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Journalist fights back against Furlong media 'onslaught'

Laura Robinson will ask a judge to quash former Vancouver 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong's defamation lawsuit against her, according to a statement issued Oct. 30 by her lawyer.

"I value my hard-earned reputation as a freelance investigative journalist. I also value freedom of speech and freedom of the press," said the statement from Robinson, who is in Denmark where she spoke about the case at the Play the Game sport media conference.

"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 starting in September 2012 and culminating in the onslaught this week."

Furlong broke a long media silence on Oct. 28, fighting back against allegations that he physically and sexually abused aboriginal children at a Burns Lake, B.C. Catholic elementary school where he worked in 1969 and 1970. Robinson wrote an expose about Furlong for the Georgia Straight newspaper on Sept. 27, 2012 under the headline "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake."

Furlong denied all allegations and filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and Robinson on Nov. 27, 2012. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The statement said Robinson instructed lawyer Bryan Baynham to apply to court to have Furlong's claim "dismissed for want of prosecution" and to apply to strike portions of Furlong's reply that "attack me personally and professionally."

On Oct. 28, Furlong announced during an interview on BC1 that he was dropping the Georgia Straight from the lawsuit so he could "escalate" his action against Robinson. Documents were filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 29 confirming the Georgia Straight was no longer a defendant. Publisher Dan McLeod called it "complete vindication of the Georgia Straight's position that the article was a responsible communication on matters of public interest -- a defence recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009."

Said the Robinson statement: "I will not bow to the pressure being applied in the media, nor Mr. Furlong's threat to 'escalate' the defamation action. I stand by what I wrote and the response filed on my behalf in the action. I look forward to the truth coming out and the judgment which will restore my good name and reputation."

Robinson denied allegations by Furlong that she made a complaint to the RCMP regarding the sexual abuse claimed by former Immaculata elementary student Beverly Abraham. Her statement also disputed Furlong's claim that the RCMP had cleared him of wrongdoing.

Furlong released an April 12 email from Cpl. Quinton Mackie of the RCMP to his lawyer Marvin Storrow on Oct. 28 that said the RCMP would not proceed on the Abraham complaint. As reported in several media stories, RCMP Sgt. Rob Vermeulen has said "the overall investigation remains open."

Robinson said that Furlong "has done nothing to push the case for trial."

"If he was serious about having his name cleared he could have issued a notice of trial immediately after filing the Notice of Civil Claim in November 2012. Eleven months later he still has not obtained a trial date. He has not even set a date to conduct an oral discovery of me," said the statement.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Due to the nature of this story, comments are closed.

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