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Journalist knew of Furlong accuser's conflicting abuse compensation claim

Furlong's lawyer John Hunter accuses Robinson in cross-examination of being eager to see the allegations published.

Furlong, Olympics, court case, Laura Robinson
John Furlong, 2010 Olympics CEO outside court in Vancouver Thursday. Canadian Press photo

A freelance journalist who is suing John Furlong for defamation has testified that she knew that a man who accused the former Vancouver Olympics boss of sexual abuse had conflicting compensation claims.

The trial has heard the man and two women filed lawsuits alleging Furlong sexually abused them while they were students at a Roman Catholic school in Burns Lake, B.C., in 1969 and 1970.

Laura Robinson told court on Thursday that she presented a paper at a 2013 Play the Game conference in Denmark that included allegations of sexual abuse by the three accusers.

One woman dropped her suit last year, while the other two were dismissed this year. The man was found to have received $138,000 in compensation for abuse he alleged he suffered at a different British Columbia school during the same time period.

Robinson testified under cross-examination that she knew of the man's conflicting claims when she presented the paper.

"It wasn't unusual for students to be ferried about to the different schools and diocese," she said. "Children were taken from one school to the next, and often within that year."

The Ontario-based journalist is suing Furlong for defamation over public comments he made after her story was published in 2012 in the Georgia Straight newspaper that included allegations he physically and mentally abused students at the northern B.C. school.

Although the Straight article did not include sexual abuse claims, Furlong's lawyer John Hunter accused Robinson in cross-examination of being eager to see the allegations published.

Robinson acknowledged that she incorrectly wrote in the 2013 paper that a fourth woman had filed a sexual abuse lawsuit. She said she included the claim because the woman had told her she had taken legal action.

She testified she later sent an amended version of the article to Play the Game. A current version of the paper, which notes it was revised in April 2015, is available online and does not include any references to sexual abuse.

Hunter told the court that since Immaculata School was a day school, former students had no access to compensation that was available for residential school survivors.

He asked Robinson whether it crossed her mind that she might not be getting "reliable information" from people who came to talk to her.

"I said that I wanted honesty and I felt that people spoke honestly to me," she replied.

Hunter also questioned why Robinson sent emails to multiple corporations, including Rocky Mountaineer, Canadian Tire and Whistler Blackcomb, in 2013 asking for their response to the allegations against Furlong.

Robinson said she was working on the paper she was about to present in Denmark, which was about the sports and business communities' reactions to her Georgia Straight story about Furlong.

She said the continuing corporate support of Furlong "completely let down" and "re-traumatized" the First Nations people in her article.

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