British Columbia

UBC president apologizes for handling of Furlong cancellation

UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono is apologizing for how organizers cancelled a scheduled John Furlong speaking engagement. Ono is now set to speak in Furlong's place at the February fundraising event, but says he had no part in the decision.

John Furlong was set to speak at a University of British Columbia fundraising event in February

John Furlong, former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, was hired to speak at a UBC fundraising even in February, but his contract was cancelled after an online protest. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

University of British Columbia president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono has apologized for how organizers cancelled a scheduled John Furlong speaking engagement.

Ono is now set to speak in Furlong's place at the February fundraising event, but says he had no part in the decision to cancel Furlong's contract after criticism of the choice surfaced online.

In 2015, Furlong, the former Vancouver Olympics CEO, won a court case against journalist Laura Robinson, who wrote a story about his past as a teacher at a First Nations school in Burns Lake, B.C.

The story detailed abuse allegations against Furlong which have never been tested in court and which he has vehemently denied. An RCMP investigation into the allegations never led to charges.

"UBC made this decision in good faith, but without proper consideration of its potential impact on Mr. Furlong or his family," wrote Ono in a statement released Tuesday.

Ono's statement acknowledged criticism has been directed at Furlong, but defends Furlong's stature in the B.C. and Canadian amateur sport community.

"He also has a great number of supporters in the community, and there can be no question over his record of public service and his extraordinary contributions to amateur sport," the statement reads.

"At root, the university's decision-making throughout this matter did not meet the standard I am eager to instill." 

Ono tweeted on Dec. 23 that he was "pleased to announce" he would be keynote speaker at the 2017 ZLC Millennium Scholarship Breakfast.

Furlong's reply

Furlong released a statement of his own, accepting Ono's apology, which he said "recognized the deep hurt and embarrassment it [the cancellation of Furlong's speaking event] has caused me and my family."

"I appreciate the massive outpouring of support from friends, community and government leaders, perfect strangers and many engaged at UBC," the statement reads. "I accept UBC's apology and regret for this decision and while very disappointed, I want to continue to put the students first."

Furlong stated that he trusts his speaking fee will go toward the funding effort that he had planned on undertaking.

"I wish the event every success and trust that this most disheartening, humiliating experience can be a tipping point for improvement and that there can be some lasting good achieved," he wrote.

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