by Irvin Muchnick
The U.S. government is reviewing yesterday’s order by a federal judge to publicly produce more information shedding light on the mysterious circumstances of rapist 1988 Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney’s presence in this country for more than 20 years.
While we wait to see if the Department of Homeland Security complies, we turn again to a parallel undercovered story in Canada regarding the convincingly documented claims, by members of the Lake Babine and Burns Lake First Nations (native) tribes, that one of that country’s major Olympic potentates, John Furlong — CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games — abused dozens of them after he arrived from Ireland as a Catholic missionary school teacher in British Columbia in 1969.
Furlong would go to become a sports program administrator at the Newpark Comprehensive School in County Dublin, Ireland in the 1970s — where his sketchy history suggests he probably overlapped for at least a year or so with Gibney, founder of the Trojan Swimming Club at that Church of Ireland institution. Furlong thereafter emigrated to Canada for good, and in his bestselling memoir and on the motivational speaking circuit, has airbrushed the 1969 Burns Lake experience out of his bio.
The trail of Furlong investigative journalism has been blazed by my Canadian freelance writer colleague Laura Robinson. Links to Concussion Inc.’s coverage over the last couple of years are below.
This week comes a major addition: news that Furlong victims, whose voices have been squelched by the Canadian courts and sports ministry, are taking the fight to important new forums. The First Nations members have banded together to file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the International Olympic Committee, and to urge the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, to stop working with Furlong on a bid for a future Winter Olympics in that city.
The complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, on December 5, names both the federal government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for discrimination in “denying us a service and treating us in an adverse and differential manner –both of which are prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Code”:
“The Government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have continually ignored our pleas to meet with us to resolve the pain, hurt, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders we experience as we see John Furlong–whom we remember as our childhood abuser–being promoted once again in sport [as chair of] the Special Committee for the 2026 Calgary Olympic bid.
This bid process should be null and void until our allegations are objectively and fully investigated, and we meet with the federal government and Mayor Nenshi.
Dozens of First Nations people have alleged that John Furlong abused them while a missionary/teacher in Northern B.C. in the late 1960’s and mid-1970’s. As well as chairing this bid committee, Furlong is the former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics and present chair of Own The Podium. Over the decades we tried to put the pain of abuse at Immaculata Day School and Prince George College behind us, but then he started appearing on TV as the Vancouver Olympics drew closer. We could not watch for fear of seeing him.
Two years after the Olympics we told our stories. Twenty-two of us gave either affidavits or statements. The resulting story was: John Furlong Biography Omits Secret Past in Burns Lake, published in the Georgia Straight http://www.straight.com/news/john-furlong-biography-omits-secret-past-burns-lake. Approximately three dozen more people came forward after the story was published. We were shocked three years later when Justice Wedge of the B.C. Supreme Court believed Furlong and disallowed our affidavits and statements, calling them hearsay. She then decided, without reading what we said, that we had false memory syndrome! Furlong has the false memory syndrome. We know what he did to us.
Therefore, on November 26, 2015, we wrote PM Justin Trudeau, asking that he remove Furlong as chair of Own The Podium, and for the Government to meet with us in order to find a remedy. We started a petition https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-support-unheard-stories-of-first-nations-day-school-abuse. To this day the PM has not responded.”
In their letter, abuse victims Dorothy Williams, Emma Williams, and Maurice Joseph say they are buoyed by the Canadian rights commission chair’s recent statement that “Indigenous women and girls should not have to wait for the results of the [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] Inquiry to see measurable improvements in their lives. The situation is urgent. This is why the Commission encourages the Government of Canada and all stakeholders to identify steps that can be taken immediately while we wait for the conclusion of the inquiry.” The commission is on record as being willing to meet with “key stakeholders to see what mechanisms can be put in place to provide support to Indigenous women and girls at risk.”
In a second letter, to the IOC — in which the three signatories above are joined by Richard Perry, Ann Tom, and Cathy Woodgate — the First Nations appellees write:
“We suffered PTSD, depression, anger, hopelessness and it was all made worse when, instead of listening and meeting with us, Own The Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the City of Vancouver, the province of B.C., and the Canadian government pretended we did not exist. That is when the hopelessness became worse. We used to run away from school as children, and tried to tell the RCMP about the abuse, but instead we were beaten again for ‘lying’ to the police. We are not lying. Furlong is the liar.
Please do not make things worse for us. When Furlong was appointed by the Canadian Olympic Committee to chair the Calgary bid, that darkness returned. Please have nothing to do with these people. We invite the IOC to meet with us. We are a small group of the dozens who have come forward about his abuse. Your own Olympic Charter disallows you from engaging in racist behaviour. Please do not contribute to our PTSD and depression; instead you can help by demanding that the Canadian government thoroughly investigate how Furlong got these positions, why the RCMP did not investigate properly, and how we can find a remedy. We can’t live through another Canadian Olympic bid with our memories of John Furlong.”
Published November 8th, 2015
Published December 3rd, 2015
Published January 23rd, 2016
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Published June 10th, 2016