Skip to main content

John Furlong arrives at the B.C Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 15, 2015.

The RCMP officer who investigated a sex-abuse allegation against former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong says the complainant's story kept changing and could not be corroborated, prompting the decision to not lay charges.

Corporal Quinton Mackie testified Wednesday in a B.C. Supreme Court defamation case. Freelance journalist Laura Robinson has sued Mr. Furlong and alleged he defamed her in his response to a September, 2012, story.

A criminal complaint was filed against Mr. Furlong by Beverly Abraham in July, 2012. She had been a student at Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C., where Mr. Furlong was a physical-education instructor in 1969-70.

Story continues below advertisement

Cpl. Mackie testified that after investigating Ms. Abraham's complaint he chose not to file a report to Crown counsel.

"In the case of Ms. Abraham, there was never a consistent story," he said. "There were certain consistent aspects to the story but names were changed, scenarios were changed all the time. And there was nobody – be it a parent, a friend, a family member – that could corroborate anything that was being said."

Cpl. Mackie concluded his investigation in April, 2013, though the RCMP then ordered an independent review. The case was formally closed in December, 2013.

Ms. Abraham was one of three people who filed sex-abuse lawsuits against Mr. Furlong. She abandoned her case in December, saying her brother and nephew had recently died and her mother was ill, leaving her too emotionally spent to continue with the suit.

The two other lawsuits were dismissed.

The RCMP has said a separate investigation into physical abuse of students concluded without charges.

Cpl. Mackie told the court the second file was opened because every person he interviewed wanted to "discuss their experiences at Immaculata," not just with Mr. Furlong but other officials.

Story continues below advertisement

"I had a meeting with the management team and requested that we be able to start a different file that pertained strictly to allegations of just general wrongdoing at Immaculata," he said.

Cpl. Mackie did not provide any details on the scope of that file and the decision to not lay charges in his testimony. He declined to provide further details when approached by a reporter.

The defence is expected to conclude its case Thursday, with closing arguments in the defamation case set for Friday.

The first witness to testify Wednesday was Sister Marie Melling, who said she was the principal at Immaculata from 1967 to 1971. Mr. Furlong had come to the school from Ireland, as a Frontier Apostle.

Sister Melling told the court Mr. Furlong "treated the children with respect" and was always pleasant. She said the school did "still use the strap" but she was not aware of Mr. Furlong ever using it to strike a child.

Sister Melling said the only complaint she received about Mr. Furlong was from a student who said he had made them run up a hill backwards. The student said the class had left him with sore legs. Sister Melling said she reminded Mr. Furlong the school was "not training [students] for the Olympics" and he respected what she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Bryan Baynham, Ms. Robinson's lawyer, asked Sister Melling if it was possible parents went to other school or church officials with complaints, such as the Father. She said it was.

Mr. Baynham also asked Sister Melling if she spoke the Carrier language. She said she did not.

"So you had no ability to communicate with any Carrier-speaking First Nations people?" he asked.

"As far as I know, everyone spoke English," she said.

Mr. Baynham went on to question whether Sister Melling was actually the school's principal, citing a record that indicated she was a teacher. Sister Melling said she had taken over for the previous principal, though she did also teach a Grade 7 class.

Renee Smith-Valade, a former Vancouver Olympics spokesperson, also testified Wednesday. Ms. Smith-Valade is now Mr. Furlong's partner.

Story continues below advertisement

She testified she was "stunned" when Ms. Robinson approached her in April, 2013, and handed her a letter. The two had happened to be on the same flight. The letter said 40 of Mr. Furlong's students had come forward about his abuse and one had committed suicide. Ms. Smith-Valade handed the letter over to Mr. Furlong's lawyer.

Ms. Smith-Valade said she also had a run-in with Ms. Robinson before the Olympics. After a court decision involving the inclusion of women's ski-jumping in the Games, she said Ms. Robinson approached her, asked where Mr. Furlong was and said Ms. Smith-Valade was "the pretty face that VANOC's putting out in front of the men back at the office." Ms. Smith Valade said no journalist had spoken with her in such a manner before, or since.

Ms. Robinson earlier testified she also called Ms. Smith-Valade a "traitor to women" during that incident, adding that she regretted it.

Ms. Robinson's story was published in the Georgia Straight and did not mention sex abuse. However, a separate story she published for Anishinabek News did mention the sex-abuse allegation. Mr. Furlong held a news conference the day Ms. Robinson's work was published, accusing her of shoddy reporting and a vendetta.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Cannabis pro newsletter