has suffered loss, damage and expense ... it was caused by the plaintiff's self-publication of the false allegations...."

Furlong maintains that his statements at the press conference were truthful.

The allegations against Furlong surfaced in an article in the weekly Georgia Straight newspaper last fall, which suggested Furlong lied about his past at the Catholic school and physically and verbally abused First Nations students there.

Furlong did not mention his time as a Catholic school teacher in Burns Lake or Prince George, B.C., in his memoir "Patriot Hearts."

The man who was the face of the 2010 Olympic Games and is now the executive chairman of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC vehemently denied the allegations, and launched his own defamation lawsuits against the newspaper and journalist Laura Robinson.

Robinson made a new round of allegations in her statement of defence, including accusations that Furlong sexually assaulted a former common-law spouse.

New allegations filed in court

Another former student also came forward today, filing a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court that alleges he, too, was abused by John Furlong.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor and The Canadian Press