Pokemon Go at toddler’s memorial ‘disrespectful’
Mother complains about virtual stop at plaque in Burlington
Jenny Latimer knows Pokemon Go is all in fun — but she would still like you to stop virtually stomping over her son’s memorial.
The latest augmented reality gaming craze — just officially released in Canada — is spurring hundreds of enthusiastic smartphone owners to explore notable Hamilton-area locations like Gore Park and the bayfront in search of fictitious monsters superimposed over real-life locales.
The intensely popular game is being lauded as a way to meet people, stay active and learn about historical landmarks.
But one of those landmarks is a memorial for
Latimer’s son Kevin, a toddler who died in 2004 after falling from his father’s third-storey window during a court-ordered visit.
“Someone sent me a photo. When I saw it, I just started to cry,” said Latimer, a longtime Burlington resident who moved to British Columbia about five years ago.
The memorial at St. Luke’s Church in Burlington — where Monday afternoon, Pokemon Go players could go to try to catch “Charmander” — was erected in 2004. It’s actually a landmark of provincial significance.
Two years after he died, Kevin’s story helped convince the Ontario government to pass Kevin and Jared’s Law, which automatically triggers a coroner’s inquest every time a child dies during a court-ordered visit with a parent.
But it’s not the kind of landmark you turn into a “circus,” Latimer said in a trembling voice from her new home in Nanaimo. “It’s sacred ground,” she said. “I just think it’s disrespectful, to do this sort of thing on anyone’s sacred ground.”
Latimer has contacted game developer Niantic to request removal of her son’s memorial as a “Pokestop,” but hadn’t received a response as of Monday afternoon.
She isn’t the only one making such a request.
Internationally, media have reported requests to ban Pokemon Go at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum in Poland.
In a few cases in the U.S., confused or irritated residents have publicly complained about groups of unexpected Pokemon “trainers” showing up to do battle outside their homes.
Locally, the game appears to be welcomed at most locations — and at all hours. About 30 people were visible outside city hall at 3 a.m. Saturday, for example. About 40 were reported to be wandering Battlefield Park in Stoney Creek Friday night in search of unreal creatures.
That gathering actually spurred at least one complaint; an incredulous bus rider who reported watching an HSR bus driver stop at the park and join the crowd of monster hunters for about 10 minutes.
HSR head Murray Hill confirmed he investigated the complaint — but while the driver was disciplined for inappropriately stopping the bus, he doesn’t believe the break was Pokemon-related.
“That was everyone’s assumption, but the driver has told us it was to deal with a personal matter,” said Hill, who added the driver was willing to let his employer check his cellphone usage records to back up his explanation.
Regardless, bus operators aren’t allowed to randomly take a 10 minute break along the route for personal business, short of an actual emergency, Hill noted.
The scenario still provided an opportunity, however, to remind employees of existing city policy around use of cellphones for any reason, said Hill. “It doesn’t matter what it is, Angry Birds, posting on social media or participating in other gaming apps. You can’t do it on company time,” he said.
Someone sent me a photo. When I saw it, I just started to cry. JENNY LATIMER MOTHER OF KEVIN LATIMER, WHO DIED IN 2004
A Pokemon Go character appears on a cellphone at the Kevin Latimer memorial in Burlington.
Pokemon characters can be found all over Hamilton, including at Hutch’s on the beach strip.
The Pokemon character Pikachu on the pedestrian bridge over the QEW.
A Pokemon creature is seen at Tim Hortons Field in the popular game Pokemon Go on Monday.