John Furlong says police have cleared him of abuse allegations made by student
VANCOUVER – The man who organized the Vancouver Olympics says he’s been cleared by police of sexual-abuse allegations brought by a former student, though the RCMP says the file remains open.
The allegations against John Furlong surfaced following a newspaper article published last fall, suggesting he physically and verbally abused First Nations students at Burns Lake, B.C., while teaching at a Catholic school there in the late 1960s.
This past July, Beverly Abraham and Grace West filed separate lawsuits against Furlong alleging sexual abuse, and a third lawsuit was filed last month by a man who said he, too, was sexually abused.
Furlong said in an interview with Global News that police gave him a letter in April saying they found nothing to substantiate allegations by one of the complainants, identified as Abraham in a letter to Furlong that was posted online. According to the letter, the police would not be sending a report to Crown counsel.
“If you want to imagine yourself in this position put yourself as far into hell as you can go but just keep on going,” said Furlong.
In fact, he said he has been living a “nightmare,” and the worst experience of his life was sitting in a room with an RCMP officer, being investigated and asked questions.
“To actually sit there and have an officer look me in the eye and ask me the kind of things that we’re talking about now, I mean it was sickening.”
Global News reported Furlong will now drop his lawsuit against the newspaper. Furlong also said he will fight the civil lawsuits and escalate his own action against journalist Laura Robinson because “the process has been disrespected.”
Meantime, Abraham has told Global News that she’s devastated.
“My heart is just beating so fast, not with anger or anything,” she said. “I’m just so heartbroken right now.”
RCMP Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said in an email the force asked major crime investigators from another province earlier this year to review their investigation because of the “serious and sensitive nature” of the allegations.
He said the review resulted in a number of investigative recommendations that police continue to follow up on.
“Our file remains open at this time,” said Vermeulen, who declined to comment further because civil actions are underway.
Lawyer Jason Gratl, who represents all the plaintiffs, said the RCMP contacted Abraham two weeks ago and informed her they were wrapping up their investigation.
“My client complained to them, saying they hadn’t interviewed all the witnesses,” said Gratl. “They said they’d call her back the next day to discuss that issue. Then they didn’t call her back.”
In her statement of claim, Abraham alleges Furlong would ask her to stay late after class before molesting her in the gym, the equipment room and a mechanical closet.
Abraham, who was 11 at the time, said in the statement that Furlong also emotionally and psychologically manipulated her, calling her his “beautiful Indian girl” and saying it was not wrong for him to touch her.
Grace West, 53, filed a separate statement of claim, alleging that almost every week Furlong would touch her breasts and vagina while stroking himself. West’s claim also states Furlong would kick her almost every day, calling her “dirty Indian” and “squaw.”
Abraham does not state that Furlong physically abused her. Rather she claims he would request that the school’s nuns force her to kneel and the nuns would strike her open palms repeatedly.
Furlong has already said in court documents that he doesn’t recall if he taught West and Abraham during his time as a volunteer teacher at the school.
“The defendant denied that he sexually molested or physically abused or engaged in any inappropriate conduct in respect of the plaintiff,” said two identical statements of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Meantime, the man said he was a nine-year-old student when Furlong arrived as a volunteer teacher in 1969.
The man said Furlong isolated him in a small room after class, and on two occasions forced him to masturbate him. On a third occasion, the statement of claim said there was forced anal intercourse by Furlong.
“During and after he sexually abused the plaintiff, the defendant John Furlong called the plaintiff a ‘dirty little Indian,”’ the document said.
“The defendant John Furlong told the plaintiff that if he ever told anyone about the abuse no one would believe him.”
The man said he has suffered emotionally and psychologically from the abuse, and “was generally disempowered as a result of racism and geographic isolation.”
None of the claims from the three lawsuits have been proven in court.
“I have no grudge against any of those young kids, but none of this is true. None of it,” said Furlong. (Global News, The Canadian Press)