Former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong did not assault students when he was a physical education teacher more than 40 years ago – and even if he had, the Catholic school for which he worked and the diocese wouldn't be liable, say documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Mr. Furlong, the public face of Vancouver's 2010 Games whose motivational style made him a star on the speaking circuit, was sued in late July by two women who said they were physically and sexually abused as students. The allegations have not been proven.
Mr. Furlong has not filed his response but has consistently and vehemently denied any wrongdoing. In a separate lawsuit against the newspaper that first reported the abuse allegations, he has said he never engaged in any inappropriate contact when he taught at Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C.
The diocese that operated the school and another area diocese were also named as defendants in the lawsuits filed by the women. But in responses submitted to the court this week, the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George and another diocese denied Mr. Furlong carried out the alleged assaults.
The documents say even if Mr. Furlong had committed the alleged assaults – "which is not admitted" – the school and the diocese wouldn't be responsible because they didn't provide him with an opportunity to carry out the offences. In addition, the documents say, Mr. Furlong would not have been acting in his capacity and would have been outside the authority of his employment.
The documents, filed by lawyer Paul Fairweather, say the two organizations oppose the granting of compensation sought by the women. Mr. Fairweather did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.
Beverly Mary Abraham and Grace Jessie West have said in their lawsuits they're seeking general and special damages, punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages, interest, costs, and "any and all other relief that may be just and fair."
The women have claimed the organizations were aware of the allegations against Mr. Furlong but failed to prevent abuse.
E-mails sent to Mr. Furlong's lawyer and the communications firm speaking for him seeking comment Tuesday did not elicit a response. When the two lawsuits were filed, TwentyTen Group issued a statement saying Mr. Furlong and his counsel would not comment because the matter was before the courts.
Allegations that Mr. Furlong physically abused several aboriginal students first surfaced last September in the alternative weekly newspaper, Georgia Straight. He filed a lawsuit against the newspaper and the article's author in November.
In filings in that case, Mr. Furlong has said the allegation he abused students during class was a distortion. He said a physical education teacher had to make students do push-ups or run laps, and criticize or reprimand them if they performed the activities improperly. He said he would have to bring students to other authority figures at the school to be disciplined.