Statement Re: Robinson v. Furlong Appeal (October 19 2015)
After much reflection and discussions with my family, I have decided not to appeal the decision of Madam Justice Wedge. I have made this decision in spite of advice from independent legal counsel (not my counsel at trial) that there are a significant number of inconsistences between what the judge found as fact and the evidence before her, as well as mistakes of law in the judgment.
Because John Furlong discontinued his defamation suit against me, the trial was about whether or not Mr. Furlong had the legal right to defame me. What wasn’t on trial was the truth of the original story (“John Furlong autobiography omits secret past”, Georgia Straight, September 27, 2012). This meant that we were unable to hear in court from the dozens of First Nation people who came forward to tell their childhood stories.
Continuing this court battle will not accomplish my original goal: namely, to listen to and research allegations by Indigenous people that they were abused by those in charge of them. I will seek other ways of accomplishing that objective, which I believe to be central to the larger task of reconciliation which faces our country, and our institutions. To that end, I am initiating a site entitled, “justtrylistening.org”.
I hope the Canadian sports community takes seriously what First Nations people tried to tell them in my September 27, 2012 article. Reconciliation is about meeting people in their own communities and listening. I also hope the Canadian sports community will implement the recommendations for sport and physical activity contained in the report by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (pg 297-300). Indigenous people everywhere deserve this commitment. Moving forward only happens by understanding the past.
The difficulties over the past three years of trying to tell the stories relayed to me by First Nation people has had a huge impact on my health. I have always felt honoured to be someone they trusted and it certainly was not these people who made my health fail, but rather the chasm that exists between the reality of their lives and how non-Native people choose to accept or not accept those realities.
I will not be commenting further on the judgement.
It took a great deal of time to absorb what the BC Supreme Court decision on Laura Robinson's defamation suit against John Furlong meant when Ms. Robinson lost her case in September 2015. It certainly did not mean that the article in the Georgia Straight (http://www.straight.com/news/john-furlong-biography-omits-secret-past-burns-lake) so many First Nations people contributed to was not accurate or that the First Nations people were anything but honest in their allegations of abuse at Immaculata elementary school in 1969-70. What it means to Ms. Robinson is a realization that the judicial system is not the place to address issues of reconciliation between Aboriginal people and the government and religious orders that set up the day and residential school system so many had to endure.
This site: Justtrylistening.org, has been initiated because Ms. Robinson believes that while it may have been churches and the federal government who were behind the Indian day and residential schools that forced over 150,000 children to attend for approximately100 years, it is up to all Canadians to reconcile the terrible legacy they left behind. If you have projects and ideas as to how we build a new relationship based on respect and reconciliation, please contact Ms. Robinson at email@example.com so they can be posted to this site. It is very much still under construction. Right now there is mainly information about the fight to tell the story of First Nations students at Immaculata and Prince George College in Northern British Columbia. Apologies! It is anticipated that many people and communities will contribute and be featured.
It is important to not judge Aboriginal people and decide on their behalf what they may or may not remember and whether or not their memories are false. To imagine, especially when we have not heard from them, that entire groups of people could produce a set of false memories because they may have spoken to one another about their childhood history is no way to "test" their stories for truth. No one knows what happened to a group of children until they take the time to really listen to the adults--individually and collectively--those children became.
We need to find ways in which we can simply listen to stories--about day school, residential school, and the other hardships First Nations have endured in this country called Canada. Honest listening takes time; it often means going to the communities First Nations live in and being with people long enough for them to, perhaps one day, tell you a little about their residential or day school experience. It means reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report; www.trc.ca and figuring out how we, as individuals and as a collective, reconcile over many decades the years of truth telling recorded in the findings of the Commission, and those stories First Nations people have told in less formal settings that are equally moving, honest and compelling.
The right of First Nations people to tell these stories and the right of those who record them will always remain a priority for Ms. Robinson. She fought her case through trial because she believes that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are vital to an open and democratic society. She was committed to seeing both this claim and Mr. Furlong’s former claim against her, which he discontinued, through to trial. That three year battle has taken a great toll physically, emotionally and financially but her principles stand.
Ms. Robinson wants to recognize those individuals who had the courage to tell her about their past and allow their experiences to be part of the original Georgia Straight story. She also wants to thank the dozens more who spoke of their experiences after the story broke. Sharing stories is part of healing, but all must heal; it is not only Aboriginal people who have been harmed by historical wrongs. All of us suffer from this dark Canadian history.
It is Ms. Robinson's hope that, while Mr. Furlong won his argument that he was allowed to defame her, First Nations people must have the right to speak up about abuse allegations. We need to find a way for them to do so, to listen to what they are saying and for all of us to come together in reconciliation and healing.
Much has been written about the issues brought forward by the Georgia Straight article of September 26, 2012. For instance many of the media covering Mr. Furlong's March 31, 2015 press conference, when he announced the discontinuance of his lawsuit against Ms. Robinson, incorrectly linked three sex abuse lawsuits by former students that will no longer go forward to Ms. Robinson'soriginal article she wrote for the Georgia Straight in September 2012 (See link above and below). While Ms. Robinson and the Georgia Straight were aware of some of the sex abuse allegations made by one of the students, as she included them in her affidavit about Mr. Furlong, they were not included in the story because at the time they were the only allegation. It was only after the story ran that more sex abuse allegations came forward that were not part of these three lawsuits. At his press conference Mr. Furlong referred to Ms. Robinson's article as "lies" and inferred the sex abuse allegations were the foundation for the article. Mr. Furlong knew this was not true.
A short synopsis of the case follows:
Ms. Robinson, a Canadian free-lance journalist, was sued in November 2012 in Vancouver by John Furlong, former CEO of the Vancouver Winter Olympics after her investigation resulted in a feature article entitled John Furlong's Autobiography Omits Secret Past, published in the Georgia Straight on September 26, 2012 (The Article). In January 2014, after Mr. Furlong attacked Ms. Robinson in a nation-wide campaign of complete untruths, Laura had no choice but to countersue for defamation. It is that suit Ms. Robinson just lost.
Please explore all parts of this website for a comprehensive understanding of how important this story is to a democratic Canada.
Just Try Listening
PLEASE NOTE THE MARCH 11, 2016 LETTER TO PUBLIC SAFETY MINISTER RALPH GOODALE RE: COMPLAINT ABOUT RCMP HANDLING OF NORTHERN B.C. FIRST NATION ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE IS TO THE RIGHT. BELOW IS THE STILL UNANSWERED LETTER THOSE WHO ALLEGED THE ABUSE SENT TO PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU IN NOVEMBER 2015 and their Change.org Petition:
Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau From Lake Babine First Nation Students, November 26, 2015:
Attention: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau;
The Honourable Minister of Justice Jody Wilson Raybould;
The Honourable Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett:
Re: Burns Lake First Nations people and John Furlong
It is time that our voices are heard.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Prime Minister to request that John Furlong step down from Share the Podium until we are heard.
In her September 2015 judgment, the judge made comments about us without hearing from us. No-one had time to listen to us. They should have talked to us before any decision was made.
The judge said Laura Robinson distributed a flyer, but we saw no flyer. We communicate not in writing, but by mouth. When we heard Laura was coming to Burns Lake, most people assumed it was to talk about residential schools. Laura talked to those people and, after they left, she talked to us—those of us who had had Mr. Furlong as their PE teacher. Many of us—members of the Lake Babine Nations—were not at the Burns Lake Band office.
The judge said Laura “contaminated” our memories. But she didn’t. We all have bad memories of Mr. Furlong, but over the years we haven’t talked much about them. It would be good if we talked more together.
When we saw him on TV, the anger came back. “Is he still around?” we thought. After the Olympics, we found out he hadn’t even mentioned Burns Lake in his book.
Someone said Laura damaged us. That is not true. Mr. Furlong was one who damaged us. He was part of a system that damaged our dreams.
Someone on the Whitecaps said on the Internet, “native people just want more money.” We never asked for money. We just wanted our stories heard.
Please direct your reply to Cathy Woodgate—firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hereditary Chief Richard Perry, Hereditary Chief Ronnie Alec, Hereditary Chief Ronnie Mathew West, Henry Michel, Molly Charlie, Maurice Joseph, Cathy Woodgate, Ann Tom