Journalist at centre of John Furlong libel case fires back

VANCOUVER – The freelance journalist who first wrote about abuse allegations involving former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong insists it is her, not Furlong, whose reputation has been unfairly damaged, and she says she’s eager to defend herself in court.

Laura Robinson wrote an article in the Georgia Straight newspaper last year that alleged Furlong verbally and physically abused students while he was a teacher in northern B.C. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The article prompted Furlong to sue Robinson and the paper for libel.

Since the story, three people who claim to be former students, including at least one who appeared in Robinson’s original article, filed lawsuits containing explosive allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Furlong went on the offensive this week in a series of media interviews, categorically denying any wrongdoing and casting Robinson as a vindictive activist who has published false allegations as part of a personal vendetta against him.

Robinson says in a statement Wednesday that Furlong’s fierce criticism of her, especially during what she described as the “onslaught” of interviews he participated in this week, has been unfair.

“I value my hard-earned reputation as a freelance investigative journalist,” Robinson says in the statement released by her lawyer.

“My personal reputation, my reputation as a journalist, and my ability to earn a living have been seriously damaged by Mr. Furlong’s vindictive personal attacks.”

Robinson says she stands by her original article and she urged Furlong to take the steps necessary to bring the case to trial quickly.

Robinson claims Furlong is stalling the legal action. She says he has not requested a trial date or sought to interview her for oral discovery.

Robinson says her lawyers will file a motion to have the case dismissed “for want of prosecution” and to have portions of Furlong’s statement of claim that “attack me personally and professionally” struck out.

But John Hunter, the lawyer representing Furlong, said in an email that an exchange of documents between parties is the normal prelude to oral discoveries, and his client has provided his list of documents to Robinson’s counsel.

Hunter said he is waiting for a list of documents from Robinson, and once he has her list and has reviewed her documents, the parties will be able to schedule oral examinations.

“I have also been instructed to amend the claim against Ms. Robinson to encompass her continued campaign against Mr. Furlong and anticipate doing so shortly,” said Hunter.

“I have not been advised of any potential applications by Ms. Robinson, and would be surprised if the applications you refer to are in fact filed.”

Furlong said in interviews this week that the RCMP “cleared my name,” pointing to a letter he received from the police in April that said investigators found no evidence to substantiate allegations by one of the complainants.

The RCMP said this week the case “remains open,” which Furlong said he could not explain.

Robinson seized on the apparent discrepancy in her statement.

Hunter said he could confirm an RCMP officer this past spring advised another lawyer representing Furlong that the investigation had been concluded and no basis for the allegations had been found.

Robinson is currently in Denmark, where she made a presentation about Furlong to a conference called Play the Game.

During his media blitz, Furlong said he would be “escalating” his lawsuit against Robinson, while dropping his claims against the Georgia Straight newspaper.

He also accused Robinson of abusing the process, including additional allegations in court documents. In her statement of defence in the libel case, Robinson levelled additional allegations involving two of Furlong’s former spouses that were not mentioned in her original article.

In her media statement Wednesday, Robinson insisted she had done nothing inappropriate by including those allegations in her court filings.

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