The journalist who wrote a scathing story about John Furlong's time in Burns Lake says she will be launching legal action of her own in response to the former Vancouver Olympic head's comments on Thursday.
In the story, written by Laura Robinson and published in this week's Georgia Straight, former First Nations students of a Catholic-run school in Burns Lake accused Furlong of physical and mental abuse when he taught there in 1969 through the church's Frontier Apostle program.
In a statement given Thursday, Furlong labeled the story inaccurate and that his character has been "recklessly challenged" such that he now has no choice but to proceed with legal action.
Robinson said Furlong's statement will be the basis of her own legal action against him.
"Definitely, I'm countersuing," Robinson said Friday. "He made statements about me that are unfounded and very contrary to my good work as a journalist and I did a great deal of diligence, as did The Georgia Straight on this story."
Furlong said that having "experienced this reporter [Robinson] on many occasions in the past, this feels very much like a vendetta."
But Robinson said they've met face-to-face only three times over the years and when she tried to ask him questions, was rebuffed on two of those occasions and on the other was told he was not familiar with the issue for which she was seeking comment.
"I have absolutely no vendetta against Mr. Furlong," Robinson said.
Furlong followed up on the vendetta comment by suggesting blackmail, saying that the allegations were brought to his attention prior to the Olympics and told that "for a payment it could be paid to go away. And as such, I reported this to the police."
As a result of the juxtaposition, Robinson said Friday she's received a number of calls about whether or not she had tried to extort Furlong.
"The way he said that made it sound like he was talking about myself and The Georgia Straight," Robinson said.
She also dismissed Furlong's assertion that The Georgia Straight did not contact him to validate the story.
Robinson said she had been trying since February 2011 to get hold of Furlong, first through his publisher, then his lawyer, Marvin Storrow, and The Georgia Straight was cc'd on many of the e-mails.
"The Georgia Straight was very willing to speak with them and at no time, as far as we know, did they even try to call the Georgia Straight," Robinson said.
Robinson said she also tried to talk to him directly at an April 2011 National Newspaper Association convention in Vancouver where Furlong was the keynote speaker but without success.
"I couldn't even get the phrase Frontier Apostle out before he screamed at me to stop it and turned his back on me and walked away," Robinson said.
Even given the time when the the acts were alleged to have occurred - Furlong was in Burns Lake in 1969 and corporal punishment was not banned in B.C. schools until 1973 - Robinson said the acts, if true, are extreme.
"This goes way beyond the strap," Robinson said.
Robinson said she has over 22 years experience in investigative journalism and her resume includes an award-winning book on sexual abuse in hockey, published in 1998.
"That book opened a lot of doors for hockey players and a lot of girls who had been sexually abused by hockey players to come forward," Robinson said. "It was a very important book, I don't take any of these things lightly."
In a statement issued Friday, Lake Babine Nation called on the RCMP to conduct a "thorough and timely investigation" into the allegations against Furlong.
"Lake Babine appreciates what John Furlong has done for British Columbia and Canada through the Vancouver 2010 Games, but at the same time, it strongly believes there are serious long standing issues from the past that must be addressed," the band said Friday.
B.C. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said Thursday that Mounties are aware of the allegations and are investigating.