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Andre Carrel

Democracy: Back to Basics

Date Recorded: Jan 11th, 2006
Recorded At: Nelson, BC

Topic Background

In Andre Carrel’s Words:

“Democracy’s definition of ‘government by the people and for the people’ ignores the reality that from its origin, Socrates and the Athenian Agora, democracy was defined as much by the exclusion of people as it was by open debate.

Democracy’s premises are equality and responsibility. These simple propositions have yet to be achieved after centuries marked by wars and revolutions fought in the name of democratic ideals.

Democracy’s ingredients are people. It took twenty-two centuries after the execution of Socrates before humanity accepted that democracy and slavery are not compatible. Another century before women gained recognition as citizens. A few more decades still to realize that colonialism cannot be reconciled with democracy. To this day, citizenship is not a right but a privilege defined by exclusions more so than by inclusion.
Democratic governance is a matter of processes that enable people to assume responsibility for the decisions that govern their communities. What distinguishes democracy from other forms of government are not the “what” ambitions of society, but the “how” processes by which ambitions are met, and by which responsibility for decisions made comes to rest with the people. “Representative democracy” is only a step on the road from colonial rule to democracy.

There is a long road ahead of us still. The next hurdles to clear are the remaining exclusions that prevent full participation by all people, and the adoption of processes for people to assume responsibility for their governments’ decisions. “

Speaker Biography

Andre Carrel was born, raised, and educated as a banker in Switzerland, and emigrated to Canada at the age of 21.

Married to a Northern Canadian and father of two, André found his “niche” when he was hired in 1970 as secretary-treasurer for the Hamlet of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories.

For the next 35 years his career was dedicated to local government administration in small communities in the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and British Columbia’s Kootenay Region.
As an adjunct to his career, André participated in a CIDA-funded program working with rural district councils in Zimbabwe from 1990 to 2000. He has been guest lecturer at Capilano College’s Public Administration Program in Vancouver since 1994 and his book “Citizens’ Hall: Making Local Democracy Work” was published by Toronto publisher Between The Lines in 2001.

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