British Columbia

John Furlong warmly received at UBC fundraiser after initially being uninvited

Former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong received a standing ovation at a UBC fundraiser Tuesday while a handful of protesters gathered outside to draw attention to abuse allegations against him.

UBC president called Furlong an 'icon', thanked him for 'graciously bearing with us over the last few months'

John Furlong, seen here addressing a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in 2015, was reinstated as a speaker at a UBC fundraising event after the university initially cancelled his speech in December. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong received a standing ovation at a University of British Columbia fundraiser Tuesday while a handful of protesters gathered outside to draw attention to abuse allegations against him.

Furlong said in his keynote speech to student athletes that in times of hopelessness and despair, when you feel like the walls are caving in, the only thing that you can rely on is the truth.

The university initially cancelled his speech in December after a graduate circulated an open letter saying the decision to invite Furlong silenced First Nations people in Burns Lake, B.C., who have accused him of abuse.

University president Santa Ono later apologized to Furlong and reinstated him as speaker. On Tuesday Ono called Furlong an "icon"  and thanked him for "graciously bearing with us over the last few months."

Meanwhile about a dozen protesters gathered outside Vancouver's convention centre holding signs that read "It's time to listen" and "We stand with the Babine Lake survivors," referring to a First Nations community in Burns Lake.

Freelance journalist Laura Robinson penned the article about former VANOC CEO John Furlong. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Furlong has vehemently denied the allegations contained in a 2012 newspaper article that he beat and taunted aboriginal children while working as a gym teacher in the northern community in 1969 and 1970.

Journalist Laura Robinson later lost her defamation suit against Furlong, with a judge ruling her reporting constituted an attack on his character.

Furlong dropped his defamation suit against Robinson, so the allegations contained in her article have not been tested in court.