A Transpacific Harmony Trade
Liu Qing is an agent of style. Just look at
her skirt, that fabric waterfall, colours and patterns pouring over her knees
and between the red bars of her wheelchair, which happens to match her nail
polish and the beaded bracelet bound subtly to her wrist. She’s an interior
designer in Tianjin, a northern coastal metropolis in China, and you can almost
see her wheeling through boring bedrooms, splendour in her wake.
Today, she’s in Beijing, some 120 km from
home. It’s early September, still warm, and the skies are dense with haze, a
coating the sun sometimes burns off with a little help from the rain. Liu has
come to hear the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue as its delegates
present the Harmony Project. With her are two friends, Shao Zezhang and Dai
Xueyou, and, together, they make up an association of disabled entrepreneurs
— just the kind of audience for which the Forum pines.
The Harmony Project is the product of one
of the Forum’s leadership cohorts. Pinning itself to the lapels of the 2008
Beijing Paralympic Games, the project is best thought of as a feeler, a long
and friendly one that aims to engage China’s disabled on notions of universal
accessibility, the whole crux balanced on a mandate of inclusive tourism. There
are a dozen or so presenters ready to mount the podium, speaking notes and
slideshows at the ready. Subtopics range from the histories of accessibility
apropos the mentally and physically disabled in China and Canada, to sound,
universally-minded community planning. In less than two years, Whistler will
host the winter version of these Paralympic Games, and that is enough
commonality to germinate the seeds of partnership.
William Roberts is the Forum’s president.
Working with the cohort, he secured two days in the B.C. Canada Pavilion, which
is across from Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing. Dressed in a tan sports
blazer, his hair characteristically wavy, Roberts takes to the podium, stands
before a backdrop of Canadian iconography as Liu and others don headsets
through which English becomes Mandarin.
“How can we build a gateway to Asia, to
China, from our community?” Roberts begins. “What is the kind of leadership
required to have more communities accessible? And how can we celebrate, focus
and foster that kind of leadership?
“We’re hoping, at the end of these two
days, to have many more friends in China, to continue to come back here and
learn from you and for you to come to Whistler and Sea to Sky in 2010 and in