by Irvin Muchnick
In a significant victory for the First Nations former students of John Furlong — the Canadian Olympic lord of the rings and bestselling patriotic author — the country’s Human Rights Commission has accepted an appeal to review a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation that exonerated Furlong of claims that he had abused native children as a teacher at a British Columbia missionary school during the period when he first arrived in Canada from Ireland in 1969.
The Furlong story is of interest to Concussion Inc. readers not only because he was CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Furlong, who was dodgy about his personal history in his 2011 autobiography, Patriot Hearts, also taught and was a sports administrator at the Newpark Comprehensive School in County Dublin, where his tenure overlapped with that of swimming coach George Gibney.
The Irish Olympic head coach in both 1984 and 1988, Gibney is now an American resident fugitive from allegations of sexual molestation and rape of his swimmers for incidents that occurred in both Ireland and the United States. Though a controversial Irish Supreme Court decision vacated a 27-count criminal indictment against him in 1994, a 1998 Irish government report, the Murphy Inquiry, published subsequent to Gibney’s flight to the U.S., found that his victims “were vindicated” by the evidence against him assembled by the national police. (Our most recent Gibney coverage is at https://concussioninc.net/?p=12944 ; complete chronological links are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10942.)
Scrutiny of Furlong in Canada was spearheaded by the work of journalist Laura Robinson, whom he sued for defamation following publication of her 2012 article about him in The Georgia Straight, a weekly newspaper in Vancouver. Complete links to our Furlong coverage are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=11744 . Furlong later dropped the suit.
In a June 5 letter to complainant Cathy Woodgate, the human rights commission said “it is in the interest” of justice to investigate complaints that the RCMP North District office’s 2011-12 work on the Furlong allegations was biased and incomplete. Woodgate was a student at the Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, British Columbia, when Furlong was a missionary physical education teacher. See last week’s article at http://aptnnews.ca/2018/06/12/human-rights-commission-to-review-rcmp-investigation-of-john-furlong/.
The progress on the Furlong investigation should be viewed in the context of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report on Indian Residential Schools, a federal government initiative that found epidemic levels of abuse at the schools, and concluded a cultural genocide had occurred.
In 2016 the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the RCMP promulgated a joint document entitled the Relationship Building Protocol. At the same meeting , the AFN passed a resolution calling on the government and RCMP to reopen the investigation and take “responsibility to investigate allegations of abuse brought against Mr. John Furlong.” The complainants were not contacted by the RCMP despite the new directives to reopen the case. Soon thereafter, they filed a complaint to the human rights commission.