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The Globe and Mail

Reporter denied $100,000 security in Furlong libel case

Freelance journalist Laura Robinson is facing a defamation suit from former Vancouver Olympic chief executive John Furlong for an article in the Georgia Straight.


A reporter who wrote an article alleging former Vancouver Olympic chief executive John Furlong abused students while teaching in northern British Columbia has lost a bid to force Mr. Furlong to put up a $100,000 security in his libel suit against her.

Laura Robinson, who is being sued over the article published in the Georgia Straight newspaper last year, argued the security was needed to ensure Mr. Furlong would be able to pay if he loses the case.

But a B.C. Supreme Court judge concluded Ms. Robinson failed to prove Mr. Furlong lacks the means to pay or that his lawsuit is frivolous.

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"There is a genuine issue in this case as to whether the plaintiff was damaged by the article and, if so, whether the defences raised by the defendant will be made out," Justice Gordon Weatherill told lawyers for both sides on Tuesday.

"The action is neither trivial nor frivolous."

Ms. Robinson's failed application is the latest development in what has become an increasingly hostile fight between a freelance journalist and the man who became the public face of the 2010 Winter Games.

Ms. Robinson's article, published in September, 2012, quoted several people who claimed to have been verbally and physically abused while Mr. Furlong taught physical education at schools in Burns Lake, B.C., and Prince George, B.C., in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mr. Furlong denied any wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against Ms. Robinson, condemning her as a reckless activist bent on destroying his career.

The Georgia Straight was originally named as a defendant, but earlier this year Mr. Furlong dropped the newspaper from the case and is instead focusing his efforts on Ms. Robinson.

Ms. Robinson has included additional allegations involving Mr. Furlong's former wives in subsequent court filings, prompting Mr. Furlong to accuse her of abusing the court process.

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None of the allegations against Mr. Furlong or Ms. Robinson have been tested in court, and this week's hearings did not specifically address Mr. Furlong's libel claim.

Ms. Robinson's lawyers have indicated their main argument will be that the article amounted to responsible communication, a new defence created by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009.

The responsible communication principle allows defendants to win libel lawsuits even if they have published incorrect information if they can prove they acted responsibly.

Mr. Furlong's lawyers have alleged Ms. Robinson acted maliciously and therefore is not covered by the defence.

Ms. Robinson's lawyer, Jeremy Shragge, told the court earlier this week that his client would not be claiming the allegations contained in her original article were true. On Tuesday, he clarified Ms. Robinson will, in fact, be arguing the article's contents were accurate.

Mr. Shragge also used this week's hearings to repeat Ms. Robinson's complaints that Mr. Furlong is not doing enough to move the case to trial.

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Mr. Shragge said defence lawyers have already booked a 19-day trial for January, 2015, but Mr. Furlong has yet to respond to the requested trial date. Either side could request a jury, but that has not been decided yet.

Mr. Furlong's lawyer, John Hunter, declined to comment as he left Tuesday's hearing.

Mr. Furlong issued a brief written statement welcoming Tuesday's decision but providing no details about when the case might make it to trial.

"I have no intention of paying her a dime and look forward to rebuilding my life and the successful public speaking business I was operating before Laura Robinson started her public campaign against me," the statement said.

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