Pitre, who died in 2018 aged 17, was born with epidermolysis bullosa, a condition that makes skin extremely fragile and prone to blisters. Also known as the “Butterfly Boy,” his bravery and commitment to raising awareness of EB earned plaudits from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through to the Ottawa Senators, who named a development camp award in his honour.
Councillor Cindy Saucier moved to name the Embrun dog park after Pitre and his faithful Boston Terrier, Gibson, on Monday night’s council meeting. She moved the motion after the council’s application for a grant to build an accessible park to be named after Pitre was rejected.
“His dog was really a service dog to Jonathan, and I thought it would be a nice thing [to rename the park],” she said. “I don’t think we’re rushing it by waiting three years, I think it’s long overdue. Other communities have honoured Jonathan and he was our boy. He lived here, he went to school here, and I think it’s time we do something.”
Mayor Pierre Leroux agreed council needed to honour Pitre, but suggested that other options be discussed during the coming budget sessions. He said funding could come locally for an accessibility park even though the grant was rejected.
“Now that we know that the grant was turned down, there’s nothing stopping us from putting it in the budget and having that accessible park done next year,” he said. “I’ve let [Pitre’s mother Tina Boileau] know that we had been tossing around the idea of an accessible park or perhaps a rink being named after him. She would be honoured with whatever council chose.”
Councillor Jamie Laurin said it did not make sense to decide on the dog park prior to budget meetings, but suggested that any approved project be advertised as soon as possible to the wider community.
“If we decide that it’s going to be a park or if we decide that it’s going to be one of the arenas that goes in, that we immediately look at putting up a billboard ... that says ‘future site of Jonathan Pitre Arena,’ or ‘Jonathan Pitre Accessible Park,’ or something to that effect,” he said.
All councillors agreed to defer the dog park resolution until the first meeting in November, after alternative projects had been discussed in budget sessions.