Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fly Air Canada

Everybody from Britain notices it about 15 minutes after they've sat down on their first Air Canada flight. All the stewards and stewardesses are middle-aged. No trolley-dollies here! None of the youthful glossy-skinned lovelies flushed with hormones and innocence that you expect on a home air-carrier.

And what a superb reminder that although you are travelling to another English-speaking nation, you might just be challenged by cultural differences that you never imagined and couldn't understand without a translator.

This small Canadian cultural feature arises from two main differences to life in Britain. The first difference is that Canada began an active enlightened program of ensuring social equality much earlier than in Britain. Ageism was recognized to be as deserving of attention as the two more popular forms of discrimination: sexism and racism. The women's liberation movement was stronger here, and it acted to address the obvious fact that women suffer even more cruelly from age discrimination than do men.

The second difference is that Canada in general has become less conservative (ignoring the official colours of political parties) consistently over the last 25 years. The liberal descendants of the Trudeau era have grown up to become the establishment. Their parents, who championed the stoic qualities of colonial pioneers, are still fading away into nursing homes. So strangely enough, whereas in Britain the unions are ridiculous vestiges of a coal-mining age, in Canada you will find unions that talk and walk for the baby boomers.

Although it's different than in Britain, it's not ideal at all, or even better. True social equality in the workplace should show a mixture of people from 16 to 65. Additionally, it's no good having job protection if that means you're stuck with the same job for the whole of your life. A workplace should not be a prison or a fortress - people should be allowed to leave it or enter it at any age, not just enter it when young and leave it when they are old.

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