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Journalists respond to Furlong lawsuit

Three defendants being sued by former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong over a September 2012 newspaper article that accused him of abusing students more than 40 years ago have filed court papers defending their work.

The story in question, published Sept. 27, 2012 in the Georgia Straight, quoted eight former students who alleged Furlong was physically and verbally abusive while he was a volunteer teacher in northern B.C. in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Georgia Straight publisher Daniel McLeod, editor Charlie Smith and Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp. state in their response to a civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that the article was not defamatory or even capable of being defamatory.

"Alternatively, the Newspaper Defendants are protected by the common law defences of responsible communication, fair comment, justification and consent," states the document.

The trio also state Furlong has "suffered no loss, damage or expense, or any injury to reputation" because of the article, adding the court should not assess any damages against them.

Furlong's lawyers have previously said none of the allegations are true, and in late November they filed a lawsuit against McLeod, Smith, Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp., as well as Laura Robinson, the journalist who wrote the article.

While Robinson is named by Furlong as a defendant, her name wasn't included among those who filed the 22-page court document Monday.

The response by McLeod, Smith and Vancouver Free Press Publishing focuses partly on "Patriot Hearts," a book written by Furlong about his immigration to Canada, as well as the statutory declarations obtained by Robinson from eight people who allege the former Olympic CEO had physically abused students, bullied and engaged in racial taunting.

The defendants state they diligently tried to verify the article's contents before publication.

Most of the allegations involve Furlong's time as a volunteer teacher at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake. Immaculata was a religious school run by the Oblates, a missionary order, but it was not an Indian residential school. Students, including non-natives, attended by day.

After teaching and coaching at Immaculata for 14 months, he moved to another religious school in Prince George.

Furlong said previously he never hid or purposely omitted speaking about his time teaching in Burns Lake or Prince George. He said it didn't appear in his biography because it wasn't related to the Olympics and because it was brief and uneventful.

-- with files from James Keller

The Canadian Press


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