Poke­mon Go at tod­dler’s me­mo­rial ‘dis­re­spect­ful’

Mother com­plains about vir­tual stop at plaque in Burling­ton

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

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.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A Poke­mon crea­ture is seen at Tim Hor­tons Field in the pop­u­lar game Poke­mon Go on Monday.

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