Two former students of a Catholic school in Burns Lake, B.C., have filed notices of civil claims in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging sexual abuse at the hands of former VANOC CEO John Furlong, who taught at the school in the 1960s.
The lawsuits filed by Grace Jessie West, 53, and Beverly Mary Abraham, 55, name Furlong, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Roman Catholic Prince George Diocese and the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George.
The story first broke last fall when journalist Laura Robinson wrote a story for the Georgia Straight newspaper alleging Furlong had mistreated native students while he was a teacher at a Catholic school in Burns Lake in the late 1960s.
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Furlong has vehemently denied the accusations made in the newspaper story and launched a lawsuit against Robinson and the Georgia Straight newspaper.
Allegations of sexual touching
In the lawsuits filed on Wednesday in Vancouver, the two women allege Furlong abused them sexually, physically and verbally during and after gym classes at the Catholic school while he was a teacher there in 1969 and 1970.
West alleges that when she was nine years old, Furlong kicked her in the buttocks regularly, called her "dirty Indian" and "squaw", and touched her sexually while touching himself in the changing room after gym class.
Abraham alleges that when she was 11 years old, on about a dozen occasions, Furlong touched her sexually after gym class and attempted to put his tongue in her mouth.
Both women allege their parents told school officials, the Archdiocese and Diocese about the alleged abuse, but nothing was done about it.
West claims in her lawsuit that her parents transferred her to another school in Smithers in order to escape the abuse.
As a result, the women allege their sexual integrity was violated, causing them to suffer health and psychological problems, including anxiety and difficulty forming appropriate sexual and emotional bonds.
The lawsuits also allege Furlong defamed the women at a news conference in September 2012 after the newspaper story was published when he said that those who alleged he had abused them at the school were lying or attempting to extort him.
The woman are seeking general, special and punitive damages, and costs.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Furlong has yet to respond to the lawsuits. A spokeperson for the TwentyTen Group, which manages his speaking engagements, said he would not be available for public comment as the matter was now before the courts.