VANCOUVER – A lawyer representing two women who allege former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong abused them while he was a teacher decades ago has launched a formal complaint, accusing the RCMP of being biased in their investigation of those claims.
In a letter this week written to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Jason Gratl accused Mounties of telling Furlong’s lawyers one thing about the investigation and the media something else.
Gratl is representing Beverly Abraham and Grace West, who each filed lawsuits last week alleging Furlong sexually molested them when he was a teacher at a Burns Lake, B.C., school decades ago.
None of the allegations have been proven in court, and Furlong has yet to file a response to the women’s statements of claim. However, in court documents filed last week related to a separate lawsuit, as well as in previous addresses to the media, Furlong denied such abuses took place.
Last week’s court documents said the RCMP has found Abraham’s allegations of sexual abuse by the ex-VANOC CEO to have “no basis in fact.”
In the court documents filed as part of a lawsuit against freelance journalist Laura Robinson, Furlong references “the alleged abuse of Beverly Abraham.”
“Subsequently, the RCMP has thoroughly investigated the alleged charges against the plaintiff,” Furlong’s court document says. “The RCMP has found nothing to substantiate the complaint of allegations. As a result. . . .Furlong has been informed no charges have been laid and no report will be made to Crown Counsel.”
In his letter to the complaints commissioner, Gratl pointed to an RCMP inspector who spoke to the National Post last week, saying the force cannot comment because “our file has not been fully concluded on the Furlong matter.”
When contacted by The Canadian Press on Tuesday, the RCMP said again that the file remains open. The force refused to comment on anything else surrounding the investigation.
Gratl said his clients are “unsettled” by what he said is a discrepancy between the RCMP’s public statements about the investigation and what Mounties appear to have told Furlong.
“The discrepancy between the two communications raises the concern that the RCMP have prejudged the investigation,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “The appropriate remedy, in my clients’ mind, is that the complaints commissioner ensures the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
Neither Furlong’s lawyers nor TwentyTen Group, the public relations firm that represents Furlong, would comment on Tuesday.
In his letter, Gratl also called the investigation “haphazard,” and said he worries it may be “tainted by interference, indifference or incompetence” because Furlong worked closely with members of the RCMP during preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Gratl also accused the RCMP of not being diligent in contacting key witnesses or obtaining key documentation regarding the alleged abuses at Burns Lake Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School, where Furlong taught as a physical education teacher in 1969 and 1970.
“Burns Lake is a small community with many potential witnesses to this abuse,” Gratl said.
“There’s a strong potential for similar fact evidence to come forward, and based on what we know, based on our discussions within the community, the RCMP has not spoken to all potential witnesses.”
In court documents, Abraham, 55, alleges Furlong sexually molested her about a dozen times when she attended Immaculata Elementary. West, 53, alleges in the court documents that Furlong sexually and physically abused her, and called her a “dirty Indian” and a “squaw.”
The Canadian Press does not routinely name sexual assault victims, but Abraham and West have asked that their names be known.
The abuse allegations against Furlong exploded last fall, after the article by Robinson was published in the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver.
The article accused Furlong of abusing students when he was a teacher in Burns Lake and in Prince George, and of hiding details of his past in his memoir, “Patriot Hearts.”
Furlong, an Order of Canada recipient, vehemently denied the claims. He launched a civil suit against Robinson and the paper, accusing both of defamation.
Robinson and the Georgia Straight have stood by the article, saying they were diligent in verifying the allegations and attempted to contact Furlong multiple times to seek his side of the story.