November 10, 2013 4:52 pm
Updated: November 10, 2013 9:26 pm

Man who witnessed fatal LRT attack empowers others to stand up against bullying

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EDMONTON – Dozens of people came together on the steps of the Alberta Legislature Saturday night to take a stand against bullying.

“In June of 2008, I lost my own son to suicide due to bullying. He did fall into a depression and he chose to end his life,” said Betty Wedman, one of dozens of people who took part in the candlelight vigil Saturday.

After her son’s death, Wedman says three other kids her son’s age approached her and said they too had been bullied.

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“And two of the three attempted suicide,” she said. “It just opened my eyes to how prevalent bulling is and how many people are affected by it. And I started my business, Inspired Living, and my goal is to go out and talk about it, share the stories that the kids, students shared with me and make changes in the world.”

Wedman says people need to be more accepting of others. She also believes people need to start speaking out for those who may be afraid to speak up for themselves.

“It’s not just children who are affected, it’s adults too. And it doesn’t just happen in schools. I mean, we can watch what goes on in this building (the Alberta Legislature) and it’s on TV and adults do it to each other, and they’re not even aware of how their behaviour affects one another.”

Among those in attendance Saturday night was City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, who says he too has experienced bullying.

“As a person who came to this country from a different country, I had my share,” he said. “We will stand up. We will not tolerate, if you see somebody being pushed around or bullied around.”

The vigil was organized by Manwar Khan, who witnessed and tried to intervene in a fatal attack on the LRT last year.

On Dec. 28, 2012, Khan boarded the LRT as he did everyday. During his ride, he witnessed a brutal attack that continued for two stops before the train arrived at Clareview Station. The victim, 29-year-old John Hollar, was unconscious and died in hospital two days later.

“That day I realized that, in that train, I was there, I was one of the witnesses there in that train and unfortunately when I was asking for help, I didn’t get any help,” he said Saturday. “I’m not blaming any passenger in that train, but I got the realization that we don’t want to be bystanders. We need to help somehow when we see stuff like that.”

Khan says that December day changed him, and he’s no longer the same soft-spoken man he once was. He hopes his story will help empower others to speak up too.

“I speak up when I see now, someone’s getting bullied,” he said. “What I learned from that is bystanders are powerful and we need to step forward for other people who are silent.”

People at Saturday’s vigil shared their own stories, followed by a minute of silence.

“That one minute silence, that was for every known and unknown victim in Alberta. We know lots of known people, there are lots of unknown people that don’t come forward- it’s for them, to show them respect and let them know we are here for them,” Khan explained.

During that silence Wedman, who had tears streaming down her face, says she was thinking of her son.

“I always wonder what my son would be doing now, you know, everything that a mother thinks about. You know, what type of a girlfriend would he have? What would he be doing? What career path would he take? What difference would he be making in the world? You know, just the regular things that a mother thinks about.”

With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

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