By Duncan Mackay

John Furlong at Vancouver 2010January 15 - Three defendants being sued by former Vancouver 2010 President and chief executive John Furlong over an article accusing him of abusing students more than 40 years ago have filed their defence to a court in British Columbia. 

The story in question, published last September in the weekly newspaper Georgia Straight, quoted eight former students who alleged Furlong was physically and verbally abusive while he was a volunteer teacher in northern British Columbia in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Georgia Straight publisher Daniel McLeod, editor Charlie Smith and Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp claim in their response to a civil claim filed in British Columbia Supreme Court that the article was not defamatory or even capable of being defamatory.

"Alternatively, the Newspaper Defendants are protected by the common law defences of responsible communication, fair comment, justification and consent," the document stated.

The trio also state Furlong has "suffered no loss, damage or expense, or any injury to reputation" because of the article, adding the court should not assess any damages against them.

Furlong is now the executive chairman of the Major League Soccer club Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Charlie Smith editor of Georgia Straight 2Charlie Smith, the editor of Georgia Straight, is among those being sued by former Vancouver 2010 chief executive John Furlong

The Straight also claimed Furlong damaged himself by self-publishing the substance of the story at a news conference after it was published where he denied the charges.

Furlong's lawyers have previously said none of the allegations are true, and in late November they filed a lawsuit against McLeod, Smith, Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp, as well as Laura Robinson, the journalist who wrote the article.

While Robinson is named by Furlong as a defendant, her name was not included among those who filed the 22-page court document.

She plans to file her defence later this week, it is reported. 

The response by McLeod, Smith and Vancouver Free Press Publishing focuses partly on Patriot Hearts, a book written by Furlong about his immigration to Canada from Ireland, as well as the statutory declarations obtained by Robinson from eight people who allege Furlong had physically abused students, bullied and engaged in racial taunting.

The defendants state they diligently tried to verify the article's contents before publication, adding they are also protected by the defence of fair comment.

Most of the allegations involve Furlong's time as a volunteer teacher at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake.

After teaching and coaching at Immaculata for 14 months, he moved to another religious school in Prince George.

Furlong said previously he never hid or purposely omitted speaking about his time teaching in Burns Lake or Prince George.

He claimed it did not appear in his biography because it was not related to the Olympics and because it was brief and uneventful.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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October 2012: Former Vancouver 2010 chief continues to deny "humiliating and demeaning" abuse allegations
September 2012: Former Vancouver 2010 chief executive denies abuse allegations