Manwar Khan

Business User Acceptance Testing Coordinator, Ministry of Alberta Human Services

photography by Curtis Comeau

Age: 38

Why He’s Top 40: He is instinctively compassionate and tries to turn silent bystanders into active volunteers.

Aspiration: Moved by his experiences, Khan is contemplating a career in politics and a run for MLA in 2019

The 2012 video of John Hollar being beaten to death on the LRT — from Coliseum Station to the end of the line in Clareview — is shocking not just because of its senselessness, but because not a single passenger intervened. One of the riders even appears to ignore it. Manwar Khan, however, can be seen simultaneously protecting elderly passengers and trying to mobilize others to help Hollar. “We could have saved his life, no question,” says the public servant with Human Services.

Disturbed by their passivity, Khan created Do Not Be a Bystander. Endorsed by Governor General David Johnston, who awarded Khan the Caring Canadian Award last year, the Alberta-wide campaign sees victims and heroes telling harrowing stories that will hopefully turn silent bystanders into active ones. He also takes his message to schools, where his most important audience waits.

Khan says he’s never been bullied, never been assaulted. He simply wants to volunteer if he thinks he can be useful. During the Fort McMurray fires last May, he dropped everything — work, the rallies, his free career-building services for new immigrants — to scrounge together money and supplies from every house on his block. A computer scientist with a B.Sc from the University of Lethbridge, Khan is both meticulous and masterfully efficient; he left donation requests on every door saying he’d return in five hours, and filled two trucks.

In Bangladesh, Khan’s father, a businessman, was famous for helping the community and was the type of man who’d shut off the cartoons and hand his kids a newspaper. “He would rather we find out how people are living around you.” 

Khan imbues his children with the same attitude, and it shows. Recently, when he picked up his five-year-old daughter from class, the teacher told him that Ziyana had received a courage award of her own after intervening between two fighting friends. 

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.

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