by Irvin Muchnick
A follower of Concussion Inc.’s coverage of the lurid past of Canadian Olympics bigwig John Furlong is complaining on Twitter about “character assassination” and purporting to offer proof that the numerous accusers of Furlong’s abuse of First Nations children, including sexual abuse, are lying.
This critic, whose Twitter bio identifies him as residing in Campbell River, British Columbia, near the epicenter of the 1969 mysteries surrounding Furlong’s tenure as a teacher at the Catholic missionary Immaculata School in Burns Lake, is mistaken. Below, the compelling evidence.
As the Furlong controversy re-heats, nearly half a decade after core investigative reporting by Canadian author and journalist Laura Robinson, advocates of root-and-branch eradication of abuse in global amateur sports must stay on top of it. They need to pursue this every bit as much as our own related story of Furlong’s 1970s Irish school sport administration contemporary George Gibney — later the rapist swimming coach of the 1988 Olympic team and today a resident American alien of two decades’ standing, hiding in plain sight in Florida.
The University of British Columbia, institutional headquarters of a projected center of historical reconciliation, memorializing crimes against native tribes in Western Canada, has just canceled a speaking appearance by Furlong, the CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and author of a bestselling (and conveniently timeline-gapped) memoir.
And the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi — the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city — is under pressure to distance his city from Furlong’s attempt to spearhead a bid to the International Olympic Committee to host a future Winter Games there.
Back to the abuse allegations …
There are two salient categories of facts in the Furlong scenario; the rest is detail. One detail, whether Furlong and his accusers were in the same place at the same time, is well established, notwithstanding the efforts of our Twitter shadow on all things Furlong, “@Thorblackcreek.”
The first salient category is the lie in Furlong’s book Patriot Hearts about when he arrived in Canada from Ireland. There, the 1969-70 stint in British Columbia is scrubbed. Again: This is not mentioned in passing while being written off as insignificant. Rather, it is written out of his history altogether. Furlong wrote that he arrived in Canada in 1974. The lapse is telling.
The second salient category is the refusal of the Canadian court system even to hear the complaints of the First Nations accusers. What we have, in place of hearings, is a case summarily dismissed on spurious grounds — buttressed by the scantest, pre-2015 Cosby-style coverage in the Canadian news media. The alt-narrative line heaps sympathy on Furlong, an enriched and celebrated public figure, and scorn on the plaintiffs, who are desperate and disenfranchised.
With regard to the specific smear that certain accusers weren’t even at the Immaculata School at the time of the alleged abuses, check out Sandy Garossino’s piece last year in the National Observer: “COLOUR BLIND: The Truth you still don’t know about Reconcilation,” http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/12/15/opinion/colour-blind-truth-you-still-dont-know-about-reconciliation.
The author, an award-winning columnist and former Crown prosecutor, writes in depth about “the humiliating national ridicule and contempt” visited upon Daniel Morice, one of the Furlong accusers, after the defendant’s lawyers “revealed” that Morice had never attended Immaculata School. It is links to media accounts of this revelation that @Thorblackcreek cites.
Garossino in the National Observer published a court exhibit — a 1969/70 Immaculata register page — showing otherwise. In fact, Morice was there.
Generally, Furlong’s would-be apologists are going to have to do better. The record-keeping of the several church-affiliated schools on the province was spotty. Indigenous children were regularly moved in and out of them.
Most important of all, Laura Robinson’s 2012 Georgia Straight article has piles of material on the horror show of Furlong’s time at Immaculata and in Burns Lake. The piece itself didn’t even get into the sexual abuse aspect of the allegations, though later lawsuits on behalf of victims did. (Furlong would sue Robinson for defamation, then abandon the case.)
Let’s get on with it. Uncomfortable as it may be for Canadians wishing to confer honor on him, bad Furlong happened, too. Truth and reconciliation for First Nations people require that the story be told unflinchingly. Toxic clean-up operations on Olympic sport-sanctioned youth programs require it, too.
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