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Courage to LEAP

Carolyn Egan

February 14, 2018

The LEAP Manifesto was developed through a participatory process in which over 60 activists including a significant number of Indigenous people, trade unionists, and environmentalists met together for two days in Toronto. The call was put out by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, and an intense discussion took place among the participants, many of whom had never worked together before. 

The outcome of these discussions was the manifesto and it immediately had a significant impact on the political dialogue taking place in this country on climate change. It broadened the terrain bringing an anti-racist, class perspective to the debate with the intent of building a mass movement for climate justice.

It begins with the statement, “We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender equality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.”  

It attempted to bridge the divide among workers, environmentalists and Indigenous people and put behind us the argument of jobs versus the environment. It argued that the shift must begin now and put forward a vision for the future that took on the austerity agenda that had been running rough shod over working people and the poor. This approach understood the need for a just transition for workers involved in resource based industries appreciating that workers are not interested in raping the planet but are simply taking the jobs on offer to feed their families. It argued that workers must be involved in building our future along with respecting the inherent rights and title of the “original caretakers of this land.”

The LEAP Manifesto has been discussed in NDP riding associations across the country as well as in union locals, faith based communities, student federations and other progressive groups. More and more people are discussing the concepts that it puts forward and have signed on in support both as individuals and through their organizations. It sparked a necessary debate on climate justice in its broadest sense. LEAP groups have been set up, Labour for Leap had a productive forum at the recent Canadian Labour Congress convention, and it called a meeting, Courage to LEAP at the time of the NDP federal convention.

We have seen the impact of a developing new politic, a socialist politic, through the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US and the movement that allowed Corbyn to win the leadership of the Labour Party in Britain. Hundreds of thousands of new and old activists have become involved in building an alternative to what has been on offer. People see and feel the effects of a capitalist system concerned only with profit, hell bent on ravaging the planet and the people who inhabit it. They are rejecting politics as it has been and are looking for alternatives. 

The meeting in Ottawa is an important step forward in developing a new political movement in Canada learning from the experiences of activists from the US and the United Kingdom. Any such movement must go beyond electoral politics and build campaigns on the ground from the grassroots up that will engage working people, racialized communities, First Nations and all those who see the need for change. The moment is now and we must take advantage of it. The capitalist system does all it can to divide us one from another, but collectively we have the power to overcome it. We need to bridge the divisions among us, organize ourselves in mass movements and socialist organization to take on the attacks we are experiencing, and build together for a new world.

Join the event Courage to Leap: how the left can win with transformative demands and revolutionary organizing, Thursday February 15, 6:30pm at the Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod St, Ottawa.

And join the meeting The NDP, social movements and LEAP: How do we make real change?, Friday February 16 at 5:30pm at Fox and Feather Pub, 283 Elgin St, Ottawa

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