‘Illumination’ by Margaret August

created by Margaret August for the College of Opticians of British Columbia (2022)

COBC is honoured to present Illumination by Coast Salish visual artist Margaret August, originally from the Shíshálh Nation. This powerful Coast Salish visual art in the form of an owl represents many teachings from ancestors and the Shíshálh Nation, while also telling a story about the decolonization of the COBC complaints system.

The owl’s eyes, a focal point of the piece, hold special meaning—representing the important contributions that opticians make to sight and eye health every day. The owl’s eyes are open wide and see all clearly, just as COBC sees the truth of colonialism within its complaints system and recognizes the important decolonization work ahead. Owls see in the darkness of the night, as COBC sees through the darkness of barriers, systemic racism, and discrimination to the light of decolonization and a system that is fair, accessible, relevant, safe, and anti-racist for all—including Indigenous peoples. Owls hunt in the dark and keep the population of pests under control, as COBC does the difficult and meaningful work of removing barriers and elements of colonialism from its complaints system.

The owl’s contribution to the ecosystem is essential, much as the complaints system is an important extension of the regulatory system that functions to protect the public.

Owls know to present themselves when needed, as Owl Medicine. Their presence marks a death or significant change and, in this way, represents the death of colonialism in COBC’s complaints system, as well as important changes that will make regulatory services safer for everyone. Owl Medicine is healing and conducive to justice, as the owl appears or creates sounds to remind people that they must do important self-reflection work to find healing, peace, and justice at times of great conflict. Owls are also symbols of wisdom and knowledge; they represent great learning and continuous education. Opticians in what is now commonly referred to as “British Columbia” are responsible for advancing their learning journeys in acquiring essential knowledge related to Indigenous cultural safety, cultural humility, and anti-racism. Further, they must have the wisdom to apply this important knowledge in the delivery and regulation of opticianry services.

The owl’s wingspan is wide and strong, representing the scope of COBC and the role of its complaints system in protecting the public and enhancing safety for everyone across these lands, including Indigenous peoples. Its wings are spread, mid-flight, to represent COBC’s ongoing journey in this crucial decolonization work.

COBC looks to the many meanings of Illumination by Margaret August to guide not only the decolonization of its complaints system, but also the development of culturally safe and anti-racist practices across its programs.