Freelance journalist Laura Robinson’s lawsuit against John Furlong underway in BC Supreme Court

Freelance journalist Laura Robinson’s defamation trial against former Olympics CEO John Furlong has been underway in BC Supreme Court since last Monday. The lawsuit stems from an article that Robinson wrote in September of 2012 for Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper in which several  of Furlong’s former students alleged that he physically abused them when he was a teacher at Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C., in 1969 and 1970.

Later on the same day that the Georgia Straight story was published, CBC published a similar story by another writer that included allegations of sexual abuse. At a news conference that day, Furlong denied any wrongdoing and accused Robinson of  a “shocking lack of diligence” in researching the story.

Furlong launched defamation lawsuits against both the Georgia Straight and Laura Robinson in November of 2012. Robinson launched a countersuit against Furlong in 2014, alleging that he had defamed her character in public statements. Furlong dropped the suit against the Georgia Straight in October of 2013. In March of this year, he dropped his suit against Robinson after a B.C. Supreme Court judge threw out a third civil suit against Furlong by a former Burns Lake student.

On the day that Furlong dropped his suit against her, Robinson stated that she would continue to pursue her own defamation suit.

Robinson has said that the legal activity that followed the publication of her article has had a detrimental effect on her health and finances. She said in court last week that Furlong’s dropped defamation suit against her cost her $150,000 in legal fees. A Georgia Straight story published last Wednesday, reported that in 2014 Robinson’s income “dropped to about $11,000, from a high in 2011 of more than $52,000”.

The court case has received significant media coverage over the past two weeks.

Last week Brian Hutchinson’s article in the National Post called Robinson’s original article about Furlong “questionable” and “incendiary.”

Canadaland’s Jesse Brown posted a rebuttal to Hutchinson’s article later the same day, pointing out that Robinson had collected stories from forty individuals — as well as eight sworn affidavits — about the alleged abuse.

The Globe and Mail has published articles summarizing each day of the trial (Monday, June 15Tuesday, June 16Wednesday, June 17Thursday, June 18Friday, June 19Monday June 22Tuesday, June 23Wednesday, June 24).

Jesse Brown, however, raised questions once again on yesterday’s Canadaland podcast about the ways in which the mainstream media has been covering the trial and whether racism has played a part in how the story has been framed.

The trial continues today with closing arguments expected tomorrow. The Globe and Mail’s Sunny Dhillon, CBC Vancouver’s Jason Proctor and CKNW’s Marcella Bernardo have all been tweeting about the trial using the hashtag #Furlong.


Posted on June 25, 2015 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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