In December 2012, Manwar Khan witnessed an attack at the Stadium LRT Station that resulted in the death of a passenger. He, like so many others, was a bystander to the incident. However, unlike many others, Manwar took action and shouted at the aggressor to stop. When that did not happen, he pressed the emergency button on the train. Others stood by, not making any move.
The assault itself, but especially the lack of action taken by the bystanders, shaped Manwar’s vision and resulted in him becoming an ambassador for our city, province and country on the important role that bystanders play in dangerous situations. He has been acknowledged and recognized for his leadership in this area and spends much of his leisure time educating others.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am originally from Bangladesh, a small country with a large population. I came to Canada in 2001 as an international student to study at the University of Lethbridge. In 2007, I graduated from the university with a bachelor in computer science. During that time, I completed a Co-Op with Alberta Public Service and found the experience of working in the public sector fulfilling.
After graduation, I started in the private sector with an Oil and Gas company. However, I always wanted to get back to public service and working for Albertans.
In 2008, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position with Alberta Public Service as a Systems Analyst in the cross-government web server team. Later that year, I joined Alberta Human Services as a Business Analyst. Most recently, in 2013, I accepted a new position as a Business User Acceptance Testing Coordinator.
I had great mentors while working in this field and it was an absolute honor for me to get back to working for them.
Currently I live in Edmonton with my wife Nashid (who also works for Alberta Human Services) with our 5 year old twins Ziyana and Adyaan.
What led you to move to Canada?
My parents live in Bangladesh. It’s my parents who shaped and inspired me to come to Canada to pursue a higher education. Coming to Canada was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
The University of Lethbridge was an excellent place to study. Alberta is an amazing province to live. Working for the Government of Alberta and serving fellow Albertans is an honor.
If you see something, say something. If you cannot help by yourself, try to get help from others for the victim. But please do not just walk away – This is the message that I want to pass my campaign.
How has your life changed since you tried to intervene in a deadly LRT attack?
In December 2012, I witnessed a deadly attack against a passenger on the Edmonton LRT. I tried to intervene, but unsuccessfully. One person was killed. It was a traumatic experience for all involved. The major lesson learned was the important role of a bystander in this type of situation.
This experience led me to raising awareness about bystanders and how they can be impactful in reducing and eliminating bullying and assault. Since then I have been trying to spread the message to Albertans throughout my rallies across the province to raise awareness about how bystanders can help. Bystanders have the power to safely intervene and make a change. Each one of us has the strength to stand up against violence and bullying. I want to empower these people, from young children to seniors, to step up if they witness a similar situation.
You spent the last four years as a witness testifying to this incident and a verdict was just determined this month. What was the verdict and how did you feel about the decision?
A man’s life was ruthlessly taken, leaving loving families and friends who will be impacted for generations. For 3 years, 3 months and 23 days I’ve waited to pay my due to a province, a country, a people who’ve given so much to me and my family.
I testified on April 20th, 2016. The verdict was delivered on May 6, 2016. The accused, who beat a fellow LRT passenger to death, was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury.
I feel that justice was served. No one deserves to have their life taken by another. During the trial I didn’t have any communication with the victim’s family, but after I testified, they approached me and were very thankful, showing me that my efforts made a big difference to them.
It’s also important to understand the impact on the accuser’s family. Nobody wins in this situation. That’s why I decided to dedicate myself to bring about positive changes to my community.
Who has inspired you in your life?
The people that motivate me are my parents. They had a big influence in my life. I was raised in a family where we were taught that the best thing you could do with your life is to trust people, respect people and help people. I grew up believing this: “Always speak up and stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Even when you may need a step stool”.
The incident at the Edmonton LRT was a shocking experience but at the same time it was also very significant. We, as bystanders, can do a lot to prevent this kind of incident happening around us. If you see something, say something. If you cannot help by yourself, try to get help from others for the victim. But please do not just walk away – This is the message that I want to pass my campaign.
Bystanders have the power to safely intervene and make a change. Each one of us has the strength to stand up against violence and bullying. I want to empower these people, from young children to seniors, to step up if they witness a similar situation.
You’ve been recognized locally and nationally for your work. What has this meant to you and your family?
It’s a great honor to be recognized by the Governor General of Canada. I am proud to see our awareness campaign go province-wide and gaining so much support from the people of Alberta!
You have two children. How are they learning from your experiences?
I am trying to raise my children the way my parents raised me. Children learn what they live, so if you live your values, your kids are likely to as well. I try to encourage my children to be respectful and courageous. They are learning that standing up for what’s right is a necessity, not an option.
A couple months ago, I went to pick my kids up from YMCA and the teacher told me that my 5 year old daughter has been recognized within YMCA Child Care for her courageous steps in speaking up for her friends! I was so proud as a father, but also as a fellow bystander. One day, I hope to see every child as an ambassador against bullying and violence.
The work you have been doing is voluntary, and on your own time. It’s also difficult to measure outcomes. How do you know you are making an impact?
No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. But I believe that I am, and so I continue to do this work. What’s been helpful to me is the numerous stories and testimonials I receive from people, friends, family and strangers alike.
For example, there was one young girl who approached me indicating she was a victim of bullying. She was frustrated and did not want to talk to her parents. I tried to convince her that it was very important that her parents knew about this. Although she didn’t accept at first, she later agreed and requested that I talk with them on her behalf. So I ended up talking to her father. Two months later, I received a wonderful letter from her parents thanking me and letting me know that their daughter is doing fine now. Initially I did not realize that my actions had any impact on her, but when I read the letter I felt that I was able to make a difference in her life. That was very inspiring!
The people of Fort McMurray are going through a tough time and it is our duty as good neighbours and fellow Canadians to stand by them in their time of need.
What would you say to kids who are having a tough time?
Please do not isolate yourself because you feel alone. You are not alone. There is always someone out there who can understand your situation or story. Try and reach out to your parents, or teachers or any adults you are comfortable with.
If someone was a bystander to an incident, what advice would you share with them? What should they do?
Bystanders have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping violence and aggressive behavior. You can take a stand against bullying by standing up for someone else — without putting yourself at risk, or becoming a bully yourself. I would advise bystanders to try to directly intervene, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from the bully.
If at school, you can remind the person that what they are doing is against school rules by saying: “Stop! What you’re doing is not right.”
You can you provide an escape for the person being bullied just by saying “Let’s get out of here.” Here you are inviting the person to leave with you. This is a powerful way to show your support.
You can recruit friends if needed. If the situation becomes too dangerous, immediately call 911.
Parents can play a key role in preventing an incident by encouraging their child to confidentially tell a trusted adult (it could be the parents themselves or someone at school). Listening to the child’s fears and concerns about the risks of standing up and encouraging them to find their own solutions is very important.
Being a bystander extends far beyond just bullying. You recently helped collecting donations after the Fort Mac disaster this month. What prompted you to do that?
Bystanders have a role to play not only in cases of bullying and violence but in any aspect of life.The people of Fort McMurray are going through a tough time and it is our duty as good neighbours and fellow Canadians to stand by them in their time of need. I hate to see other people suffer. Being a father of 2, I find it most difficult to see children suffer. If I can have a positive impact in any way, I will always be happy to lend a helping hand.
I would personally like to give credit to the kind hearted people in Mcconachie neighbourhood who, like so many other Albertans, jumped on board to help collect for the evacuees. I would also like to mention to my neighbours, Darryl and Lorie who gave their time, effort and resources to collect the donations.
I am very proud and honored to be a part of our Mcconachie community.
What can we look forward to over the next few months from you?
I am taking my message across the province with a series of rallies this summer. I will keep raising awareness about the power of bystanders. This year Edmonton’s rally will be held on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at the Alberta Legislature steps. We will be gathering in front of the Alberta Parliament Building to show our solidarity and support for known and unknown victims of bullying and domestic violence in Alberta.
What do you hope to achieve with all the work that you have done/are doing with your movement?
I would like to use this campaign as a medium to spread the message to our community, schools and workplaces that bullying is not acceptable and has no place in our society. Violence should never be tolerated.
I want to encourage the people to stand up against bullying and not just “stand by”.
If my campaign can make awareness to even a single person and if one single bystander speaks up against bullying, then I would say that is my accomplishment.
Where do you see yourself in the near future? What’s next for you?
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few years. I discovered myself as a person who is driven in helping people…
I feel like the best way to represent my community is to be a voice for the people. I’m potentially considering a career in politics. It would be an honor for me to continue to serve my community. I feel this is one way I can keep giving back.