‘Illumination’ by Margaret August

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

The College of Opticians of British Columbia (COBC) is honoured to present Illumination by Coast Salish visual artist Margaret August, originally from the shíshálh Nation. This meaningful Coast Salish visual art in the form of an owl represents many teachings from ancestors and the shíshálh Nation. These teachings are presented in tandem with a powerful story about making room for decolonization in 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 we at COBC see the truth of colonialism within the complaints system and recognize 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 which is more 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 to remove barriers and elements of colonialism from our complaints system. Owls’ contributions to the ecosystem are essential, much as the complaints system is an important extension of the entire regulatory framework that functions to protect the public. This speaks to the connectedness of all things—and the collaboration between COBC and other provincial and national organizations.

Owls know to present themselves when needed, as Owl Medicine. They arrive to mark a death or significant change and, in this way, represent the death of colonialism in the complaints system, as well as important changes that make regulation services safer for everyone. Owl Medicine is healing and conducive to justice, as owls appear or create sounds to remind people that they must do the important self-reflection work to find healing, peace, and justice at times of great conflict.

Owls are symbols of wisdom and knowledge; they represent great learning and continuous education. Within our COBC community of staff and volunteers, regulatory colleagues, and licensees, everyone is responsible for advancing Indigenous Cultural Safety, Cultural Humility, and Anti-Racism—both as individuals and within the broader regulatory system. With the knowledge we develop, we must further have the wisdom to apply these principles in regulation and opticianry systems and services.

The owl’s wingspan is wide and strong, representing the scope of COBC and our complaints system to protect the public, including Indigenous peoples and communities. The wings are spread, mid-flight, to represent COBC’s journey in this crucial decolonization work.

We at COBC look to the many meanings of Illumination by Margaret August to guide the important work of making room for decolonization in our complaints system.

This story that describes the meaning of Illumination was written by a Cultural Safety Consultant following knowledge-sharing discussions and collaborations with the artist, Margaret August. The story as it is written is approved by Margaret August as accurately describing aspects of their ancestral culture as they relate to the COBC complaints project. The story is approved by Margaret August to be shared publicly.