PtG Article 11.06.2015

Legal battle between VANOC CEO and journalist draws to an end

The end of the lengthy legal battle between freelance journalist Laura Robinson and VANOC CEO John Furlong is drawing near. Furlong dropped his defamation charges against the journalist in March this year, and Robinson’s counterclaim will be heard in court on 15 June.

The legal battle started in 2012, when Canadian investigative journalist Laura Robinson wrote an article about the hidden past of VANOC CEO John Furlong, alleging that Furlong had abused First Nations children while working as a physical educations teacher at a Catholic School in the late 1960s. The article was published in Canadian newspaper The Georgia Straight.

John Furlong has denied all allegations raised in the article, and in November 2012, he filed a defamation suit against both Robinson and The Georgia Straight. He later dropped the charge against the newspaper and, in March, Furlong discontinued his case against Robinson.

Following the publication of Robinson’s article, three former students of the Catholic school at which Furlong teached raised sexual abuse suits against Furlong. In March, after all three suits had been dismissed in court, Furlong chose to drop his defamation suit of Robinson. Robinson, who in January 2014, launched a suit against both Furlong and his PR agency, the TwentyTEN group, has dropped the suit against the PR agency, but is set to go through with her defamation counterclaim against Furlong.

“My suit is about an attack on my integrity and professional conduct as a journalist. It was never about these three cases [of sexual abuse, ed.],” said Robinson in a statement released after Furlong dropped his suit against her. “I look forward to my June 15, 2015 court date. I am pleased that the lawsuit against me has been dropped. I stand by my research and work that I did.”

Because Robinson is a freelance journalist, she was not covered by The Georgia Straight’s insurance policy and in order to inform about the case and to seek financial assistance to cover the great amount of legal expenses, she has set up a website and a defense fund. 

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