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This Toronto crossing guard was fired for feeding the birds. Residents are pushing back

An East York neighbourhood is rallying behind a crossing guard fired from her job for feeding birds and squirrels in the area.

Lisa Dunn says she was let go after three years as a crossing guard at Doncaster Avenue and Main Street, where she says she made many friends, was gifted dozens of children’s drawings and received plenty of thank-you cards.

Dunn says she fed the animals because she is an animal-lover, but that a disgruntled neighbour complained. Feeding wildlife violates a city bylaw. She says the company that hired her did give her a warning, but she didn’t think she’d be fired for something so simple. 

“Now I have to struggle to find a job as a single mom,” Dunn said.

Dunn said she is willing to stop feeding the animals, but at the moment, remains out of a job and is hoping the company has a change of heart. 

Termination ‘a last resort,’ says employer

Under Toronto’s animal bylaw, effective April 2023, feeding wildlife is prohibited across the city on both public and private property.

“Feeding wild animals changes their natural instincts and may increase their presence and tolerance of people, creating problems for both wildlife and Toronto communities.

“When food is left out for animals, it can attract other animals such as mice, rats, squirrels, and raccoons which in return can attract other larger predators,” the city said in a news release at the time. 

The city says it hires external suppliers that employ school crossing guards, which means school crossing guards are not employees of the City of Toronto.  

“While we are not privy to staffing decisions made by the external supplier, the city has performance requirements for school crossing guards, including their conduct, which requires compliance with all laws,” the city said in a statement. “We expect that children’s safety is the school crossing guards’ number one priority at all times.”

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Community rallies behind beloved crossing guard fired for feeding birds

2 hours ago

Duration 2:17

Residents of an East York neighbourhood are rallying behind a crossing guard who lost her job. Lisa Dunn says she was let go because she was feeding birds, which is against a city bylaw. As CBC’s Talia Ricci reports, parents say it’s not enough reason to replace the beloved crossing guard.

Synergy, the company that hired Dunn, told CBC News termination is a “last resort” after an employee has been given opportunities to improve and comply with company policies but fails to do so.

Asked about Dunn specifically, the company said it could not disclose specific details about employment matters. 

“Synergy is a fair and equitable employer, and we provide all employees with training, support and guidance to enable them to be successful in their role,” the company said in a statement, adding any allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated and a “progressive model of discipline” is followed to help improve employees’ conduct. 

Petition racks up more than 300 signatures

Meanwhile, hundreds in the community are now rallying for Dunn to get her job back.

After Christopher Siriska caught wind of the situation, he started a petition. It’s been signed more than 300 times.

“I posted it in one of the local groups and it blew up,” Siriska said.

“The complaint about feeding animals is insane. She’s so friendly to all the children that come by, she takes time out of her day to get to know everyone and she’s just the kind of person you want crossing your kids in the morning.”

Dunn says she's received dozens of drawings and cards like this one from kids, parents and dog owners throughout her time as a crossing guard.
Dunn says she’s received dozens of drawings and cards like this one from kids, parents and dog owners throughout her time as a crossing guard. (CBC News)

Salima Jaffer, who also signed the petition, said she really appreciated that Dunn took extra time to get to know one of her children, who is very shy.

“Lisa’s just the most enthusiastic, kind and caring crossing guard we’ve ever had,” Jaffer said.

“This just doesn’t make any sense to me that this would happen to someone who loves their job and takes more time than necessary to do her job, and puts her full body literally and figuratively into it to make sure the kids are safe every single day.”

Several more parents emailed CBC Toronto to express their support for reinstating Dunn’s job.

Dunn says community safety was always her number one priority.

“This is a crazy busy and dangerous intersection…I would put my body in front of cars to stop a child from getting hit,” she said.

“I really loved my job.”

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