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Journalist sues John Furlong for defamation

John Furlong listens to his lawyer Marvin Storrow during a press conference in Vancouver on Sept. 27, 2012.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The freelance journalist who wrote an article containing allegations that John Furlong abused students while teaching in northern British Columbia is now suing the former Vancouver Olympic CEO for defamation.

Laura Robinson has filed a notice of claim, alleging Mr. Furlong defamed her in a series of comments to the media in the past year and a half, in which he cast himself as the target of a vindictive activist.

Mr. Furlong responded with a written statement that said he looked forward to confronting Ms. Robinson in court.

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Ms. Robinson's article, which was published in the Georgia Straight newspaper in September, 2012, quoted several people who claimed they were physically and verbally abused while Mr. Furlong was a teacher in northern British Columbia in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mr. Furlong then held a news conference in Vancouver denying the allegations and accusing Ms. Robinson of waging a campaign to destroy his reputation. He has repeated similar comments in subsequent written statements and media interviews, including a week-long media blitz last October.

Ms. Robinson's notice of claim cites six instances when, she alleges, Mr. Furlong made false and defamatory comments.

They include his news conference in September, 2012, when he said Ms. Robinson displayed a "shocking lack of diligence" and that the Georgia Straight didn't contact him before running the story, as well as a written statement the following week that repeated many of his criticisms of her.

The lawsuit also cites a written statement Mr. Furlong issued last October and a pair interviews the same week with Global News and Maclean's magazine, during which he again repeated his complaints.

Lastly, she points to a written statement issued by Mr. Furlong last December that accused Robinson of a "historic pattern of inaccuracy."

The lawsuit says Ms. Robinson's lawyer sent Mr. Furlong two letters last year, in November and December, demanding apologies and retractions, but received no response.

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"The defamatory expression alleged in this notice of civil claim has caused, and continues to cause injury, loss and damage to the plaintiff," says the statement of claim, which was filed Monday.

"[The comments were] deliberately calculated by the defendants to expose the plaintiff to contempt, ridicule and hatred, and to cause other persons to shun or avoid the plaintiff, and to lower the plaintiff's reputation in the eyes of right-thinking members of the community, all of which has in fact occurred."

While Ms. Robinson's story did not deal with allegations of sexual abuse, three people later filed separate lawsuits alleging Mr. Furlong sexually abused them. He has denied all of the allegations in those lawsuits.

Mr. Furlong has publicly accused Ms. Robinson of personally approaching the RCMP to file a complaint about those sexual-abuse allegations. However, Ms. Robinson's statement says she did not approach the RCMP and she includes Mr. Furlong's assertion among her complaints.

Mr. Furlong has since produced a letter he received from the RCMP informing him that an investigation into former student Beverly Abraham's sexual-abuse allegations found nothing to substantiate the woman's claims and that the investigation had ended.

Ms. Robinson claims she has suffered lost income, though the statement of claim does not provide specifics. The lawsuit asks for damages, including punitive damages.

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Mr. Furlong issued a brief written statement Tuesday, again condemning Ms. Robinson and her work.

"I will continue to defend my reputation and hold Laura Robinson to account for her irresponsible reporting that has deeply hurt me and my family," the statement said.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

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