After the Olympic cauldron was extinguished in Vancouver in 2010, John Furlong, the head of its organizing committee, created a new life as a motivational speaker. He commanded fees as high as $50,000 on the international lecture circuit for such topics as vision, leadership, Aboriginal and government relations. He was at his best, the National Speakers Bureau said, “when he can tell his own story naturally,” adding that “the reviews are incredible!”
Now, in an increasingly ugly civil lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, the credibility of his story, which usually begins with his arrival in Canada as an Irish immigrant in 1974, is indeed in question. Ontario freelance journalist Laura Robinson, writing in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper last September, revealed Furlong omitted his past as a Frontier Apostle Catholic missionary teacher in the early 1970s in northern B.C. Furlong sued after Robinson claimed he was physically abusive to students at the school.
Robinson has now escalated the fight.
In court documents filed Jan. 21, she levels searing new allegations of physical and sexual abuse. In unproven claims, she alleges Furlong “abused, bullied and made racist statements” against students, and sexually groped Aboriginal girls while teaching in Burns Lake and Prince George. She also claims, based on witnesses she said came forward after her story was published, that he “physically and psychologically assaulted” his first wife, and “physically assaulted, bullied, psychologically abused and raped” a woman he lived with in Nanaimo between 1979 and 1982.
Last September, Furlong called a news conference to deny all Robinson’s allegations, accusing her of waging a “vendetta” against him. He sued her and the newspaper for defamation, saying in court filings he suffered “grave damage” to his reputation. He said he lost speaking engagements and the allegations affected sales of Patriot Hearts, the book he co-wrote about his life and Olympic experience.
In a statement, Furlong called the new allegations “completely unfounded” and said his lawyers would file a response in the coming days.