In Memoriam – Chris Hatfield
Jul 14, 2022
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our friend, founder and namesake, Chris Hatfield on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia following a lengthy illness. Chris was a unique and talented individual whose vision helped drive the early evolution of the environmental consulting industry in British Columbia and internationally.
Chris grew up in the south Okanagan (the local Blasted Church winery, who make a wine called Hatfield’s Fuse, is named for a local story about Chris’ father), and spent his early years exploring the outdoors of BC’s southern Interior, a passion he carried throughout his life. His love for fishing eventually led him to pursue a B.Sc. in Fisheries Zoology (1967, UBC) and an M.Sc. in Aquatic Pollution Ecology (1970, Queens). As a young fisheries biologist at the federal Department of Fisheries and Environment in the early 1970s, Chris led the initial fisheries baseline surveys in the lower Mackenzie watershed in advance of the then-proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. Through this work, he saw an opportunity to help organizations address their environmental needs in response to increasing environmental protection requirements in Canada. In 1974, at a time before environmental consulting was recognized as an industry, Chris started Hatfield Consulting Ltd. in Deep Cove, BC, initially convincing reluctant pipeline companies in northern Canada of the need for his services.
In the early 1980’s Chris succeeded in leveraging his Canadian oil and gas experience and a keen interest in travel to land a significant offshore oil-spill-prevention project in Brazil – the start of more than 40 years of international work for Hatfield Consultants. Subsequent fisheries and aquaculture project work in South America led Chris to develop a joint venture company in Chile focused on the design and operation of a salmon aquaculture facility. The farm was the first in Chile and was instrumental in establishing the salmon aquaculture industry in that country, which now employs thousands of Chileans.
Building on Hatfield’s Canadian and South American expertise, Chris then shifted his focus to Southeast Asia, where he looked to set up a regional environmental consulting office following a successful CIDA-funded aquaculture project in Thailand. Chris wisely settled on Indonesia due to similarities with Canada’s resource-based economy and a supportive local partner. PT Hatfield Indonesia was established in Bogor, West Java in 1990 and has grown to be one of the most highly reputed environmental consulting companies in Indonesia, supporting Hatfield’s operations throughout Southeast Asia.
It was Chris who initially recognized the link between Hatfield’s experience with chlorinated dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants in British Columbia and the legacy of contamination from the war-time use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. His relentless determination to secure ongoing funding for dioxin contamination studies in Vietnam led to the identification of numerous contaminated areas throughout the country. The US government is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars on contamination cleanup at war-era US air bases largely due to the studies advanced by Chris and others at Hatfield. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this groundbreaking work and the resulting positive impact to the Vietnamese people.
Chris left Hatfield to retire to his property on Salt Spring Island following a cancer diagnosis in 2001. Given 1-2 years to live, Chris beat the odds and continued a fulfilling life on Salt Spring for more than 20 years. His generous donation of land to Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring was subsequently recognized by BC Parks with the creation of the Chris Hatfield Trail. Chris also co-authored “Forgotten Cusheon Cove”, documenting his excavation of relics left by pioneering saw mill workers on Salt Spring Island, including a forgotten group of early Chinese and Japanese migrant workers.
Through his final years, Chris continued to enjoy his fishing, both in the ocean in front of his beautiful Salt Spring property and in the Bahamas. He was also passionate about tending his apple orchard and spending time with his partner, Janthra and son, Matthew.
Chris had a profound impact on the development of the environmental consulting industry in BC and internationally. He was a great friend and mentor to many of the current and past senior partners of Hatfield and will be greatly missed by those of us fortunate enough to have worked with him. He was rightly proud of the legacy he left through Hatfield Consultants—a torch we feel privileged to carry on his behalf.