British Columbia

B.C. First Nation backs RCMP investigation of Furlong

The B.C. First Nation at the centre of allegations that Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong abused students in the community more than 40 years ago is calling for a thorough RCMP investigation.
CBC's Duncan McCue reports on the reaction to the abuse allegations against John Furlong, the former head of the Vancouver Olympics 2:34

The B.C. First Nation at the centre of allegations that Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong abused students in the community more than 40 years ago is calling for a thorough RCMP investigation.

Chief Wilf Adam, of the Lake Babine Nation, said in a statement on Friday morning that the community appreciates what Furlong has done for British Columbia and Canada as head of the Vancouver Olympics, but at the same time the community "strongly believes there are serious longstanding issues from the past that must be addressed."

"An RCMP investigation must bring the truth of what happened in the past to the full light of day for all to see," said Adam in the statement. "The necessary steps must be taken, so we can put this issue to rest."

On Thursday, the RCMP issued a statement saying they were aware of the allegations and were investigating, but did not provide any more details.

Furlong himself has also called for an investigation by the RCMP to clear his name.

On Friday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark called the allegations serious.

"I have worked with John and gotten to know him over the last many years as many of you have, and I have never found him to be anything but a man of absolutely the highest integrity and ethics," said Clark.

Furlong denies allegations

Furlong came out swinging Thursday in response to reports that he allegedly abused students at a school in the community about 600 kilometres north of Vancouver in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Furlong said he "categorically denies" the accusations from at least eight students relating to his year of teaching physical education at the Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake, a Roman Catholic non-residential institution, which has since been torn down.

Two members of the Babine First Nation were killed when the Burns Lake sawmill exploded in January. (CBC)

Corporal punishment was legal in B.C. until 1973. And while some former students recall Furlong as a good sports coach, others tell a different story.

Adam said the allegations have surfaced while the community is already dealing with the tragic death of two mill workers in a sawmill explosion this past winter. Nineteen others were also injured in the explosion.

"Burns Lake is a fragile community. January's tragic mill explosion and the deaths and injuries it caused left deep wounds in our community that we are still trying to heal."

"The serious allegations concerning John Furlong are coming into full public focus at a time when people already feel overwhelmed."