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Courage: New collective vows to build truly democratic-socialist left in Canada

One year ago, 2,000 committed New Democrats met in Edmonton to chart the party's future. Six months had passed since the NDP's disappointing election results.  We were there as Renewal: a group of organizers who wanted to encourage a new relationship between traditional activist bases and the Canadian political structure. 

We recall, as we are certain you do, the emotions of participating in the slow motion crash that was the 2015 election campaign. Worse than losing the election and so many fine NDP MPs was the notion that we had sold out our cherished principles for an opportunity to win office. Like you, we felt the party had failed those who need a true left-wing government the most: marginalized communities, groups facing systemic racism and discrimination, regions facing the onslaught of environmental degradation and the burgeoning number of citizens excluded from the wealth produced in Canadian society.

It was only natural that we -- and many fellow New Democrats across Canada -- felt a mixture of anger, disorientation, and a profound sense of loss. During those bleak and challenging times, we saw the need to put forward a message of hope, the message that, as a party and as a movement, we can do better. 

We believed then and still now that together, using our collective experiences, talents and insight we could craft a new vision for our movement and a proud left-wing alternative for broader Canadian society.

We put out the call and people responded. Renewal's message of being true to our roots, our history, our ideals and principles, resonated throughout the halls of the Edmonton Convention Centre and throughout the country.

The non-confidence leadership vote in Edmonton was no accident. Indeed, it was the opening act of something much larger. We put forward the idea that true renewal was about more than merely a confidence vote or a leader, because we believe that democracy and activism is more than just voting. In the months since that convention, we have had numerous conversations with people from across Canada. We have held conversations with devoted members of the New Democratic Party, with social activists that have never been involved in the NDP,  with left-wing activists that have distanced themselves from electoral politics, and with disenfranchised former NDP supporters who felt the party no longer represented them during its recent drift to the centre.

 As a result of these discussions, we have reformulated our message, our vision and our plan. The rallying call remains the same: we need a courageous movement.

We were Renewal. Now we are Courage. 

Courage exists to provide structure for broad movement based organizing to challenge both the political status quo and the emergence of hateful right-wing populist politics.  It provides a space for people outside of political movements to work together with those inside to exert hard power at opportune times: like leadership races, nominations, elections and big moments where we agree we can make a difference.

It takes a courageous movement to build an unapologetic left-wing alternative for all the communities within Canada. Courage is a space for dialogue, debate, grassroots democracy and for direct action that will enable us to craft a unifying vision of hope, creativity, optimism, solidarity and most of all, love.

Courage is truly independent of the NDP and all other political parties and will remain so regardless of the whims of electoral cycles. Courage is an anchor for the values and principles of a truly democratic-socialist Left.

For those within the NDP and those outside the party who seek to build a better Canadian society, let's be courageous. We can do better than the never-ending status quo of Canadian political debate. We must renew our efforts to replace an economic framework that only grows inequality and exclusion. We can offer a vision that provides real alternatives to the false debate of environmental protection versus jobs. We can act on the spirit of reconciliation and dismantle the colonial structures that perpetuate systemic racism throughout our governmental and societal institutions.

Everyone that signs up will get an opportunity to take part in shaping the activities that we take on, as well as the role Courage plays in our first initiative: opening up the NDP leadership race to social movements.

Members are already meeting online, but we will be coming together in communities where local organizers see energy and numbers of signups. If you want to get involved, and be a part of Courage we encourage you to recruit your friends and your organizing networks. If you're not quite ready to take the plunge we invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts on how we achieve our shared goal of transforming status-quo politics into something that represents our values.

Starting today, let us take Courage together.

Julia Maksymetz is a co-founder of Renewal and Courage. She served as Francophone outreach director for the New Democratic Youth of Canada, and is currently the policy director for the Young New Democrats of Québec.

Niall Clapham-Ricardo is a co-founder of Renewal and Courage, and co-president of the Young New Democrats of Quebec and an activist within several social justice organizations in QC.

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