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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Bianca Mugyenyi and Martin Lukacs about being part of the team of people who has been working hard to turn the inspiring words of the Leap Manifesto into grassroots political power on the ground.
The Leap Manifesto was launched in September 2015. Earlier in that year, a small group of journalist-activists — most notably Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything about the climate crisis — had convened a gathering of leaders, representatives, organizers, and activists from a broad cross section of social movements and communities-in-struggle in the Canadian context. It was that gathering that produced the 1400 word manifesto. Even before its launch, it had been endorsed not only by many labour, environmental, Indigenous, and progressive faith organizations, and by political figures like Stephen Lewis and Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff, but also by many Canadian artists, actors, and celebrities, from Ellen Page to Ashley Callingbull, Leonard Cohen to Rachel McAdams, Donald Sutherland to Michael Ondaatje. And when the Leap Manifesto was released in September, the nation’s attention was already on political questions because the federal election that ultimately led to the downfall of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives was in full swing. All of the ingredients were in place to generate the kind of attention that a sweeping vision for change of this sort hasn’t received in Canada in generations.
Martin Lukacs writes for the UK-based newspaper The Guardian, and he has been involved in research, in organizing the initial meetings that wrote the manifesto, and in communications strategy for the project. Bianca Mugyenyi joined the project in the summer of 2015 as an organizer and as the project’s outreach coordinator.
The Leap Manifesto begins from the multiple crises facing Canada — climate change, deepening poverty and inequality, histories and current realities of colonialism, exclusions based on race and gender and citizenship, and much more. It sees these crises as inextricably linked, and argues that any effective paths to addressing them must recognize these interconnections. It paints a broad vision for change, but avoids getting stuck in the utopian by demanding concrete steps to begin moving in that direction. It calls for Canada to respect the treaties with and inherent rights of Indigenous peoples; to grant immigration status to all migrant workers; to end the construction of new fossil fuel extraction infrastructure and move to green energy and a green economy on demanding but do-able timelines; to resolutely oppose anti-democratic trade deals and government policies of austerity; to support Indigenous and other frontline communities first during the transition away from fossil fuels; to implement a massive green infrastructure program; to invest in re-training impacted workers; and to put in place new supports for low-carbon sectors of the economy, which it understands to include not just things like installing solar panels but also existing low-carbon work like services, arts, media, and the extensive waged and unwaged caring labour that we all depend on. Since it has been released, it has been the target of criticism from some elements on the radical left — including for the fact that it is not explicitly anti-capitalist and that the process that produced it was not broader and more grassroots — and, much more visibly, from a mainstream that stretches from some conservative social democrats to the hard right of the Canadian elite, for its significant challenge to the status quo in this country.
In my conversation with Mugyenyi and Lukacs, rather than focusing on the content of the document — I encourage listeners to read it for themselves — we talk mostly about the hard work of the many people that produced it, that released it, and that are now organizing around it to bring that content to life. On today’s show, you can hear about what Mugyenyi, Lukacs, and many others have done and continue to do to use the Leap Manifesto as a tool to build towards a just, sustainable future.
To learn more about the Leap Manifesto, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.