TORONTO — If he were Canadian, the son of Martin Luther King Jr. would vote Liberal in the federal election, he told a crowd in Toronto Friday.
“I don’t know that endorsement’s important, so I’m not necessarily here to endorse, but what I will say is, if I was a Canadian resident, I would support my friend and his party, Justin Trudeau,” said Martin Luther King III to cheers from the crowd of approximately 100 people in the Alexandra Park Community Centre, which serves residents of a community housing project in downtown Toronto.
King, a 61-year-old civil rights activist and global humanitarian, told the National Post he worked with Trudeau approximately 10 years ago while running an organization involved in peacekeeping, along with Kerry Kennedy and Naomi Tutu, the daughter of Desmond Tutu.
When asked in the interview about Trudeau wearing blackface costumes, King said it was “foolish.”
“I think it was not smart, but I’m looking at today in 2019 and ’18 and since he’s been elected, what he has done in terms of bringing together a diverse cabinet, in terms of including young people, in terms of dealing with climate change,” King said.
Asked about Trudeau’s decision to build the Trans Mountain pipeline, King said, “That one is a tough one … I don’t support anybody on every issue … but I still support him.”
King was visiting Toronto to meet with fellow members of WE, the youth social advocacy group, and the community of Alexandra Park invited him to speak. He was introduced by Liberal MP Adam Vaughan. (One audience member asked Vaughan to convince Trudeau to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday, as it is in the United States.)
I just think we have to create the climate so that people will come out on election day and vote
Despite a brief mention of Trudeau, King encouraged the crowd to make their own decisions on Oct. 21.
“That’s why I don’t generally talk about endorsements because I don’t believe we have to tell people who to vote for,” he said. “I just think we have to create the climate so that people will come out on election day and vote.”
He gave each audience member an assignment: ask 10 friends if they will vote, and request that the friends ask 10 of their friends in turn. He bemoaned the tendency of people to spread only negative news.
“If I had shown up here today here at Alexandra Park Community Centre, and I just had my jacket on and no shirt, you guys would be looking at me, saying, ‘That’s Dr. King’s son? What’s wrong with that brother?’ I mean (if) I had my chest hair out, just my jacket, before I got back to my hotel, which is 10 minutes from here, all of Canada would know Martin Luther King’s son came here.”
Instead, he encouraged people to spread the word about getting out to vote. Quoting educator Horace Mann, he said, “Be ashamed to die until you’ve won a victory for humanity.” King added, “You can win a victory in your neighbourhood. You can win a victory in your school. You can win a victory in your place of worship … Be ashamed of your existence until you’ve done a little something to make the world in which we all must live a little better than it was when you arrived.”