Letter to The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sports: Lake Babine First Nations and John Furlong

Hello Honourable Qualtrough,

I am a Vancouver lawyer (UBC LLB 1975), I have practised as a labour arbitrator since 1990, and my book on wrongly convicted Ivan Henry was published in 2014: https://www.amazon.ca/Innocence-Trial-Framing-Ivan-Henry/dp/1772030023

Six long months ago, I assisted Cathy Woodgate in writing a letter to PM Trudeau saying that, until and unless the members of Lake Babine’s First Nations are heard regarding whether or not John Furlong abused them (as a volunteer RC missionary in Burns Lake Immaculata Elementary school in 1969-70), he should be asked to stand down from his position as chair of “Own the Podium”.

That letter has since been passed from The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould to The Honourable Carolyn Bennett to The Honourable Melanie Joly…. and now to you, The Honourable Carla Qualtrough.

To say the least, this is a most unfortunate state of affairs.

Surely, Cathy Woodgate—a committed elder, advocating on behalf of the Lake Babine “day school survivors”—is entitled to a response without further delay.

Instead, John Furlong continues to ostensibly enjoy the favour (indeed highest plaudits) of our federal government. For instance, his name was twinned with Minister Qualtrough’s in this Globe and Mail article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/carla-qualtrough-appointed-to-federal-cabinet-in-gold-medal-day-for-sport/article27113619/

If you really care about establishing and nurturing trustworthy relationships with our First Nations people, please LISTEN to them before continuing to give John Furlong a free pass.

June 23rd—International Olympics Day–is fast approaching.

This problem cries out to be dealt with before then.

Regards, Joan

Two articles of interest as background:

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/11/26/opinion/waiting-be-heard-claimants-versus-john-furlong;
http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/12/15/opinion/colour-blind-truth-you-still-dont-know-about-reconciliation

#Furlong. The Path to Truth and Reconciliation

Yesterday, I received this powerful letter from Kenneth Young, a lawyer and a residential school survivor. The letter is filled with grace and simple truths.

Joan, it is a sad when people of influence who have done wrong fail to accept responsibility for the harm their wrongful actions have caused.

John Furlong must know in his mind that he did a lot of harm to young people he was entrusted to provide guidance. He will face further scrutiny in the coming months as the class action on day schools is worked on as to how it will be settled. If it will result in an agreement like the Indian Residential School Settlement with an adjudication process, I am sure the students he now stands accused of abusing will most certainly be claimants in which he will be most surely a person of interest.

My advice to Mr. Furlong is he reach out and call for a healing circle in which he will face his accusers and deal with the hurt and harm he has caused them, now to himself and those people who are most close to him.

If he chooses this path I believe his journey back to respectability will be one where he will be received by most people with open arms. It will be a journey, when taken with the right steps and attitude, that will bring true healing and reconciliation for himself and those he has harmed. Through this acceptance of what he did to those young innocent people was wrong John Furlong, I am confident, will learn the magnificence of the patience and kindness of First Nations people.

In saying this, I as a survivor of 10 years of Indian Residential School life, have been able to forgive the church and state for this very dark chapter in my life. It was not easy but the church and state reached out and this has helped me to carry on with my healing journey which will, I have now accepted will be a lifelong inner process. Mr. Furlong can do no less if wants to reinvigorate his life.

Letter from John #Furlong’s former students to PM

November 26, 2015

Attention: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 
justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

The Honourable Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould 
mcu@justice.gc.ca 

The Honourable Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Carolyn Bennett
carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca. 

Dear Sir/Madams:

Re: Burns Lake First Nations People and John Furlong

It’s 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—cathywoodgate@hotmail.com.

Thank you.

Signed,

“Hereditary Chief Richard Perry”
“Hereditary Chief Ronnie Alec”
“Henry Michel”
“Maurice Joseph”
“Cathy Woodgate”
“Ronnie William West”
“Beverly Abraham”
“Pius Charlie” (Burns Lake Band)
“Molly Charlie
“Frank Alec”
“Ann Tom”
“Ruby Adam”

Copies to Media: Jesse Brown, CanadaLand jesse@jessebrown.ca
Sandra Garossino, National Observer info@vancouverobserver.com
Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer jenny@nationalobserver.com
Matthew McKinnon,The Walrus matthew@thewalrus.ca
Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee andrew@andrewnikiforuk.com
Bob Mackin, The Tyee bob.mackin@mac.com
Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight c_smith@straight.com
Natasha Hassan, The Globe and Mail comment@globeandmail.com
Michael Harris, I-Politics michaelharris@ipolitics.ca
Michael Huffington Post Canadian blog team, cablogteam@huffingtonpost.com
Jesse Kline, The National Post jkline@nationalpost.com
Kate Heartfield, The Ottawa Citizen kheartfield@ottawacitizen.com
Jordan Himelfarb The Toronto Star oped@thestar.ca, jhimelfarb@thestar.ca
Daphne Bramham The Vancouver Sun dbramham@vancouversun.com
Harvey Enchain,Vancouver Sun henchin@vancouversun.com