Former VANOC head John Furlong says he treated all his students in a “fair, appropriate manner” and cared for them deeply.
It was Mr. Furlong’s second public statement in less than a week on the growing controversy over time he spent as a teacher in Burns Lake. In it, he addressed in greater detail a previously undisclosed stint decades ago in which he is accused of physically and mentally abusing children.
Mr. Furlong, as combative in Tuesday’s written statement as he was in one delivered for the cameras last week, took aim at a Georgia Straight article about the allegations from several former students. Mr. Furlong made a number of jabs at the story and author Laura Robinson, and repeated his earlier claim that the abuse did not occur.
“As this time will be discussed at length in court, I can say only that as a volunteer teacher, I treated everyone in a fair, appropriate manner and at no time unlawfully or harmfully,” he wrote, adding that the days since the story broke have been “humiliating and demeaning.”
Mr. Furlong wrote that the statement would be his last on the topic. Future comment will come from his lawyer.
Although Mr. Furlong said the purpose was to set the record straight, Tuesday’s statement left some questions unanswered.
Mr. Furlong said he came to Burns Lake in 1969 and left after 14 months. He and his wife moved to Prince George before returning to Ireland in 1972. He wrote that he “never denied nor purposefully omitted speaking publicly of this time.”
Past statements from Mr. Furlong, however, left the impression his 1974 journey to Canada was his first. Leading up to the Vancouver Olympics, he often told of the customs officer who, that year, told him to make this country better.
In his memoir, Patriot Hearts, Mr. Furlong recalled looking out the airplane window during that 1974 trip and “pondering just how cold it was going to be when he landed.”
Mr. Furlong has not taken questions from the media since the allegations surfaced.
Since the Georgia Straight article was published, The Globe and Mail has spoken to several former students who allege Mr. Furlong hit, kicked, or shoved them. He has denied any wrongdoing. The RCMP is investigating.
In his statement late last week, Mr. Furlong said he did not disclose his time in Burns Lake because it was “fairly brief and fairly uneventful.” A friend and former colleague who spoke with The Globe and Mail later said it was during that period that Mr. Furlong met and married his first wife.
Mr. Furlong’s most recent statement lashed out at Ms. Robinson for challenging his version of events surrounding the death of his cousin Siobhan Roice in a Dublin terrorist bombing in 1974.
Mr. Furlong told The Globe and Mail in 2008 that his father, Jack, Siobhan’s uncle, volunteered to identify her shattered body because her parents were too distraught.
Ms. Robinson wrote that Mr. Furlong’s cousin, Jim Roice, told her a different version: “Uncle Jack was a lovely man, but he did not identify my sister’s body.” She also referred to a 2003 article in the Irish Independent, in which Siobhan’s father, Edward Roice, recounted visiting the morgue on his own.
In his statement, Mr. Furlong said the family had agreed to protect Siobhan’s mother from further anguish by telling her that Siobhan had died of a heart attack.
Mr. Furlong said on Tuesday that legal action “is now in process” against the Georgia Straight and Ms. Robinson.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ms. Robinson, who plans to counter sue, said Mr. Furlong is free to write whatever he chooses. “Of course, my lawyer will be noting all of it,” she said.
With a report from Wendy Stueck