“…a questionable story that other journalists might have left alone.”
That’s what the National Post’s Brian Hutchinson calls
Laura Robinson’s exposé of John Furlong.
1. Robinson discovers that John Furlong, the head of the Vancouver Olympics, a celebrated member of the Canadian establishment and a recipient of the Order of Canada, has a secret past. He emigrated to Canada five years before he claimed to arrive here in his biography, a fact that he kept hidden even from his co-author. What was he hiding?
2. Through multiple trips to John Furlong’s birthplace in Ireland, Robinson learns that he was a missionary, a “Frontier Apostle” who, as a teenager, taught phys ed to Native kids in Burns Lake, a village in rural BC.
3. Robinson visits Burns Lake and collects the stories of over forty Native Canadians who allege either experiencing or witnessing physical abuse by John Furlong. Eight of them sign sworn affidavits, exposing themselves to criminal liability if what they tell her turns out to be false. Here’s some of what they said:
“He punched me in the back of the head and I went flying. I was unconscious for 15 minutes.” – Paul Joseph
“I was slow and weak. I got hit by a ball, whipped in the calves, yardstick thrown at me—all by John Furlong.” – Cathy Woodgate
“I was hit on the head all the time. I was hit with a ruler: a metre stick in the legs. I remember one day talking to another Native person in my language…John Furlong hit me for that.” -Richard Perry
Hutchinson doesn’t mention any of Furlong’s First Nations accusers in his hit-piece on Robinson. It’s far easier to denounce one white woman as an “obsessive” with a grudge.
“Frankly, it smacks of a vendetta,” wrote the National Post’s Chris Selley, in a 2012 column
where he accepted the possibility that Furlong may have indeed punched children, but brushed aside such behaviour as “not really shocking,” since he himself was yelled at by teachers when he was enrolled in private school.
Selley offered nothing to support his accusation that Robinson was on a vendetta against Furlong, presenting not a shred of evidence in his column that the two had anything to do with each other prior to her investigation. Yet his article was entered into evidence by John Furlong’s defence attorney last week, who used it during cross-examination as a weapon to discredit Robinson as a journalist.
Other statements made by Robinson’s fellow journalists have been used against her. Her story was originally scheduled to run in The Toronto Star along with The Georgia Straight, but the Star chickened out.
“They think it’s all true” wrote Robinson’s editor at The Toronto Star of management’s position on her work, but the piece wouldn’t run due to “squeamishness on high.”
Amazing that the editorial cowardice of The Star is somehow being deployed as proof of problems with Laura Robinson’s journalism, and not their own.
Depressing that Robinson’s own colleagues have provided the ammo for that assault.
And shameful that no-one dares come to Robinson’s defence as shills like Hutchinson continue to comfort the comfortable. How many other investigative reporters might be tarred for being “obsessive”? Aren’t we all obsessive when we’re on a story? And on what planet was this amazing scoop a “questionable” story?
Maybe it’s not all that surprising. John Furlong is entitled to a defence, and it’s not that shocking that he’s chosen to double-down on his pundit-supported narrative of an obsessed white woman on a reckless vendetta against male authority figures.
But let’s demand that those who lend support to this argument have the basic honesty to connect their own dots. Laura Robinson, after all, has never accused John Furlong of abuse. She is a reporter, and what she reported on were the words and memories of over forty Native Canadians who swear that John Furlong was a racist, violent bully who made the lives of children a living hell.
If you think that they are all a bunch of lying Indians, Brian Hutchinson, then write that too.