October 28, 2013 11:45 pm
Updated: October 29, 2013 4:05 am

John Furlong breaks his silence on allegations of abuse by former students

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ABOVE: Watch the extended interview with Chris Gailus.

John Furlong says the past year of his life has been “like living in hell.”

In his first interview since the allegations, Furlong sat down with Global News anchor Chris Gailus to talk about his experience.

In an article in the Georgia Straight, the former head of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was accused of allegedly assaulting aboriginal students in his care when he taught at a Catholic school in Burns Lake over four decades ago.

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“After the games were over, I had this remarkable high and it was great fun walking around and sort of enjoying, and asking how the city was feeling,” says Furlong. “There was a smile on the face of Vancouver, and then this happened, and it was a horrible shocking thing to have happened. I was stunned, and I thought at the time it would go away quickly, because there’s no truth to this.”

He tells Global News it has been horrible for him and his family and says when people would ask him how  it feels to have these allegations leveled against him, he would say “if you want to imagine yourself in this position, put yourself as far into hell as you can go, and then just keep on going. It’s an unimaginable place, because, first of all, the subject matter is vile, it’s horrible, it’s terrible, and to be in a conversation with anybody about it even now, it’s horrible. Who would want their name associated with anything like this?”

In July, a woman named Beverly Abraham and another woman, Grace West, launched a lawsuit against Furlong. In September a third lawsuit was filed against Furlong who has denied all claims of physical and sexual abuse.

Furlong says he thought the police investigation into the allegations against him would be over in a week. This past April he received a letter from the RCMP saying they found no evidence to substantiate the sexual abuse complaint against him.

Abraham still has a civil suit against Furlong, and says West and an unnamed man, does as well but says the RCMP has not spoken to either of those people.

“I do believe we have a strong case because there is more that is coming out,” says Abraham.

“My heart is just beating so fast, not with anger or anything, but, probably is with anger,” she says, fighting back tears. “I’m just so heartbroken right now because of what [the investigator] is doing and it’s not right for him to do that. He should have done more but he said he concluded it, and it really broke my heart because he didn’t talk to any of them.”

In a statement provided to Global News by Sgt. Rob Vermeulen with the BC RCMP, he says:

“Due to the serious and sensitive nature of the allegations, earlier this year we asked for an independent review of our complete investigation by major crime investigators from another province. That review resulted in a number of investigative recommendations that we continue to follow up on. Our file remains open at this time.”

Furlong says he feels stunned about the allegations against him.

“When I hear these things, I mean, what are you supposed to say?” he says. “What’s inspired them? I suspect probably money, maybe, I don’t know. But my memory of being there is such a long time ago, was all good. It was happy, I was a volunteer teacher there, and in fact, I loved it.”

He says when he was teaching in Burns Lake he discovered a lot of history about First Nations in Canada, and for his whole career he has tried to be an advocate for them.

“I don’t know what to make of it, I don’t know what inspired it, frankly as this advances I hope to get to the bottom of it and find out how it got to this and who’s responsible for it,” says Furlong.

When the former VANOC CEO wrote his book Patriot Hearts he left out any details about his time as a teacher in Burns Lake. He says it was because the book was a memoir to the Olympic Games and he did not want to put anything personal in the book, other than the Olympic story.

“It’s like anything else, the book is about a period in time, there’s way more of my life in the book, that’s not in the book,” says Furlong. “It’s a memoir, it’s an opinion, it’s my view and other people who experienced the Olympics might have seen it differently than I did, it was just my take on everything.”

He says he has never hit a child or used corporal punishment. “So, the things that [the accusers] have said, I am sorry, but I have no grudge against any of those young kids but none of this is true, none of it,” he says.

He says his family has suffered as well from these allegations. His stepson got into fights at school, his grandchildren were taunted at school, and his children’s lives have been impacted by media reports and people asking them questions about their father and his life. “I think for my children, their attitude was, how could this possibly have such life, how could people be saying this without one scintilla of proof, and it just seems to be getting spread more and more and more. So it was quite hurtful for them,” says Furlong.

He says he will continue to fight the civil lawsuits against him and rebuild his image.

“To be honest, the damage to me is huge,” says Furlong. “And to be honest, will I fully get back? I hope so. But my goal here, Chris, is to never let another person be exposed to this, to not let anyone else be a victim like this. To be treated this way, to be so cavalierly trashed, humiliated, demeaned in public without even an ounce of process.”

“Because I’ve lived that now, I’ve lived that every day. It’s been terrible. I hope to achieve that and if I can, I will feel that there’s been some good come out of it.”

Bryan Baynham from Harper Grey, LLP, represents journalist Laura Robinson. He released a statement to Global News Monday night saying:

My client looks forward to proving the facts in her response and hopes the trial can be heard as soon as possible.

This could have been set for trial anytime in the last 10 months, Mr. Furlongs lawyer has yet to reach out to me.

Chris Gailus on John Furlong’s interview:

Unfiltered’s panel discussion on John Furlong’s interview:

Randene Neill looks at the civil lawsuits launched against Furlong:

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