Woman drops lawsuit alleging sex abuse by former Olympic CEO

Lawsuit had alleged John Furlong sexually abused her while a teacher in Burns Lake, B.C.

BURNS LAKE, B.C. – A woman who dropped a lawsuit alleging former Olympic CEO John Furlong sexually abused her while a teacher in Burns Lake, B.C., says she feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

Beverly Abraham’s lawsuit against Furlong was dismissed in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday with no costs to either party, after she asked the court to allow her to withdraw the legal action.

Abraham said three of her family members have died recently, including her brother who was like a “twin” to her, and she couldn’t handle the stress of the lawsuit on top of her grief.

“A lot was just really heavy on my shoulders. I was going through a lot of stress with this,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.

She says she decided that discontinuing her lawsuit was the best option for her to move on with her life after consulting with hereditary chiefs from her First Nation.

“I am relieved. It’s just like, you know when something weighs you down and it’s just thousands and thousands of pounds laying on your shoulders? It lifted me up,” she said.

“Now I can move on with my life and be happy, and start my grieving for my loved ones that I lost. I never grieved for them because I was thinking too much of the suit.”

A statement from Furlong’s legal counsel said he has always maintained the allegations from Abraham and two other accusers are false, and an RCMP investigation has also concluded Abraham’s allegations are not supported.

Furlong still faces lawsuits from Grace West and an unidentified man, who both allege they were sexually assaulted by Furlong while they were students at Immaculata Roman Catholic elementary school in 1969 and 1970.

Their lawsuits claim Furlong, who was a physical education teacher, in separate incidents isolated them after class and molested them. The legal documents also allege physical abuse and name-calling, including “dirty Indian” and “squaw.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the former Vancouver Olympic boss has forcefully denied the claims.

Furlong would not comment Tuesday on the two outstanding claims as they remain before the courts.

Lawyer Jason Gratl represented all of the claimants but has withdrawn as their counsel. He said no inferences should be drawn from the situation.

In court documents filed last week, Furlong said he was having “significant difficulty” communicating with West. He said the addresses provided appear to be non-residential P.O. boxes.

A trial is set for Mar. 30, 2015.

“The allegations made by the three plaintiffs have had and continue to have devastating consequences financially and emotionally for Mr. Furlong and his family,” the documents read. “Mr. Furlong has taken all available steps to date to bring a swift resolution to the three actions.”

The Roman Catholic diocese that ran Immaculata elementary school in Burns Lake, 1000 kilometres north of Vancouver, questioned in a statement of defence whether West was ever a student at the school.

Justice Miriam Gropper has ordered disclosure of the unidentified man’s residential school records.

The allegations against Furlong surfaced in a 2012 newspaper article written by freelance journalist Laura Robinson that claimed he abused students while teaching in northern B.C. in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Furlong is suing the reporter for libel, while Robinson is suing Furlong for defamation.

— By Cara McKenna and Laura Kane

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