Column: Leave John Furlong alone

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We’re all innocent until proven guilty… or are we?

By Eric Onderwater

Recently, the explosive allegations concerning John Furlong, the former CEO of VANOC, surfaced again into the public spotlight. Laura Robinson, the journalist who first accused Mr. Furlong of physical abuse and intimidation in a September article published in The Georgia Straight, recently released new documents accusing Mr. Furlong of physically and sexually abusing his former spouses.

Robinson’s original article accused Mr. Furlong of omitting sections of his past when he published his recent biography. More, Robinson alleged that Mr. Furlong had been a teacher at a catholic school in Northern BC. While Mr. Furlong was a teacher, he was allegedly mean to some of the students, which the students labeled abuse in 2012.

I’ll start by saying that Robinson is the lowest form of journalistic sleaze we’ve seen in a long time. Why on earth would she suddenly feel the need to attack John Furlong? Even if the allegations are true, why destroy a man’s reputation? A brief Google search on Robinson brings up a number of interesting details.

Robinson is a prominent writer on women’s and aboriginal issues in Canada. She’s also written numerous books on various issues in sports, usually related to gender equity and women’s perspectives in sport. More interestingly, she’s written a number of critical articles on the Vancouver Olympic Games. She attacked VANOC over the refusal to allow women’s ski jumping. She then attacked VANOC over various issues like the environment, native inclusion etc. Finally, in one article she talks about how the money from the games should have been used for social programs instead.

Then she attacks John Furlong. She first attacks him in 2011 on the same website in which she attacks the Vancouver Olympics. She alleges that Mr. Furlong is a bad person. Why? Because he left his former students behind in Northern BC, and “did not seek them out on his many visits back.” But that wasn’t enough. She tracked down students from the school; convinced them to sign affidavits that Mr. Furlong was mean to them in gym class, and then published a story saying that John Furlong physically abused his former students. Finally, in the last pathetic installment, she alleged sexual and physical abuse of his former spouses in court documents, recently in January.

The entire story is built on one tiny piece of incriminating information. But after reading a bit about Robinson, I began to understand why she would write such a story. You see, Robinson has a basic bias against white men, organized religion, the Olympics and anything and anybody powerful in general. She also believes that women and Aboriginals are saintly creatures in need of every resource the government has to offer.

In this way of thinking, John Furlong is a natural target. It doesn’t really matter if the story is true. The very fact that he worked at a catholic school with aboriginal students apparently implies that he’s evil and unworthy to be CEO of VANOC.

It then becomes clear that Robinson didn’t write this article to make the world a better place, or to pursue some misguided version of journalistic truth. She wrote it to become famous. And Mr. Furlong is just the collateral damage on the way.