2021 Community Champion Award
Omar Khan provides outstanding leadership and advocates tirelessly for Youth, Refugees, Newcomers, Seniors and many facing homeless situations in Thorncliffe Park (TP), and Flemingdon Park (FP) in Toronto.
Omar first came to our Clinic’s attention in November 2019 with his involvement working with newcomer Syrian youth attending Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute (MGCI) facing major oppression and racism battles as they attempted to settle into a new school system. He assisted residents within the community to create a conflict resolution process with the youth, parents and the high school. He strongly advocated for Anti Oppression, Anti Black racism, working on an Equity Policy when sitting as a Community Member on the Marc Garneau Parent Council.
During this process, there was strong awareness that many youth and parents are reluctant to voice their concerns due to racism or they are unaware of community resources. He encouraged many of the Syrian parents to join the Parent Councils of Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.
As an outcome, “Engaged Communities” was formed as a new grassroots group made up of youth, parents, community members, and agency representatives such as Don Valley Community Legal Services. As COVID hit TP and FP hard, Engaged Communities emerged as the most effective community liaison organization to discuss and address COVID issues. As a facilitator Omar introduced and promoted a webpage created to share Public Health information. Videos and flyers were created to enforce
the Masking and Social Distancing protocols using community youth and Engaged Communities members. Engaged Communities worked on a Question and Answer document and provided resources, such as COVID – 19 Pandemic Plan for Apartment Buildings, to assist tenants answer COVID questions when contacting Landlords.
Currently, “Engaged Communities” is focussing on Youth Engagement, making links with Youth of East York Network and encouraging awareness of needs within the communities.
Omar also promotes Civic Engagement and advocacy through involvement with the East Toronto Patient and Health Advisory Committee. He volunteers at a Homeless Hospice for vulnerable. He continues to learn and is currently enrolled in the Indigenous Canada course, sharing information with the community.
Don Valley Community Legal Services has appreciated working with Omar over the past year and a half as a trusted partner in community development activities. We are pleased to submit Omar Khan for the 2021 Community Champion Award of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO).
About the Award
The Community Champion Award is given by the ACLCO each year to an individual or an organization that champions the causes of our clients and communities. Our goal is to celebrate those who stand up for the most marginalized and disadvantaged in our communities. Community Legal Clinics are very well placed to identify and recognize these champions. This is an Award from the clinics to our allies and community partners and is presented to the recipient at the ACLCO AGM.
The impressive list of previous winners includes: Susie Neves, a Parent Support Worker working hard for equal access to resources for students in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood in Toronto; the Ethno-Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario; Aline Akeson, a tenant and ant-poverty activist; Fred Franklin of the Toronto Refugee Affairs Council; Kerry Lee of the Safe ‘n Sound’s Homeless Initiative; the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups; The Dream Team; Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change; Steve Mantis, injured worker advocate; the ODSP Action Coalition; the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), and Linking Hands.
The Community Champion Award is a way of recognizing those who advocate and fight on behalf of our clients, often in the trenches with clinics. It’s also a way of raising the clinic system’s profile and improving the linkages with our friends and allies.