British Columbia

John Furlong's lawyer accuses journalist Laura Robinson of 'witch hunt'

A lawyer for John Furlong claims journalist Laura Robinson conducted a "witch hunt" against the former Olympics CEO, asking numerous organizations about their relationship with him in the wake of her controversial article.

Journalist contacted Whitecaps and other groups about their actions in wake of abuse allegations

Laura Robinson is suing John Furlong regarding statements he made in response to her article containing allegations he abused students at a Burns Lake Catholic school where he worked in 1969 to '70. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

John Furlong's lawyer claims journalist Laura Robinson conducted a "witch hunt" against the former Olympics CEO, which continued long past the publication of a controversial Georgia Straight article in September 2012.

As he wrapped up his cross-examination, John Hunter accused Robinson of being an activist — noting she was described that way in articles and a citation for an honorary degree.

Robinson admitted some might consider her an advocate for equality in sport, First Nations youth and sexual assault victims.

But she said those passions are separate from her professional life.

"I'm also an athlete and a journalist," she said.

'It was my intention to do my job'

Robinson is suing Furlong in connection with statements he made in response to her article, which detailed allegations of abuse by former students at a Burns Lake Catholic school where he worked in 1969 to '70.

She claims he implied she acted unethically and unprofessionally, motivated by a private vendetta. Robinson testified she suffered financially, emotionally and physically as a result.

Robinson alleges former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong publicly portrayed her as unethical, heartless and cruel. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Hunter asked Robinson about numerous emails she wrote in the wake of her original article to organizations and individuals in relation to Furlong, including the Vancouver Whitecaps and Own The Podium.

"It was my intention to do my job as a journalist, which was to continue to investigate," she said.

She said wanted to know if corporate and sports groups would investigate the allegations for themselves. She said she was also compiling a conference paper about traumatization of the alleged victims.

'Vulnerable community'

Furlong ultimately faced civil claims from three people who alleged sexual abuse at Immaculata Catholic School.

Furlong has always vigorously maintained his innocence of all the allegations. One person withdrew her claim and the two others were dismissed, in part, because the claimants never attended the school.

Robinson admitted she knew one of those people, Daniel Morice, had filed a claim for compensation related to a different residential school. But she said many students were moved between schools.

Hunter pointed out that students at the schools where Furlong taught were left out of the residential school compensation process. 

He suggested Robinson went into a "vulnerable community" where people who suffered abuses had no recourse and may have been looking for someone to blame. 

'Did you expect him to send you flowers?'

Robinson never looked shaken on the stand, despite some testy exchanges with Hunter, who appeared frustrated on occasion with the length and detail of her answers.

Furlong maintains his reactions to Robinson's article were justified, because he had qualified privilege to defend himself in response to what he claims was an attack.

"Did you expect him to send you flowers?" Hunter asked.

"I expected him not to lie," Robinson replied.

Robinson's lawyer said he expects to conclude his case on Friday, and Hunter said he will be prepared to give his opening statements.

Furlong is expected to start testifying next week. Hunter also plans to call an expert on false memories.