John Furlong, the former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, has tried to close the door on "the darkest period" of his life, but the journalist whose story propelled him into that dark place has yet to have her day in court.
At a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Furlong said the dismissal of three sexual abuse suits against him has proved his innocence, and so he is dropping a defamation case against Laura Robinson.
But Ms. Robinson, who in 2012 wrote an article claiming Mr. Furlong physically and verbally abused students at an aboriginal school in 1969-70, says she's going ahead with a counter defamation suit against him.
"My suit is about an attack on my integrity and professional conduct as a journalist. It has never been about these three cases," Ms. Robinson said Tuesday in an e-mail. "I look forward to my June 15, 2015, court date. I am pleased that the lawsuit against me has been dropped. I stand by the research and work that I did."
The article, which appeared in the Vancouver weekly Georgia Straight, did not contain allegations of sexual abuse. Those three claims arose later. But Mr. Furlong said given that all the sexual abuse allegations have now been dismissed in court, he feels the defamation suit against Ms. Robinson is no longer necessary.
"With this horrible nightmare behind me it is time to move on," he said. "I have been numb for months trying my best to cope and protect those I love. Living like this is not living at all. As long, painful and paralyzing as this has been, I am grateful that truth and innocence has prevailed."
Mr. Furlong said, however, he is ready to meet Ms. Robinson in court.
"As Laura Robinson challenges my right to defend my reputation, my family and my view that her reporting is deeply flawed and unfair, I look forward to facing her in court," he said. "The court, the public and responsible media deserve to hear about the questionable techniques and approaches that form her brand of journalism."
While Ms. Robinson's story didn't accuse Mr. Furlong of sexually abusing anyone, after it was published, three aboriginal people, including a woman quoted in Ms. Robinson's article, came forward with allegations that Mr. Furlong had sexually assaulted them at Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, in 1969-70.
The three civil suits filed by Grace West, Beverly Abraham and Daniel Morice were to be heard jointly, but the case steadily unravelled. Ms. West's claim was dismissed in February when court heard she had not attended Immaculata. In December, Ms. Abraham dropped her claim. And on Monday, the Supreme Court of British Columbia threw out Mr. Morice's suit after he failed to appear at the start of the trial.
Justice Elliott Myers, who in court heard recordings of abusive and threatening phone calls Mr. Morice made to Mr. Furlong's lawyer, described the plaintiff's conduct as "reprehensible" and awarded special costs to Mr. Furlong.
Court also heard that Mr. Morice's "memory" of being sexually abused by Mr. Furlong was triggered by a conversation Mr. Morice had with Ms. Robinson, following the publication of her article.
Mr. Furlong described the sexual abuse allegations made against him as "false, horrible, hurtful and highly damaging" and said the court decision to dismiss Mr. Morice's claims ended "an almost unimaginable nightmare that my family and I have endured for years."
He said it is "extraordinary and unacceptable that anyone can make ruinous, toxic allegations against a citizen, put them on the public record via the courts and then abandon them with impunity, seemingly without consequences and leaving untold damage and pain behind."
Marko Vesely, who practices commercial and defamation law with Lawson Lundell LLP, said that in the upcoming defamation case Mr. Furlong will have to prove his criticisms of Ms. Robinson's journalism are justified.
"Her reporting practices and professionalism will be on trial if he wishes to prove that the statements he made were true," Mr. Vesely said. "It's important to remember the legal issue before the court in all these different cases is slightly different, even though the subject matter overlaps. … So the focus in Ms. Robinson's case will be on the comments Mr. Furlong made concerning her and whether they are defamatory."
Asked to speculate on why Mr. Furlong might have dropped his defamation suit, Mr. Vesely replied: "A defamation lawsuit is always just one tool in the arsenal to vindicate one's reputation. It may be in this case he came to the point that if his objectives were achieved, the usefulness of the lawsuit was spent."